Monday, September 30, 2013

Reading Wildly: African American Fiction

This month, my staff met to discuss African-American fiction at our monthly Reading Wildly meeting. As I mentioned last month, African Americans make up the largest minority population in our town and we want to make sure that we're representing our community in the books we purchase, display, and have in our arsenal for readers' advisory. But books featuring people of color are not just for people of color to read. Books can be a great way to expose kids to all kinds of cultures and different people. Take a look at the displays you have in your room. Do the kids of your community see themselves represented in what's displayed? Do kids and parents see options for expanding their horizons and exploring different cultures? And when you think about your readers' advisory arsenal and the books you're using for programs and book discussions, are you providing multicultural options? 

Not sure where to start with finding great African-American literature for kids? Check out The Brown Bookshelf, a blog featuring and interviewing many authors and illustrators of color. Do not miss the Coretta Scott King Book Award winners and honor books. I'm super excited that we're including Coretta Scott King winners and honor books on our new Winter Reading Club BINGO sheet (inspired by Angie Manfredi of Fat Girl Reading).

And, of course, you can check out any of these books that my staff read this month: 
(Side note: I suggested The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 as a crossover read for our adult book club a couple of years ago and it was a big hit! Also, a Hallmark Channel movie just came out this month!)

I had challenged my staff to look for contemporary titles since a lot of African-American fiction is historical fiction. I think we had a nice blend and some great titles shared this month.

Next month, we'll be discussing scary stories in honor of Halloween. This is a perennially popular topic and a particular favorite of one of my librarians. I made it clear to everyone that "slightly scary" is definitely okay, since I know that horror is not everyone's wheelhouse. When talking about horror, we definitely need to know books that will truly scare your pants off and also books that are creepy or thrilling without being terrifying. Each kid that asks for "scary stories" has a different level of tolerance (even if they won't admit it!).

I already got some great suggestions via Twitter and Code Name Awesome, but I'd love to hear your favorite scary (or slightly scary!) middle grade books in the comments!