When I was 17, my parents took me to New York City on spring break. We splurged on a Broadway show and saw Ragtime, a musical centered around racial injustice in America in the early 20th century. Never before had my eyes been so open to the mistreatment and brutality directed at people of color. The fact that I hadn’t considered this until my late teens is the very definition of white privilege.
And it’s exactly why books like Angie Thomas’ best-selling, award-winning The Hate U Give are so important. For people of color, this book is an important moment of representation, a chance to see their lived experience in print and on movie screens. For readers like me, who grew up in an upper middle class, mostly white suburb, it is a glimpse into the life of a black teenager living in an impoverished neighborhood. We cannot begin to dismantle systemic white supremacy until we recognize and acknowledge the effects of generations of discrimination, oppression, and violence. This book is just such an opportunity to educate ourselves.
Typically, best picture movies are edgy or push the envelope, they often have cultural ramifications, and of course, they’re are extremely well-written with phenomenal acting. In the kid lit (or children’s literature) world, the John Newbery Medal is also shiny and gold, but unlike the Oscar, it is a seal that adorns future copies of the winning book. Hello, Universeby Erin Entrada Kelly is the 2018 winner of the Newbery Medal and it embodies all those qualities we’ve come to expect from award-winning films.
One of the ways we hope Raising Real Readers can help busy parents and caregivers is by keeping an eye out for the latest books that will soon be on all the must-read lists. Very few people have time to keep up with books lists and release dates! Front Desk by Kelly Yang is a great example of a new book with lots of buzz, but even better, it provides an accessible starting point for conversations with your elementary school child about timely, difficult topics. You can see our other book recommendations here.
I think some of the most exciting work happening in children’s literature is found in the Young Adult niche. A couple of my most favorite reads from the past year are young adult books. They are stories that dig deep into the human spirit. Plus, I love that they typically read a bit quicker than many books geared toward adults–perfect for summer days when you’ve got one eye on the kids in the pool and one eye devouring your book. Everything Everything by Nicola Yoon is just such a book.