“Books shouldn’t be a luxury:” Chance the Rapper, kindergarten teacher, brings free books to the South and West neighborhoods

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One sweltering October Saturday in Boxville, 6-year-old Josiah Wilcher sits on his grandmother’s lap leafing through a book.

Showing each word, Josiah reads, “School Photo Day”. It’s one of his favorites.

As around 20 other children rush to laugh, eat, and do crafts, Josiah jumps off her grandmother’s lap to slip the book into a basket near two wicker chairs.

Soon Briana McLean and Grammy-winning artist Chance the Rapper will be in those chairs, reading to the crowds gathered for Chance & Bri’s Books & Breakfast.

McLean and Chance launched Books & Breakfast at the end of July. McLean, a former kindergarten teacher at Marquette Elementary School, created the program after she “very quickly realized (that) what was going on inside my classroom and that the instruction suited to it.” the cultivation I was doing was not happening outside the walls of my classroom. “

She created a nonprofit – Boundless Early Education – that would focus on three things: digital resources filled with things like lesson plans; literacy resources for early learning; and Books and Breakfast.

“It’s very, very good to motivate children to read,” said Josiah’s grandmother, Vickie Long. “Joe … now reads like a storyteller.” It excites me! He doesn’t just read to read, he gets you to the page, and he’s learned to read really, really well.

Josiah Wilcher had a front row seat to listen to Chance the Rapper read a book at Chance & Bri’s Books & Breakfast event in Boxville in the Bronzeville neighborhood on October 9.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

This Saturday, October 9, McLean and Chance have planned to discuss with the students how to express and understand their emotions. So they teamed up with Pinterest for World Mental Health Day on October 10.

As the program brings together families with students ages 3 to 8 for breakfast, story time and early literacy activities, Saturday’s event included sculptures promoting the “Campaign”. Invest in Rest ”from Pinterest.

For artist Dwight White, whose work was showcased at the event, reading, crafts, and art were a great way to discuss difficult topics like mental health.

“We have a lot of problems in our communities, and this is one of many,” said White, 28. learn from local community organizers.

Following the theme of World Mental Health Day, Chance and McLean read and discussed “The Boy With Big, Big Feelings”.

“While we might not feel the same, at some point we do have feelings,” Chance, whose full name is Chancellor Bennett, told the students. “Sometimes they’re hard to express, and sometimes they’re hard to understand exactly how we’re feeling.”

The students listened with great attention; some nodded eagerly to understand.

At the end of story hour, students were allowed to ‘buy’ three free books at McLean’s ‘Bookstore’, which is open to all Books & Breakfast events.

“One of the things Chance and I talked about remembering was the Scholastic Book Fair and how sad it was when you wanted to go and didn’t have the money,” McLean said. “Books shouldn’t be a luxury. They should be something accessible for all students to take home and have forever. “

Over the past few months, McLean and Chance have delivered this message to several neighborhoods.

Besides Bronzeville, they also went to West Chatham, where Chance grew up, as well as Garfield Park, Englewood and North Lawndale.

These areas were chosen because McLean said they wanted to focus on black and brown communities.

Grammy-winning artist Chance the Rapper raises his fist and shouts:

An iconic Chance the Rapper gesture at many Books & Breakfast events involves Chance calling out “Power to the People!” “To which the pupils immediately shout:” Right! Here, the Grammy-winning artist leads the kids at Boxville in Bronzeville on October 9.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

At their first event, McLean said about 35 families showed up. Since then, more and more families have started to attend, with the latest event bringing together nearly 170 people.

For McLean, culturally relevant education doesn’t always mean focusing on race – in fact, she says it’s a common misconception.

“Throwing a black or brown face” in a book doesn’t mean that students who share a similar identity will relate to that character, McLean explained, “especially if you think of students who live in rural areas versus cities. Culturally relevant means that you take away specific things that are relevant to them so that you can deepen their understanding of everything they are learning.

As part of the partnership, Pinterest also created online boards for arts and crafts – or “Make and Take” – that many students created throughout the day so families could continue working at. the House.

Chance the Rapper and Bri McLean help Josiah Wilcher put some glitter in her

Chance the Rapper and Bri McLean help Josiah Wilcher put some glitter in his “Be Still Bottle,” one of the crafts that coincides with the Pinterest “Invest in Rest” campaign.
Pat Nabong / Sun-Times

McLean hopes to continue to disseminate culturally appropriate learning techniques to families and other teachers.

She doesn’t know what it will look like yet, but Chicago families can sign up for the next Books & Breakfast at www.socialworkschi.org/news/chance-bris-books-breakfast/. Another event is scheduled for October 30, although the location is still under development.

Cheyanne M. Daniels is a reporter for the Sun-Times via Report for America, a non-profit journalism program that aims to strengthen the newspaper’s coverage of communities on the South Side and West Side.


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