This past Monday, October 14, Penguin Random House Education and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) cohosted a special National Day of Writing Event featuring Winona Guo and Priya Vulchi, authors of TELL ME WHO YOU ARE: Sharing Our Stories of Race, Culture, & Identity, published by TarcherPerigee. Several dozen teachers, as well as Annysa Polanco, Manager, Diversity & Inclusion, and members of the Penguin Publishing Group Diversity Committee, gathered in our Cerf-Lane meeting room for a workshop on cultivating racial literacy in the classroom.
The event began with an opening from Kaiulani Williams, Director of Secondary Education Marketing, who welcomed our guests and gave a brief overview of the day. Then, Emily Kirkpatrick, the Executive Director of NCTE, spoke to the assembled educators—all of whom were NCTE members themselves—about the upcoming National Day on Writing, October 20, and the programming throughout the month of October that the organization had planned in celebrating it.
Authors Winona and Priya then discussed their experience writing TELL ME WHO YOU ARE, which involved taking a gap year between high school and college to travel to all 50 states and interview 500 Americans about how race has affected their lives. The book brings together those interviews and additional statistics to illustrate a more comprehensive and compassionate way for people to speak about race in America. Winona and Priya’s mission, as they described it, was to close both the “heart gap,” which prevents us from showing compassion to those who experience discrimination, and the “mind gap,” which prevents us from seeing the large-scale oppressive systems at work around us. They describe their book as a toolkit that enables us to both share our own stories and to listen to others. This clearly resonated with the teachers in the audience, who spoke about their challenges dealing with race in the classroom.
After Priya and Winona’s presentation, Travis Temple, Penguin Random House’s K-12 Education Sales Director, led the audience in breakout group discussions. Teachers were asked first to discuss how race, culture, or intersectionality had impacted their own lives. Then, Travis invited them to consider how this conversation would develop in their classrooms with their students. After each group shared key insights about the reality of teaching racial literacy today, Travis gave some closing remarks and the workshop came to an end.
All attendees received a copy of TELL ME WHO YOU ARE, as well as a teacher’s guide the authors developed, and other promotional material from PRH Education and NCTE. Attendees were also invited to browse a curated list of titles dealing with race and identity, which they were welcome to review for potential classroom use.
The event both furthered Penguin Random House Education’s critical partnership with NCTE and honored NCTE’s longstanding commitment to anti-racism work—all while bringing PRH titles and authors to the forefront of teacher discussions about racial literacy.