by Audrey Fisch
For many of us, teachers and students alike, it’s summer reading time. And, for many of us who are teachers, we worry because we know those summer reading books can be just one more miserable chore to be neglected or ignored by our students. Alas.
I want to call out one title that is being used in at least one university in the U.S. as its summer reading selection: Glimmer of Hope: How Tragedy Sparked Movement, written by the founders of March for Our Lives.
It’s a book of essays, with some poetry, lots of pictures, excerpts from speeches, and so many vibrant student voices. Reading the volume, we hear from the students themselves about their experiences and responses to the event, their work in the aftermath, and their navigation of the media and politicians.
We hear, not just from survivors, but others touched by the moment, including, for example, Naomi Wadler, who, as a fifth grader in Alexandria, Virginia, responded to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting by organizing the walkout at her elementary school on the day of the national school walkout. As Wadler writes, “I think it’s important to inspire other black girls and to reach out to other black girls and to encourage them, and for them to know that they have worth” (143). Her response to being told by her principal that the walkout wasn’t appropriate for young people her age: “I politely enlightened him to the fact that students don’t have parental supervision when they are being shot in their own classrooms” (142).
The volume constantly reflects that push-and-pull: students trying to seize the moment and instead being put in their place. Delaney Tarr, in “Our First Trip to DC:” February 25,” for example, contrasts her optimism – a “feeling of possibility” – and the reality of meeting a California politician who, hearing that the students were there to advocate about gun reform, “immediately started to treat us like kids and was rude to us . . . . [leaving her] feeling a bit hopeless and disenfranchised” (95).
But it’s hard to sustain hopelessness and that feeling of disenfranchisement as you read the stories of these young people – of their vision, their energy, their resilience, and their collaboration.
Most of us, it’s inspiring to hear them raise their voices. Jammal Lemy writes, “I know it’s our duty as the youth of America to never stay quiet. And we won’t” (198).
Indeed, along the lines of the youth of America seizing their voices and refusing to stay quiet, one particular moment in the text stands out to me in terms of why I think this would make such a powerful summer reading selection. In the essay, “Creating a Social media Movement: Mid to Late February,” John Barnitt, Sarah Chadwick, and Sofie Whitney write: “Our generation is so much more aware of what’s going on around us than people may give us credit for” (41). So often, in school, students are told how little they know, how inadequate their skills are, and how they aren’t ready to do “real” work. They are told to follow the rules, maintain order, and conform to expectations.
This volume of essays is about a group of young people who seized the horrific moment and showed the nation that they were knowledgeable, skilled, and ready to work. Want to stop summer slide? Let the students of America learn from their powerful peers. What could be more inspiring and educational to other students, regardless of politics?
I hope more districts and universities adopt this daring and important text as summer reading – sending a clear and powerful message that they expect their students to seize their voices and exert their power.