Over the last few years, I’ve set a personal reading goal to read more #ownvoices stories. This hashtag movement, started on Twitter, is used “to recommend kidlit about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group.” As a children’s librarian, I love to remind parents that reading fosters empathy and boosts emotional intelligence. Reading, especially reading stories about characters different from ourselves, helps us become compassionate people who understand others better.
Now, as much as ever, it is important to find books that provide a window into a world that is different than our own. In a predominately white community, like our own, they can be an especially important gateway to empathy. As you have discussions with your children about racism, turn to #ownvoices stories like these, from Black authors, that encourage anti-racism and teach readers (of all ages) compassion.
Any book by Jewell Parker Rhodes could easily fit on this list, but GHOST BOYS is especially timely. This emotionally-charged book tells the story of 12-year-old Jerome from Chicago. At the beginning of the book, Jerome is playing with a toy gun in an empty lot when he is shot and killed by a white police officer. As a ghost, Jerome meets the ghosts of other boys whose lives were cut short by bigotry and racism, including Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till.
This book is a visceral representation of the Black Lives Matter movement, and though I first read it almost two years ago, it has stuck with me. The story, inspired by the real-life death of Tamir Rice, handles themes of implicit bias and police brutality in a direct and honest way. This thoughtful book is a great way to start discussions with middle grade readers.
Shayla would be happy for things to stay the same in middle school, but as soon as school starts she and her diverse group of friends are pulled in different directions and Shay’s older sister criticizes her for not spending more time with the other black kids at school. After attending a protest over the wrongful shooting of a black man by a white police officer, Shay decides to wear an armband to school to speak up for Black Lives Matter – in violation of her school dress code. Though Shay is shy by nature and usually hesitant to speak up, she realizes that standing up for things that are important to her matters more than following the rules. In her debut novel, Lisa Moore Ramée touches on a lot of powerful subjects through the eyes of a believable, young narrator. This book is perfect for readers who aren’t quite ready for THE HATE U GIVE.
All Jordan Banks wants is to draw cartoons in his sketchbook and go to an arts school -- instead, his parents insist he attend the prestigious Riverdale Academy Day School. This means that Jordan has to ride a bus from his apartment in Washington Heights all the way to R.A.D. where he is one of a handful of black students and where his homeroom teacher keeps calling the black students by the wrong name -- because she can’t tell them apart. This book, the first graphic novel to win a Newbery award, deals very realistically with the microaggressions and overt racism that students face everyday in school. Likable, three-dimensional characters bring this story to life. This is a humorous and engaging graphic novel, but one that opens the doors to deeper discussion.
This is the powerful story of Genesis Anderson – a middle schooler who keeps a list of the 96 reasons she hates herself, believing that if only she was light-skinned with “good hair” then her life would be easier. When her family is evicted (again), Genesis moves to a new neighborhood and finds a way to navigate the pain she carries by singing. This is a book that sensitively deals with very heavy subjects in an age-appropriate way. Genesis’ hateful self-image is a shocking reminder of the hate we often project onto others. Alicia D. Williams, in one of the most decorated children’s books of 2019, approaches Genesis’ story with a “day in the life” lens that gives readers an opportunity to appreciate experiences that may be different than their own.
On her 12th birthday, Zoe Washington receives a surprise letter from Marcus – her biological father who’s been imprisoned for murder since before Zoe was born. Against her mother and stepfather’s wishes, Zoe secretly begins a correspondence with Marcus with the help of her maternal grandmother. As Zoe gets to know Marcus, he proclaims his innocence which prompts Zoe to learn about inequality in the criminal justice system, and how, because of systemic racism, black people like her and Marcus are more likely to be wrongfully convicted. Another incredible debut novel that will facilitate conversations about racial profiling with middle grade readers.
Did you know that with your library card and PIN you can access hundreds of online courses taught by experts in their fields? It’s true. Through Lynda.com you can teach yourself skills like HTML, SEO Marketing, 2D Animation, In Design. If that sounds intimidating at all, don’t worry. Lynda.com is an easy and intuitive online learning platform.
All you have to do is go to the Provo Library website, provolibrary.com, and go to the Learn tab. Choose Research Databases from the drop-down menu, and then go to Online Learning. Lynda.com is the first option. The website will then ask you for your library card and PIN.
Once you are logged in, you see your dashboard. From there you can choose a learning path from topics like business, design, web development, IT, marketing, photography, video editing, audio and music editing, and CAD.
