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KU News Release

March 17, 2005
Contact: Maryemma Graham, English department, (785) 864-2557; or Mary Jane Dunlap, University Relations, (785) 864-8853.

NEH grant to KU, Toni Morrison Society extends high school reading project

LAWRENCE -- With a $75,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the University of Kansas, in collaboration with the Toni Morrison Society, is extending a high school reading project for selected schools in Kansas, Ohio and Virginia.

Titled "Language Matters II: Reading and Teaching Toni Morrison, the Cardozo Project Model," the grant extends a 2002 NEH-supported project for a Washington, D.C., high school. The project at Cardozo Senior High School focused on the work of the Nobel Prize-winning writer.

Maryemma Graham, KU professor of English and president of the Toni Morrison Society, and Carolyn C. Denard, associate dean of Wells College in Aurora, N.Y., and founder of the Toni Morrison Society, co-direct Language Matters II. The project includes in-service teacher workshops in three cities -- Lawrence; Manassas, Va.; and Cincinnati, Ohio -- and a one-week seminar at the University of Northern Kentucky in Highland Heights, across the Ohio River from Cincinnati.

Graham described the initial project as the brainchild of a Cardozo teacher, Frazier O'Leary, who proposed that his entire high school of 500 students read Morrison's "The Bluest Eye." The yearlong project, directed by Graham, provided in-service training for teachers and produced dramatic results.
" We documented that students, no matter how differently or slowly they read, can be challenged and stimulated by good literature, effective teaching and a nurturing learning environment," Graham said.

For starters, none of the students lost his or her copy of the book. O'Leary reported, "For some it was the first time they had ever owned a book, much less read a novel."

Graham said, "We demonstrated that the connection between teaching and learning is critical and students will read if their teachers can give skilled presentations on subject matter that brings their intellectual passions to life."

Based on that success, Graham has received a second NEH grant to extend the project to high school teachers in Kansas, Virginia and Ohio. Preference will be given teachers from low-performing schools and those where teaching Morrison's novels has been debated.

Graham will direct one-day in-service workshops beginning April 2 in Lawrence. Others will be in Manassas, Va., on April 18 and in Cincinnati on April 25. Twenty teachers will be selected from the workshops to participate in a one-week seminar July 9 through 14 at Northern Kentucky University.

In the workshops, a team of teachers and scholars will guide participants in preparing strategies to teach one of Morrison's novels. In the summer seminar, participants will work with Morrison's eight novels and six children's books. Giselle Anatol, KU assistant professor of English who is one of eight Morrison scholars working with the project, will focus on Morrison's children's books.

A Web site is planned to provide curriculum materials as well as an ongoing forum for K-12 and postsecondary teachers and researchers.

Toni Morrison is the Robert F. Goheen professor in the Council of Humanities at Princeton University in New Jersey. Her major awards include the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for "Beloved" and the 1993 Nobel Prize in literature for her body of work. Born Chloe Anthony Wofford in Lorain, Ohio, in 1931, Morrison earned degrees at Howard and Cornell universities.

Project staff include eight Morrison scholars, including Graham and Denard, and eight development team teacher scholars. Staff members are:

From Lawrence
Giselle Anatol, KU assistant professor of English, Morrison scholar; and Barbara Watkins, KU Continuing Education coordinator of curriculum and projects, curriculum development consultant and manager for Web resources

Durthy Washington, U.S. Air Force Academy, professor of English and writing center director, Morrison scholar

Frazier O'Leary and Ann Cohen, Cardozo High School, and Kenyatta Dorey Graves, Woodrow Wilson High School, all development team teacher scholars

From Terre Haute
Keith Byerman, Indiana State University professor of English, Morrison scholar

From Highland Heights
Kristine Yohe, associate professor of English, Morrison scholar

From Baltimore
Ruth Evans, independent education consultant, formerly with Baltimore public school system, development team teacher scholar

From Bethesda
Robyn Jackson, Thomas W. Pyle Middle School student support specialist and former high school English teacher, development team teacher scholar

From Manhattan
Marceline Rogers, English teacher at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics High School and at Queensborough Community College, development team teacher scholar

From Philadelphia
Herman Beavers, University of Pennsylvania professor of English, Morrison scholar

From Fairfax
Marilyn Mobley McKenzie, George Mason University professor of English and associate dean, Morrison scholar

From Manassas
L. Brand Talley and Tina Grayson, Osbourn Park High School, development team teacher scholars


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