'Lyrics as Literature' program receives AASL Roald Dahl's Miss Honey Social Justice Award

For Immediate Release
Tue, 03/26/2019


Jennifer Habley

Manager, Web Communications

American Association of School Librarians (AASL)



CHICAGO – The project “Lyrics as Literature: Using Hip-Hop to Amplify Student Voice (Activism) and Social Justice” is the recipient of the 2019 American Association of School Librarians’ (AASL) Roald Dahl's Miss Honey Social Justice Award. Sponsored by Penguin Random House, the Roald Dahl Award recognizes collaboration between school librarians and teachers in the instruction of social justice using school library resources.

The 'Lyrics as Literature' program was inspired by the 2015 Freddie Gray Uprisings in Baltimore City, Maryland. Joquetta Johnson, school librarian at Randallstown High School in Randallstown, Maryland, collaborated with 9th-12th grade English and history teachers and the principal to help the school's students find and amplify their voice and serve as agents of change. The team repositioned hip-hop songs as literary nonfiction using the lyrics as an open invitation for learners to explore perspectives, culturally significant events, and the underlying message of humanity.

Students participated in lessons that examined subjects such as hashtag activism and race and racism in America. Using a worksheet Johnson created, students were asked to reflect on the question "What do you stand for?" and create personal slogans that reflected their personal mission statement. The culminating activity for the project was a student town hall meeting hosted in the school library. Students met with the principal and other community stakeholders to address issues and concerns related to four essential school and district areas: academics, safety and security, communication, and organization effectiveness. 

"Joquetta's project was innovative and relevant," said Savannah Sessions, award committee chair. "The committee was impressed with the multifaceted nature of the project. The hashtag activism lesson was a great avenue to engage in digital citizenship, while the blackout poetry lesson allowed students to explore 'their America' in a tangible way. The culminating town hall meeting increased awareness of social justice school-wide. Joquetta's efforts deserve to be lauded."

The AASL award winners will be honored at the AASL Awards Ceremony during the 2019 ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. The ceremony will be held from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. All are welcome to celebrate the accomplishments of their peers during this recognition event.

The American Association of School Librarians, www.aasl.org, a division of the American Library Association (ALA), empowers leaders to transform teaching and learning.