OXFORD, Miss. – Shimikqua Ellis, a doctoral student at the University of Mississippi School of Education, recently received a $1,500 grant for her dissertation research from the ALAN (Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of NCTE) Foundation in Baltimore.
Ellis’s dissertation will study how high school English teachers in Mississippi will use the novel The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a fictional young adult novel about race relations in the United States, to promote social justice in their classrooms.
“I think it’s really important for students in Mississippi to be exposed to a contemporary Mississippi writer of color and a book that is relevant to young adults,” said Ellis, a St. Louis native. “I will be observing teachers’ different perspectives of teaching The Hate U Give in Mississippi and how they’re using young adult literature to address issues of racial injustice and inequity.”
With the money from the ALAN grant, Ellis will provide classroom sets of the novel to five different high school classrooms across the state. The teachers will be responsible for creating lesson plans around the book and documenting their experiences during the unit.
Focus groups will be conducted with teachers during study to examine how teachers use the book and their experiences using it in the classroom.
“I’ve been very inspired by Angie Thomas and the success that she’s had with this book,” said Ellis. “I wanted my dissertation to support teachers and communities in this state through literacy.”
As a part of the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English), the ALAN Foundation seeks to promote communication among individuals who have an interest in adolescent literature. The Hate U Give is a young adult novel that was published in 2017.
“The research Ms. Ellis is conducting provides relevant information to teachers about the impact such young adult literature may have on student engagement and awareness,” said Susan McClelland, UM chair of teacher education. “I am delighted that Ms. Ellis’s proposal was recognized at a national level which enabled her to be an ALAN grant recipient.”
Ellis received her undergraduate degree in English from Clark Atlanta University and her master’s degree in education from Webster University. Upon completion of her doctorate in English education, Ellis plans to continue to conduct research in literature and social justice. She hopes to graduate next year.
“I am very grateful to receive this grant and I am thankful to my faculty mentors at UM,” said Ellis. “I’m very passionate about young adult literature and I’m hoping that through my research districts will adopt young adult literature to their curriculum.”
“I’ve seen the transformational power of kids finding a book they can connect with.”
By Meaghan Flores