It is never too late or too early to have conversations with your children about racism, diversity, and inclusivity. If your kids are older, then you already know that they are eager for answers – especially as they are exposed to information they may find hard to process. Having open and honest discussions with your children about racism will encourage them to come to you with questions and worries.
Here are more recommendations of #ownvoices stories from Black authors to help foster those conversations in your family. And, by reading stories that center Black characters, you can fight against racial bias in the media your family consumes. Reading stories that feature complex Black characters can help confront harmful racial stereotypes.
Brandy Colbert, best known for her award-winning YA novels, makes her Middle Grade debut with this story about two girls who become fast friends in their quiet California beach town. Alberta is used to being the only Black girl in town, but she is thrilled when her dads bring home the news that a Black family with a daughter her same age is moving in across the street. As a goth from Brooklyn, Edie is pretty different from Alberta, but the two become friends while bonding over shifting family dynamics, microaggressions at school and middle school mean girls hurling racist taunts. Their bond is strengthened when they find some mysterious old journals in Edie’s attic and work together to uncover a major secret.
This friendship story centers two well-characterized Black girls in a way that is realistic and wholly welcome. And, the added mystery of the old journals is able to introduce events central to Black history in a way that transcends time.
Sarah is expecting the worst when she finds out her cousin Janie is being sent from Chicago to spend the summer in Sarah’s rural Georgia hometown. Sarah wanted to spend the summer studying astronomy and bossing around her younger brother, not dealing with Janie and her proclivity for shoplifting. Things go from bad to worse when Janie steals a necklace from the ruins of Creek Church, an old church burned down by the Ku Klux Klan, and accidentally awakens the restless spirits buried there. The three kids, along with their friend Jasper, must help their town acknowledge it’s unsettling and racist history to allow these ghosts, called haints, to rest.
This ghost story is just the right amount of spooky while helping readers understand how ignoring a painful past can come back to haunt us.
After her parent’s divorce, Candice and her mother are spending the summer at her late grandmother’s home in Lambert, South Carolina. While digging around her grandmother’s old things, she finds a letter that offers a hint to why her grandmother, as city-manager, tore up the town’s tennis courts in pursuit of buried treasure – ultimately losing her job. Now Candice, with her bookish neighbor Brandon, is on a quest to find the treasure, restore her grandmother’s reputation, and uncover a decades-old mystery that includes acts of racial violence against a Black family that threatened the status quo.
This is a perfect mystery for any reader who loved THE WESTING GAME and gives compelling arguments against standing by and doing nothing. This Coretta Scott King honor book is a satisfying exploration of racism that gives young readers a lot to discuss about injustice.
After a summer apart, Tai is excited for her best friend Jamila to return from her aunt’s house in the suburbs. Tai and Mila have been inseparable since they were toddlers, but lately Mila has been acting weird. And though Mila is happy to be home with her dad and brothers, she sort of wishes her dad would send her to live in the suburbs forever like her older sister – that way she wouldn’t have to stress about her dance audition for the new Talented and Gifted Program or about accidentally revealing her secret to someone. Especially to Tae.
Told in dual-perspective with alternating chapters Tai and Mila come to life in a way that reminds readers that we don’t usually know the whole story. This is a brave book that doesn’t shy away from real issues that worry many young people. But this #ownvoices story (and its follow-up DOUGH BOYS provides a window into a very different world. Perfect for fans of Jason Reynolds or Angie Thomas.
Stephen has always thought of himself as “mixed” – but it hasn’t really mattered that much before. But recently, Stephen feels caught between two lanes and then he starts to notice that some people treat him differently than his white friends. Then, Stephen discovers the Black Lives Matter movement at school, and begins to realize the racism he experiences everyday in interactions with strangers, shopkeepers, or his best friend Dan’s racist cousin Chad. Stephen does his part to make his classmates aware of injustices Black people face everyday while trying to avoid being cornered into one lane.
This slim novel is at times hopeful and heartbreaking. As a white reader, this book was eye-opening – following along with a biracial boy as he comes to the realization that people will hate him because of the color of his skin and that hate can bring dire consequences. This book is a great conversation starter about racial profiling, police violence against Black people and allyship – through the eyes of a brave, young protagonist.
Earlier this week we excitedly announced that starting July 1st there will no longer be overdue fines for children’s materials! We’ve had some questions about this change and wanted to give the answers here.
A: It's easy: we want children to read. We know that life with children is hectic and sometimes it's hard to get to the library on time; we also know that it's not unusual for a child to have many books checked out at once and so late fees add up quickly. We would hate for a family to stop using the library because they feel they cannot afford it.
A: We will still have due dates on all library materials and we do still expect people to return items on time. If a book is one month overdue it will be marked lost and the patron will be charged for the full cost of the item. We will still charge for lost or damaged books. If the book is returned, we will waive the "lost" fee.
A: Almost everything; we will continue to charge late fees for Discovery Kits as they are a high-demand specialty item. But books, DVDs, and books on CD from the children's collection will all be fee exempt.
