Feb. 18, 2021-- For 2020-2021, NEA Big Read: Toms River is based on An American Sunrise, a collection of Native American-themed poetry by Joy Harjo. The program’s culminating event is scheduled for May 27, a keynote presentation from Harjo, who in addition to being a best-selling author is also the current U.S. Poet Laureate, serving a rare third consecutive term. Interest in the book and Harjo’s appearance has skyrocketed since U.S. Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman wowed audiences during last month’s presidential inauguration.
But before the keynote event must be a kickoff event, and this year the district will offer students a unique and extraordinary opportunity to interact with not just one, but two nationally-renowned authors.
New Jersey native and New York Times best-selling author and illustrator Rachel Ignotofsky will provide a virtual kickoff event for intermediate students March 25. She will speak about her Women In ... book series, particularly Women in Science, Women in Art, and Women in Sports. The event will both kick off NEA Big Read: Toms River—expanding the usual parameters of the program from one month to two months—and cap off Women’s History Month.
“I am positively thrilled to be able to offer this remarkable opportunity to our intermediate students,” said Intermediate Supervisor of Science Leslie Port, who initiated and then advanced discussions to secure the author appearance. “That Ms. Ignotofsky is a Jersey Girl makes it all the more exciting for everyone here.”
NEA Big Read is an approximately month-long community literacy campaign centered on one book; however, it invites diverse authors and artists who discuss and honor the themes of the selected book through their own work.
“Although An American Sunrise is a book of Native American-themed poetry, it explores a wide range of topics and themes that align well with Rachel Ignotofsky’s work, including history, identity, womanhood, nature, and so much more,” said Intermediate ELA Supervisor Christy Downs. “Rachel’s catalog is so accessible, especially for intermediate-level students, and this kickoff will be an ideal starting point to an extended cross-curricular campaign of reading, writing, and exploring our identities.”
The district plans to stream the live event on its YouTube channel beginning 1 p.m. March 25. A 30-minute talk by Ms. Ignotofksy will be followed by a 30-minute Q&A for staff and students. Additional details will be provided in the coming weeks.
About Rachel Ignotofsky
Rachel Ignotofsky is a New York Times best-selling author and illustrator, based in beautiful Santa Barbara. She grew up in New Jersey on a healthy diet of cartoons and pudding and graduated from Tyler School of Art in 2011. Her latest book is titled What's Inside a Flower? Visit her website for more; follow her on Instagram; and view her popular TED Talk about the making of Women in Science.