If you don’t see a path that fits you, you can search the site for skills that you want to develop. For example, if you want to get more out of your email experience, you can learn all the ins and outs of GMAIL by taking the GMAIL Essential Training course.
Once you have decided what courses you want to take, you create a playlist for yourself of videos that teach you the skills you want to learn. Then all you do is watch the videos. The videos are short and skill focused. Then you have time to practice what you are learning. You can take the course as fast or a slow as you want to and you never lose your place.
Normally a Lynda.com membership would cost you around $30 a month; but with your library membership you get access to all these courses for free! Maybe it’s time you explored Lynda.com for yourself.
I don’t know about you, but working from home has gotten a bit too boring. There used to be so many people to interact with, observe, and even gossip with. There’s less drama and intrigue when you’re at home. Check out these novels that take place in the workplaces that you can’t be in right now. Get caught up in a daydream about the days when you could stand closer than 6 feet away from a person. Prepare to have your mind blown as you read about social interactions that are not possible today.
Lincoln didn’t think his internet security officer position for a local newspaper would be so invasive. Day after day, he is tasked with reading emails that are flagged and considered inappropriate for the workplace. When the fun, personal email exchanges of Beth and Jennifer pop up in his inbox, he finds himself captivated by insights into their lives. After months of reading about their struggles, frustrations, and humorous outlooks on life, he winds up caring about these women, and possibly even (dare he say it) in love.
Lucy Hutton is a firm believer that hard work, charm, and a little bit of people pleasing will get her into her dream career. Though, there always seems to be one thing standing in her way: Joshua Templeman. He, her polar opposite and ultimate nemesis, is constantly one-upping her, which scares her into fighting for a promotion that would make her Joshua’s boss. However, things get a little complicated when Lucy begins to develop an actual attraction to the man who has made her professional life miserable. It gets even more complicated when they share an unexpected kiss.
Andrew’s job can be heavy and depressing. He reaches out to the next of kin of those who have died alone. It takes its toll, but his coworkers believe that he winds down from the dreariness of his job when he goes home each day to his wife and two kids...who don’t exist. Andrew is caught up in his web of white lies and it comes back to bite him when a new coworker, Peggy, steps into his life. Her friendship could be the cure to his loneliness, but will the truth cost him real happiness?
In Susan Green’s perfectly crafted life, she has everything she needs; passion for her career, a flat with enough space for one, a man with no strings attached. Everything is just as she likes it. So, when she finds herself a newly expectant mother and her own mother passes away, she is forced to reframe her expectations for life. And, when her brother’s friend Rob shows interest in her, she is forced to reframe her expectations for love as well.
Cloud is a powerhouse tech company that is slowly taking over the American economy. Employees don’t just work on the company campus, they live there. When his company is demolished by Cloud, and his options are limited, Paxton takes a security position there. We get a glimpse of the monotony and suppressive world within the walls of the company by meeting Zinnia, a spy on the inside, searching for the Big Brother-esque company’s deep dark secrets. She sees Paxton as an easy target, but learns that there is more to the pawn than he appears to be.
Candace Chen is so devoted to her work and her routine that she hardly notices when the plague first hits New York City. Life as she knows it, stops. The city quickly empties out and companies shut down. She finds herself aligning with a group of former employee survivors. With secrets, power-hungry leaders, and differing opinions, this novel presents an all new workplace, more cut-throat than ever, as it is every man (or woman) for themselves.
I want a pet. I don’t care if it’s a cat, dog, or hedgehog. I just want one. Unfortunately, I can’t get one right now. If you’re in the same boat, never fear. I have some books that will help you feel the love of having a pet without needing the finances or time to take care of one.
STORMY is a wordless picture book about a dog. Each page shares a snapshot of the dog’s life alone. Will the sweet pup find a forever home?
Truman is the most courageous and noble turtle you will ever meet. When his girl leaves for her first day of school, he is distraught. All he knows is that she’s missing. And what do the most courageous and noble turtles do when their girl goes missing? Brave the untold dangers of the living room to find her.
If you like amphibians, then you may want to read this retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. In this version, one of the princesses owns an unusual frog that may be more important than anyone realizes. Or maybe not.
Those wanting to spend a summer in Florida with a big ugly dog won’t want to miss this read. BECAUSE OF WINN-DIXIE follows India Opal Buloni and her summer spent with her lovable mutt.
If all the books above just make you want a pet even more, then that’s ok. You can make one. Follow the directions in this book to create your own cute pet using wool. You can make up to 45 different animals! From bears to cats, you’re sure to find an animal craft to soothe your heart as it pines for an animal friend.