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Voracious readers at Maple Heights prepare to dive into "Finding Langston" | Read With Us!

Ideastream's Anna Huntsman wears headphones and holds a microphone as she sits at a table with five students.
Gia McCants
Maple Heights City Schools
Ideastream Public Media's Anna Huntsman interviews fifth graders at Barack Obama Elementary School about why they love to read on Feb. 23, 2023. For the new "Read With Us!" series, we encourage you to read "Finding Langston" with the young readers in your life!

March 2 is Read Across America Day. To get to know some voracious readers in Northeast Ohio, Ideastream Public Media’s Anna Huntsman and Rachel Rood went to visit fifth grade students at Barack Obama Elementary School, part of Maple Heights City Schools, for a new "Sound of Ideas" series we’re calling, “Read with Us!”

They're reading "Finding Langston," and we encourage you, our listeners, to also read this book with the young readers in your life. We’d love to hear your thoughts in the next part of our “Read with Us!” series.

Please email your thoughts about “Finding Langston,” by Lesa Cline-Ransome, to soi@ideastream.org. You can also tweet us your thoughts, with #ReadWithUs to @soundofideas.

Maple Heights is home to a variety of readers

In Ms. Evan Stanley’s fifth grade classroom at Barack Obama Elementary School, there's a paper mache tree stretching across colorful walls, and about 20 students with big smiles.

The students in this class, as well as in Ms. Danna Tenorio’s fifth grade class, have a variety of different reading habits.

"I like to read, and I like fiction and nonfiction books," said Tyler.

"I have a shelf full of books. Like, every time we go out, I always buy books," added Marya.

Some students have mixed feelings about reading, like Cordaris and Chase from Ms. Stanley’s class.

"In the after school programs, they force us to read ... and that makes me not want to read at all," Cordaris said.

"The bad part that I don't like about reading is that I have to, like, sometimes pronounce a lot of words, and I mess up a lot, and it annoys me," Chase added. "But the good part is that they have, like, picture books and comic books and I like to read those. And like, I usually like to read Captain Underpants and stuff."

Mrs. Evan Stanley's class
Rachel Rood
Ideastream Public Media
Students in Ms. Stanley's class have a wide variety of reading habits. They're getting ready to read "Finding Langston," a historical fiction novel.

Students also elaborated about the kind of books they like - or dislike.

Leia from Ms. Stanley’s class enjoys reading fantasy books.

"I like how when I read them in my mind, I picture what the people look like, what the scene looks like and what's happening," she said.

Marya from Ms. Tenorio’s class likes to read both fiction and nonfiction - and there’s a specific time of day she likes to read.

“I like to read at nighttime before I go to bed, because my mind would be filled with new stuff before I go to bed," she said.

Urijah from Mrs. Tenorio’s class doesn’t like to read books, but he’s constantly reading news articles and talking about them with his friends.

“I kind of like reading on the Internet because I kind of, I learn new things about others and how the world is around me," Urijah said. "I just find it fun to see other people happy and see them learning a whole lot of new things, especially when it comes from me. Like I could teach them about things."

Sounds like we might have a future news reporter to keep an eye out for!

One school, one book

Ms. Stanley’s class is getting ready to participate in the One School One Book program, in which every student at Barack Obama Elementary School reads the exact same book.

The book, "Finding Langston" by Lesa Cline-Ransome, is a historical fiction novel set in the 1940s about an eleven-year-old boy named Langston, who moves from Alabama to Chicago during the Great Migration.

Finding Langston book
Rachel Rood
Ideastream Public Media
The students are reading "Finding Langston," a historical fiction novel set in the 1940s during the Great Migration. We encourage you to read this book with us!

Langston deals with being the new kid in town, and the death of his mom, but finds comfort in the public library, where he discovers poems by Langston Hughes, whom his mom named him after.

While most of the class said they were excited to start reading “Finding Langston,” Ms. Stanley expressed some hesitation. 

"I am excited to read this book but I’m also nervous because I recently lost my mom," she said.

Student Austin said he understood how hard it would be for Ms. Stanley to lose someone that she loved. 

"My Dad, he had lost his auntie, and his auntie was very close to him," he said.

"I’ll be praying for your dad. It’s a natural part of life but it’s something that we definitely need the support of others to get through, so, I appreciate you understanding where I’m coming from," Ms. Stanley said.

Khyle in her class connected to this part of the book as well.

"I think this going to be interesting because when in the beginning, when they said his mom died, I could kind of relate to that because my mom passed when I was seven," she said. "I feel like it's going to be interesting and I [might] learn something from that."

Mrs. Evan Stanley
Anna Huntsman
Ideastream Public Media
Mrs. Evan Stanley, a fifth grade teacher at Barack Obama Elementary School in Maple Heights City Schools, presents the book "Finding Langston" to her class on Feb. 23, 2022.

One by one, more students shared stories of the losses in their lives. One student said they hadn’t lost any family members, but had lost a few pets. Another student lost her granddad recently, one more lost an uncle.

"I hope that you can use what has happened in your feelings to make a connection with Langston, right?" Ms. Stanley said. "This should let us be able to understand the feelings that he’s having as he’s going through school as a young man, who is dealing with a lot of bullying, but also dealing with some things that are happening at home."

Families can get involved

Maple Heights teachers will encourage the students’ families to read the book along with them. Some of the students say they already read with their families.

Marya from Ms. Tenorio’s class likes to read to her little brother.

“My brother is still in kindergarten. I usually read books about, like, sharing is caring and other stuff," Marya said. "I feel real happy because he learns from an older sibling and he becomes smarter.”

Cordaris reads to his little sister, who is one year old.

“Some books that I read to my little sister, they have, like, singing parts. So me, my mom and my auntie, we all like, come together and we start singing to her. It's just a feeling of us like bonding together, getting to ... sing with each other. And we, in my opinion, we sound really good," he said.

Maple Heights teachers hope other families will bond through reading, just like Cordaris and his family.

We'll return to the students at Barack Obama Elementary School in April to learn what they thought of "Finding Langston." Happy reading, and see you in April! 

Anna Huntsman covers Akron, Canton and surrounding communities for Ideastream Public Media.
Rachel is the supervising producer for Ideastream Public Media’s morning public affairs show, the “Sound of Ideas.”