A: This could be such a long answer, but it boils down to this: our readers of children's materials and our readers of adult/teen materials just behave differently. Our collections move differently. Adults and teens are more likely to want specific titles--the next in a series, the next from their favorite author--and so we find that we have long holds lists for lots of items. We have found that late fees for those materials provide a great incentive to bring things back and help us keep high-demand materials moving.
However, many children do not consume books in this way. They might want 50 picture books about dinosaurs, but many times they don't care about which 50 picture books about dinosaurs they have. We have found that having these materials returned a few days late does not negatively impact another patron's ability to enjoy the library (we have enough books about dinosaurs to satisfy many future paleontologists).
A. This is a valid concern and a big part of why the policy change only applies to children's books right now. We've been watching data for several years now from libraries around that country that have instituted similar policies who have found that their patrons still return things in a timely manner. It just gives a little more grace when people forget or have complications come up. Most patrons still want to return their items on time or close to on time because they know other people are waiting. And many libraries have even found people are more likely to bring things back than before, because fear of fines they couldn't afford had previously kept them from ever returning with that book they'd had out too long. We're hopeful that will be the case here.
We're committed to this not being a system that unintentionally penalizes, in this way, the patrons who always would have returned their materials on time, though. We'll continue monitoring hold lists for popular items, the way we currently do for all library materials, and will buy extra copies as needed to keep the holds/copy ratio low.
A: Thanks for asking! We wanted to talk about this in a previous question above, but that answer was getting too long. We are excited to announce that we're also instituting automatic renewals for library materials. You have always been able to renew library materials, but we have turned on automatic renewals to save you a step. As long as no one has requested an item, it will automatically renew for you on the due date for an additional three weeks. Since each item may be renewed twice, this means that you could potentially have up to nine weeks to finish that 40-hour epic fantasy book on CD (as long as no one else has requested it). You can see how many times the item as been renewed by logging into your online library account from our website.
Q: What if you put a hold on a children’s book, how will that affect the book being returned?
A: If you put a hold on a children's book that is currently checked out to someone else, that book will not automatically renew to them, and they will be expected to return the book on its original due date. The only change here is that they won't be fined at that point, but they will still receive the usual repeated reminders to return it. Once that book has been overdue for a month, it will be considered lost and the patron will be charged for it. BUT if they return it after that, we'll waive that fine. We're hoping some long-lost books will make their way back home this way.
Like we mentioned in the last answer, we’ll be watching hold lists carefully and buying more copies as needed when the ratio of holds per copy gets too high.
A: Short answer? Yes. It will be a significant budget shortfall. We've made some adjustments; we think it's worth it to keep kids reading.
With its new fiscal year, the Provo City Library is closing the book on a long-held library practice: charging fines on late books and materials for children. Effective July 1, the Library will stop charging fees on children’s materials that are returned past their due date.
Gene Nelson, Library Director, has been thinking about this move for quite some time. “Every librarian who has worked in a Children’s Department has heard some variation of this conversation between a parent and child: ‘I’m sorry, we just can’t check out books today; we can’t afford the late fees.’ It breaks your heart to hear that a child’s access to library books is a financial decision. That’s not what we’re about.”
According to Joella Peterson Bagshaw, Children’s Services Manager, the motivation behind lifting fines on late materials is simple: get books in the hands of Provo’s children. “In going fine-free for children's materials we are making materials more accessible for our youngest library patrons. We are helping families who have tight budgets and limited free time know that they are valued. We want children to have every opportunity to learn, grow, and succeed.”
“As a father of six kids, I know that sometimes things go missing,” Nelson notes. “They disappear under a couch, under a bed, in a toy box. We don’t ever want a late fee to be the reason that a child can’t check out books.”
But without due dates, how does the Library make sure that people return materials? “Going fine-free doesn’t mean it’s a complete free-for-all,” notes Erika Hill, Community Relations Coordinator. “People are still responsible for returning books, and if a book is out for too long we will assume it’s lost.” Patrons will still be charged for lost or damaged materials (though if a lost item is returned then those fees will be waived).
It is important to note that this change only applies to materials in the children’s collection; adult and teen materials, along with specialty items like telescopes, board games, cameras, and more will still have fines if they are returned late. To help patrons avoid late fees on those materials, the Library has also introduced an automatic renewal policy. As long no other patrons have requested an item, it will be automatically renewed up to two times to avoid late fees.
Though there will be a financial impact for the Library, Director Gene Nelson notes that the benefits to the community outweigh the revenue loss. “Across the nation, we’ve seen that when fines go down, circulation goes up. When we eliminate fines on the children’s collection, we gain more than we lose.”
I’m going to admit something right now: I like fluffy books. Fluffy books are like literary candy. The best ones are a good combination of salty and sweet, like salted caramel or anything with peanut butter and chocolate. What I call a fluffy book sometimes goes by other names: Chick Lit, Rom Com, Beach Reads.
Are you in the fluffy reads club? Wear it proudly. There are times when we need to engage in challenging subjects through the books we read; times we want to be stretched, to learn, to grow, to think about our humanity and all its broken glory. But also, sometimes you just need some candy. Eat the candy, read the fluffy book. It will all be fine.
