Written by Kelly Sheehy, Content Specialist, Downtown Main Library Back and bigger than ever, the Library’s third annual African American Read-In (AARI) drew booklovers together for an afternoon celebrating Black writers. People of all ages came together to celebrate and engage with the written word via books centering on African Americans and the African diaspora. From a powerful reading by local author Sharon Draper from her book Copper Sun to a lively performance by R. Gregory Christie of Jazz Baby accompanied by saxophonist Ellis Williams, the atrium of the Downtown Main Library buzzed with excitement and empowerment throughout the day. Christie led a bookbinding workshop for kids while Draper hosted two writing workshops, one for ages 16 and up and one for youth ages 9-15. Christie also held an illustration workshop for families who were inspired to create images to accompany their own stories. Local authors set up booths for book signings while Joseph-Beth Booksellers provided copies of Christie and Draper's work for purchase. During the event, we asked AARI goers what reading means to them and got some beautiful answers in response. From local authors to young people, everyone had their own way of summing up how books have an impact on their lives. Left R. Gregory Christie, Right Sharon Draper “Reading is one of the most incredible gateways to open one’s imagination. It sparks creativity, ingenuity, and a rainbow of emotions across the spectrum.” — Shawn Pryor, local graphic novel writer and creator. “I like reading because it takes me into whole different worlds. My favorites are Diary of a Wimpy Kid and the Harry Potter series.” — Cassius D. “Laura Ingalls Wilder saved my life. Which is so crazy, but I started reading her books when I was really young and my dad had died and my mom had to work all the time, so my family was really broken. Those were the books that were in my house, so I started with Little House in the Big Woods and all of a sudden I had this family again. I went through all of the books and it made me the reader that I am and I just think, ‘Gosh, I wish there was a way that I could let other people know or let Laura Ingalls Wilder know what she did for me when I was 8 years old.’ So I became an English teacher. I think that reading gives you life and gives you the opportunity to just be and have so many things that you wouldn’t normally have.” — Latia F. “Reading is one of the best ways to spend your time. It’s something that takes you out of your normal life and into new and better things” — Corinne L. “Reading is like gaining a new experience without actually living it. I recently read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and loved it!” — Lilly J. “I look at reading as a flower and I am a gardener. So a gardener, I plant the seeds, I plant the seeds of reading. But also, as a gardener, I pluck out weeds and all that other stuff I need to get rid of and then I plant my garden. I water it and add sunshine to it by doing fun things, doing voices for all the characters to make it fun and engaging. Then it grows, not just into a beautiful flower, but it grows into a love for reading.” — Arnice Smith, retired Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County Librarian and the first African American Ohioan to be named New York Times Librarian of the Year. “Reading is great! When you read, maybe you get your voice, maybe you get better. When you read you learn more words. I like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie .” — Jaylen P. We hope you’ll join us next February at the Downtown Main Library for the 2021 African American Read-In!