"When you were in middle school were you writing?" asked a student to author Phillip Hoose during the Robert H. Jackson Center's Young Reader Program.
"Yes, I like to create stories about baseball," Hoose said. "I was practicing how to express myself in words. I picked Claudette Colvin's story because I was interested in both the civil rights movement and her personal story. She risked her life but she also remembered what it felt like to be a teenager at that time and I knew that story would be interesting to many people including students your age."
Hoose spoke to Persell Middle School students from Team Work as part of the Center's Young Reader Program. Hoose's non-fiction book, "Claudette Colvin: Twice Towards Justice," talks about an impassioned teenager in 1955 who was fed up with the daily injustices of Jim Crow segregation and refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Ala. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be just months later, 15-year-old Claudette Colvin found herself shunned by her classmates and dismissed by community leaders.
Persell Middle School eighth-graders Davinna Williams, Arley Kangas and Mohamed Djalo meet author Phillip Hoose at the Robert H. Jackson Center's Young Reader Program.
"It was interesting to hear that it took Mr. Hoose 10 years to research his book," said Persell student Arley Kangas. "I didn't know that it could take that long to write a book. Before I read the book, I thought Rosa Parks was the first person to do this. It was interesting to find out that what Rosa got praised for, Claudette was criticized."
The Young Reader Program author talk was the culmination of an English Language Arts unit on the civil rights movement.
"We knew that Mr. Hoose was coming to Jamestown to speak so we decided to incorporate his book into our curriculum," said English Language Arts teacher Grace Johnson. "Many students knew about Rosa Parks but none of them knew about Claudette Colvin. We read the book as a class and held discussions that were incredibly valuable. Ideas of inequality and race, in the context of this teenager in the '50s, made it much more relatable to our students."
The students recognized the importance of reading about Claudette Colvin's life.
"Reading a book about another teenager having more courage than grown-ups to do something that she felt so strongly about makes the time period more relatable to me," said Persell student Mohamed Djalo.
As part of the new Common Core Curriculum, non-fiction is to be incorporated into all curriculum, not just English Language Arts. Hoose's book not only helped meet this requirement in ELA but also Social Studies. The entire team in all subject areas attended Hoose's presentation.
The students' ELA classroom discussions about Claudette Colvin opened up communications between students today.
"I couldn't believe how Claudette was treated at school for doing something so amazing," said Persell student Davinna Williams. "She was picked on by other students but still did something really brave. It makes you think about your life and how to make a difference too."