I’m on a constant quest for the perfect fluffy book, and though I keep trying books by other authors I just keep coming back to Sophie Kinsella. She is simply the best at finding that balance between romance and comedy. Her books are fully of funny dialogue and some really memorable slapstick, and I’m frankly shocked that more of them haven’t been made into movies. In no particular order, here are my five favorite Sophie Kinsella novels to satisfy your cravings for a fluffy book.
(Also, because your idea of good candy and my idea of good candy might be different, I’m including a brief content advisory with each title. Many of Kinsella’s books do include some language and some more-than-kissing romantic scenes.)
This was the first book I ever read by Sophie Kinsella, and it remains one of my favorites. It checks so many great rom-com/workplace comedy boxes. Plucky heroine? Yep. Hot and cold feelings toward a potential suitor? Yep! Swamp fight? Like all great romances, of course!
Our heroine, Katie, is working her way up in her company while cultivating a not-quite-accurate Instagram account of her “perfect” life. When she’s suddenly fired, she moves home to the countryside to find that her parents are turning their farm into a glamping retreat. As the retreat takes off, any guesses as to who might be one of the first guests? If you guessed “Katie’s intimidating and aloof former employer”, you’ve clearly done your homework on the genre.
This one's got a real Devil Wears Prada vibe, and I thoroughly enjoyed the romp through crappy flats and beautiful glamp-grounds.
Content advisory: some language, some PG-13 sex (as in we know it's going to happen and then fade to black and it happened), and a fair amount of late-20s "How am I going to make this life work?!?!" angst.
The premise of this book is kind of wacky—after losing her engagement ring and her phone on the same day, Poppy Wyatt discovers a phone in a hotel trashcan and takes it for her own. She soon realizes that it’s the phone of a personal assistant to businessman Sam Roxton, and rather than doing the sensible thing and simply cancelling the phone and hiring a new assistant, Sam inexplicably allows Poppy to keep the phone and read and reply to his business emails.
Once you get past that slightly unbelievable premise, this book is delightful. Though the end result is completely predictable, the ways that we get there are surprising. I love that this is as much a story about company intrigue as it is about love and relationships. I love the scene of Poppy cheating at Scrabble with her future in-laws; I love the way each of our protagonists have something to learn from the other, and that it's a relationship that builds by working together.
Content advisory: some language, some mentions of sex, and lots of mentions of outdated Blackberry devices.
How is this one not a movie yet? The clothes alone would make it fabulous. When Lara's great aunt passes away, the family attends her poorly organized, sad funeral out of obligation. Like many Kinsella heroines, Lara is struggling in her career and her personal life. While other family members are talking about inheriting the aunt's belongings, Lara inherits something much more inconvenient: Sadie, the permanently 23-year-old ghost of her great aunt.
Sadie is feisty and hilarious and makes a comic mess of Lara's life before helping her pick up the pieces. And the clothes. The clothes! My imagination makes them beautiful and I want them all.
Content warnings: some language, some mentions of sex, some jokes about all the places and things Sadie's ghost can see, and plot points that revolve around portraiture.
If you're going to read one book about slightly improbable amnesia, it should be What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. However, if you want a light-hearted second book about a character with improbable amnesia, this was a fun one.
Lexi is a salesperson at a flooring company with slightly wonky teeth, no end-of-year bonus, a loser boyfriend (who everyone literally calls Loser Dave. To his face. I'm not sure why he's okay with this.), and her dad's funeral to attend the next day. She attempts to hail a taxi in the rain after a few too many banana cocktails (I don't drink but these sound gross), and hits her head. When she wakes up in the hospital, her teeth are straight, her hair is great, she's got a designer bag and a wedding ring on her finger.
It turns out she's been in a car accident and has forgotten the last three years, and those three years have been monumental. Things she's forgotten: her stint on a reality show, her marriage to a rich, handsome man, and her falling out with all her best friends.
Lexi's attempts to put together the pieces of her life are mostly heart-warming and hilarious. This book does have a bit more substance than some Kinsella novels I've enjoyed, but it's still a fast, fun read. As Lexi tries to place herself in her new life, she finds herself asking big questions about her own priorities. Is power more important than friendship? Is money more important than love? Have her choices over the last few years been soul-saving or soul-sucking?
Content: some sexual references, some language, lavish descriptions of "loft-style living", and one tropical fish incident that didn't live up to its full comic potential.
I leave you with possibly the most ridiculous Kinsella novel. It is so silly. It is so ridiculous. It’s another one that would make a hilarious movie.
Lottie is rebounding from a breakup and impulsively marries an old flame; her sister, Felicity, is in a middle of a messy divorce and wants to try to save Lottie from what she knows will be a terrible decision. So, of course, the most logical way for her to do this is to bribe a hotel concierge to egregiously interfere in Lottie's....honeymoon activities...so that Lottie can annul the marriage after she comes to her senses.
Are there plot holes? Sure! Is it ridiculous? Absolutely! Did I laugh out loud at an ill-fated couples massage? Yes, yes I did.
Here are some things to be aware of: there's quite a bit of language, quite a bit of talking about (but not actually having, because that's kind of the point of the book) sex, and a fair amount of sisterly exasperation.