SAN FRANCISCO --Hundreds of community volunteers will kick off Black History Month by reading books by black authors at 250 public elementary schools across San Francisco today during the "20th annual African American Read-In" to promote literacy and celebrate the contributions of black people to literature. Volunteers range from high school students to business leaders. Ken McNeely, president of AT&T California, will participate at Bret Harte Elementary School and said he looks forward to taking part in the citywide event. "I believe it's important for community members to join together to inspire and educate our young people, especially through efforts that celebrate diversity and inclusion," McNeely said in a prepared statement. The event serves to strengthen peer-to-peer interactions by involving high school students from black student unions. Teachers at the high school and elementary school levels believe that the older students' reading to younger students communicates the importance of reading and boosts the confidence of the high school students. "Students have told me that they feel like this is an opportunity to become positive role models and to give back to the community they are growing up in," Latrice Manuel, parent liaison at International Studies Academy said in a prepared statement. "They feel empowered and feel as if the community will be taking notice of their input." Students equally praise the benefit of peer-to-peer interactions. Asiha Robinson, a high school student at International Studies Academy, said that by reading to Daniel Webster Elementary students, she is "giving them positive adult interaction that they may not have normally." "When I was young, our school sometimes had high school students visit us and I thought that was cool to look up to them," Robinson said. Participants will have the option of reading from more than 20 books, including Polly Greenberg's "Oh Lord, I Wish I Was a Buzzard" and Ntozake Shange's "Ellington Was Not a Street."
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