By Amy Cheney
Librarians consider many factors when choosing books. Primarily, what will be relevant, attract and hold the interest of our youth, especially the ones that are reluctant or non-readers. We read the books. We talk to other librarians who read the books. We talk to teens and get their feedback. Often the book must have a catchy or edgy title, premise or cover. Beyond that, the book needs to have lots of action, big type and white space.
We know most of our kids come in without certain assets—often without literacy, without cognitive skills, without support. We know they have often had negative experiences with school. We know they have had experiences they were unable to cope with, that they are emotionally raw, that they are shut down and troubled. And yet, on the other hand, we know that they have a tremendous amount of other assets: entrepreneurial skills, off-the-charts resourcefulness, astonishing creativity, a great sense of humor, insight and smarts, and the ability to make the best of dire situations. The books we choose need to reflect all of this.
Some of the top books for youth in detention are written by award winning inner city school teachers, social workers, and librarians. Here are some of top picks currently in my institution:
Tyrell and Bronxwood by Coe Booth
Caged Warrior, Homeboyz, Hip Hop High School and the Secret Story of Sonia Rodriguez (and other young adult titles) by Alan Lawerence Sitomar http://www.alanlawrencesitomer.com
Street Pharm, Snitch, Takedown and coming out in December On the Edge by Allison Van Diepen
Ten Mile River and Stay With Me by Paul Griffin
Black and White, Rooftop, Final Four, Riker’s High, Rucker Park SetUp by Paul Volponi
All of the Bluford High series. There’s something comforting about reading books in a series set in a neighborhood with familiar characters and situations. http://www.townsendpress.com/our-books/bluford-series/
Criminal by Terra Elan McVoy
A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah