Vermont Reads 2017

Brown Girl Dreaming

Suggested Activities

Program Activities

Planning Your Vermont Reads Events

This year’s Vermont Reads book, Brown Girl Dreaming, presents opportunities for numerous extension activities ranging from book discussions to poetry writing and family history workshops. The kinds of activities that promote shared reading and discussion are bounded only by the imaginations that you and your collaborators bring to the project. If you develop a new idea, please let us know so that we can share it with other communities!

Brown Girl Dreaming Activity Ideas

Book Discussions

Ideally, a discussion group should be facilitated by a person comfortable leading conversations in which everyone feels encouraged to participate. Facilitators might be teachers, librarians, or others who are skilled and enthusiastic about leading a discussion. See the Vermont Reads 2017 discussion guide for discussion questions and tips for a successful book discussion.

Note: VHC does not fund discussion facilitators for Vermont Reads; facilitators should either be volunteers, or project coordinators must make their own honorarium arrangements with facilitators.

Discussion about Books Related to Brown Girl Dreaming

Host one of VHC’s Reading & Discussion series or individual books on:

  • African-American Experience
  • Reporting Race
  • Memorable Memoirs
  • Poems to Share (part of our intergenerational series)
  • American Stories Across the Generations (part of our intergenerational series)

Note that you must apply separately to host VHC-subsidized Reading and Discussion programs. Visit the Reading and Discussion section of our website to apply and to see the entire catalog of offerings and discussion facilitators.

Or host your own book discussion on related books; see our related books and resources section for other potential books.

Dramatic Readings

Host an event for participants to read aloud favorite poems from Brown Girl Dreaming, other favorite poems, poetry that the book inspired them to write, or related poetry mentioned in the book (such as “Dreams” by Langston Hughes, reprinted at the beginning of the book, or “Birches” by Robert Frost, referenced on page 223) .

Listen to the VPR Broadcast
Gather a group around the radio — or around a computer — to listen to VPR’s Vermont Reads program after it is made available on the web. Vermont Public Radio is VHC’s media partner for Vermont Reads. Use the program as a lead-in to a discussion. Broadcast dates and times will be publicized when they are available.
Host a Movie Night or Series

There are a number of documentaries and movies related to the Civil Rights movement, the legacy of slavery, and the history of the 60s and 70s that may provide historical context and complement the themes of Brown Girl Dreaming. (See the About History page in the Related Books and Resources section for summaries and information about public screening rights.)

  • 13th (documentary; 2016;NR)
  • Crooklyn (1994; PG-13)
  • Selma (2014; PG-13)
  • Selma Lord Selma (1999; NR)
  • Freedom Song (2000;NR)
  • Ruby Bridges (1998; NR)
  • Eyes on the Prize (14-hour television series; 1987)
  • The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross (six-part television series; 2013)
Guest Speakers

VHC Speakers Bureau: Host one of VHC’s Speakers Bureau programs that relate to some of the broad topics of Vermont Reads: Brown Girl Dreaming:

  • “Daisy Turner’s Kin” by Jane Beck. Vermont folklorist Jane Beck shares the story of the Turner family, a multigenerational saga spanning two centuries, which covers the early 19th century British-African trade, shipwreck, birth of a biracial child, slave trading, enslavement, plantation life, escape, Civil War, moving north, battling racism, buying land, and settling on a hilltop in Vermont that became a family center. Daisy Turner’s own life story is a powerful and rare account of the African American experience in New England from the 1880s forward.
  • A Woman, Ain’t I? (Sojourner Truth) by Kathryn Woods. Born a slave in New Paltz, New York, Isabella Baumfree walked away from slavery and in her travels evolved into Sojourner Truth: maid, laundress, evangelist, abolitionist, and suffragist. This program, presented by Kathryn Woods, tells Sojourner Truth’s story in her own words, speeches, and songs.

Note that you must apply separately to host VHC-subsidized Speakers Bureau programs. Visit our Speakers Bureau website to apply and to see the entire catalogue of Speakers Bureau offerings.

Panel Discussions or Guest Speakers

Among the topics Vermont Reads: Brown Girl Dreaming addresses are issues related to:

  • Poetry
  • Memoir writing
  • The Great Migration in American History
  • The Civil Rights Movement
  • Writers finding their voice
  • The important of racial and ethnic diversity in books

Convene a panel of informed and interested community members to bring their perspectives to these and other issues related to Brown Girl Dreaming.

Writing Workshops and Contests

Brown Girl Dreaming, a memoir written in verse, provides wonderful inspiration for writing projects focused on poetry and memoir writing. You might invite local writers or writing teachers to host workshops for your community.

The following presenters are available to lead workshops or give presentation about poetry and memoir writing. Please contact them directly to make arrangements:

Writing Project/Contest – Writing contests are a popular means for younger readers and writers in particular to approach the written word. Entries can be assembled in print or on the web, and winning selections can be read at a special event. If you choose to run a contest, we suggest offering prizes in different age or grade categories. (Be sure to let us know about the contest so we can help advertise it.)

Family History Projects

Brown Girl Dreaming begins with a family tree, and the stories about Woodson’s family history loom large in the book. Involve your local historical society or local genealogists to about how people can conduct their own genealogy research.  Create a community display documenting family trees.  Arrange for exhibit space at your local library, school, or museum to show participants’ work. The family About History page has links to specific genealogy and family history resources:

Culminating Celebrations

Communities often choose to conclude their Vermont Reads activities with a festive and fun event co-hosted with other collaborating organizations. A dinner or a themed potluck might include the African-American and Puerto Rican traditional foods that Woodson describes in the poems  “lessons” (p. 214), “trading places” (p. 216), and “pasteles & pernil” (p.255). Your celebration might also include a playlist of songs and artists mentioned in the book. See the Brown Girl Dreaming index of themes (PDF) for specific references.  These final events are also useful for showcasing student work done as part of the Vermont Reads project, recognizing contest winners, or hosting a panel discussion or presentation.


Libraries, Bookstores, Schools – Ask your public library, your school library, as well as local bookstores, to feature prominent displays of Vermont Reads Brown Girl Dreaming books   and other related titles. See the Brown Girl Dreaming index of themes (PDF) for a list of books and writers referenced within the book.