“MARCH” Comes Early: Students, Parents, and Staff Gather to Discuss John Lewis’ Graphic Novel Series

Community · February 1, 2019

by Maggie Carson, Librarian

With the innovative and loving work of numerous staff members and parent volunteers, ISB’s Multicultural Book Club hosted its first-ever meeting with students! On a cold January night, during the week of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a group of faculty members, parents, and students in 5th through 8th Grade gathered over dinner to engage in a discussion about Congressman John Lewis’ trilogy March. This powerful, autobiographical series of graphic novels, authored by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell, tells the story of the life of John Lewis and the Civil Rights Movement, framed through the lens of the Obama inauguration in 2008.

The evening began with a brief screening of Lewis’ historic speeches both from the 1960s and 2008. Next, the book club split into smaller groups, led by Director of Middle School Richard Brownstone, Librarian Maria Falgoust, and MYP Coordinator and English Teacher Katie Rogers, to answer a series of discussion questions on the Civil Rights Movement and graphic novel series March Trilogy. With a number of important illustrations enlarged and distributed to each group, students had the opportunity to discuss the nonviolent strategies utilized by civil rights activists, the author and illustrators’ intention in portraying the specifics of certain scenes, and certain literary devices they used in the telling of the story.

Guided by a series of thought provoking discussion questions, the groups took turns annotating the enlarged pages and engaging in discussions on the themes of solidarity, non-violence, and civil activism. These powerful enlarged images and our book club’s thoughtful annotations are now on display in the Learning Commons.

This was a very special opportunity for students across different grades and language tracks help guide to an important conversation about this moment in American history. We look forward to the next opportunity to bring these young voices into the ISB multicultural book club discussion.

The March trilogy is still available for check out in the ISB Library!

“It was so exciting to see Lower School students, Middle School students, and adults so engaged, working together to consider civil rights and civil disobedience protest tactics. This book trilogy offered a great opportunity for the ISB community to learn history, explore empathy, and think deeply about important, difficult issues.”
Richard Brownstone, Director of Middle School

“I was so impressed by our students. They were so passionate about the subject, and they were articulate and engaged during the discussion. Some of these subjects – racism, violence, protest, courage – are really difficult to talk about, and reading is a great way to tackle them together as a community.”
-Maria Falgoust, Librarian

“Reading these books together and discussing with the group started an amazing series of conversations for us back at home about civil rights, voting rights, political movements and forms of protest.  We were challenged and inspired and we learned a lot!”
Kate Walker, ISB Parent and Trustee

“It was cool to read the March books and learn about nonviolent protesting at the same time that in school I am learning about “les casseurs” in France and their violent protests.  I learned that there are different ways that people can fight for their ideas.”
Marion, 5th Grade Student