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John Marshall Mid-High School has been chosen by Public Broadcasting Service or PBS to participate with Oklahoma City Thunder players in a new 2018 project called “The Great American Read.”

New Invisible Man novels ready to hand out PBS
New Invisible Man novels ready to hand out

Television production crews from PBS will be at John Marshall in January to film students and some of the Thunder players discussing the novel Invisible Man, published in 1952 by acclaimed African-American author and Oklahoma City native Ralph Ellison.

In July, PBS announced the new project that will involve students and adults all over the U.S. getting together to read and discuss the 100 most popular books.

Parts of the taping at John Marshall will be used to build eight episodes to be shown in spring, 2018.

Principal Aspasia Carlson made the announcement to Juniors and a few Seniors Tuesday in the school’s library on their campus at the intersection of N. Portland and NW 122nd Street. The school is in Oklahoma City Public Schools.

Students were given new copies of the book Tuesday to start reading over the winter break. Thunder players will also receive copies to start reading.

AP English teacher Shelly Campbell and Coach Patrick Cudjoe, English III teacher, are lead teachers coordinating class activities and the project.

Something extravagant

Free Press had librarian Jennifer Lynch point out four of the students who she knows typically chose to spend their own time in the library reading.

Monique and Ebony Pettigrew get their new books PBS
Monique (L) and Ebony Pettigrew get their new books

“It’s an excellent opportunity. It’s definitely something extravagant,” said Monique Pettigrew. “It’s not something people get to be a part of every day.”

Monique’s sister Ebony Pettigrew was looking forward to being a part of the project.

“I’m always down for new experiences, especially when it comes to promoting literature. I love to read.”


Jared Leviston has been a library aid in the past and has been a regular in the library for several years.

“It’s going to be a good experience with the NBA players,” he said.

Reading is something that Leviston has valued for years.

Jared Leviston and Quintrell Hill get books PBS
Jared Leviston (L) and Quintrell Hill get their new books.

“When you read a book, you get to feel what the character is going through. But you have to use your imagination,” Leviston said.

Movies don’t excite him much because they don’t allow for imagination like books do. And he says if a movie is based on a popular book, he has probably read it and won’t like the movie much.

Does he often criticize movies because they didn’t live up to the book? “All the time,” he said with a laugh.

Senior Quintrell Hill is not only a football player, but an avid reader.

What does he like about reading?

“Just putting your mind into it and getting all the feeling into it.”

Hill agreed with Leviston that movies based on books just don’t live up the book.

Librarian excited

Librarian Jennifer Lynch thinks being a part of this event will boost interest in reading school-wide when students who have the book talk about it among themselves.

Librarian Jennifer Lynch PBS
Librarian Jennifer Lynch is preparing for an uptick in library activity.

“It’s great that all the kids will have the same book so they can read it,” Lynch said. “Having the discussion groups is going to make it great. There’s so much more that you can get out of a book than just reading it. They are going to be having discussion groups in the classes.”

Principal Carlson came back in after doing hall duty when students were released to go to their classes. We asked how she thought it went.

She laughed.

Pointing to a group of students excitedly talking in a group in the hallway, she said, “Great. They’re talking about it out there, how they are going to call each other. It’s great.”

To learn more about John Marshall Mid-High, see our article in a recent three-part series on OKCPS enterprise schools.

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