9780807083260Historical fiction as a genre is powerful in its ability both to educate and to provide insight into the voices and experiences of those who came before us. Ruthanne Lum McCunn’s novel Thousand Pieces of Gold (Beacon Press) does just that, tracing the tribulations of Polly Bemis, a nineteenth-century Chinese woman who is sold into slavery and prostitution in America and who struggles against all odds to claim her independence. In McCunn’s adaptation of this true story, Polly’s father refers to his daughter as his treasure, his “thousand pieces of gold,” and his decision to sell her reveals the desperation brought on by intersecting historical forces in China at that time. What follows is an exploration of the value and dignity of human life as Polly perseveres and pioneers across the American frontier. (more…)

9781101907290The Universal Academy for the College Bound (UACB) High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is launching a City-Wide Community Engagement book club for youth and adult mentors and has chosen several Penguin Random House titles for the inaugural program: Jay Z’s Decoded (Spiegel & Grau), Wes Moore’s The Other Wes Moore (Spiegel & Grau), and Shaka Senghor’s Writing My Wrongs (Convergent Books).

In total, the school’s English department selected eleven fiction and nonfiction titles by African American authors that, according to their press release, “highlight Social Justice issues that parallel youth’s lives across the city, poverty, homelessness, and being raised in single-parent households.” UACB is led by Universal Companies, the only African American charter school management company in the country, and aims to promote literacy, increase reading ability, and provide mentorship opportunities for its students through the book club program by exposing them to books that they can relate to. (more…)

9780553418026In this essay, Gillian King-Cargile speaks to how The Martian was incorporated into the curriculum in Northern Illinois University’s creative writing program and STEM summer camps for high school students. Campers had the opportunity to participate in a virtual visit with the book’s author, Andy Weir.

For some students, being in the classroom is a lot like being stranded on Mars. They feel isolated from the content. They have difficulty connecting with the subject, the teacher, or even other students. Whether they’re reluctant readers, reluctant mathematicians, or just plain reluctant, some students need a creative catalyst to get excited about learning. (more…)

9781101904008By Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night At A Time (Harmony, April 2016)

There is more and more evidence of how sleep deprivation is affecting students, both their physical and mental health and their ability to learn. At the same time, we are living in a golden age of sleep science, revealing all the ways in which sleep plays a vital role in our decision making, emotional intelligence, cognitive function, and creativity – in other words, the building blocks of a great education. This science is already being applied, as many schools have seen positive results from pushing back start times. (more…)

9780553419634By Caroline Webb, author of How to Have a Good Day: Harness the Power of Behavioral Science to Transform Your Working Life (Crown Business, February 2016).

Going to college is one of life’s big leaps. For the first time, students are expected to take responsibility for their choices – and there are a lot of them to make. They need to pick classes, sign up for extracurricular activities, and decide how often to do their laundry. They’re figuring out who they are and working out how to impress their new peers. And somehow, amid all that, they need to organize themselves to get work done. It’s as if they’re taking an unfamiliar new job in a foreign country, but without the benefit of any past life experience to draw on.

So how do they handle this wrenching, exciting transition? When I was a college student, I got feedback on my class contributions and term papers. But there was no guidance on the business of managing myself from day to day. As a result, I did what a lot of students do. I stayed up late. I ran every deadline to the last minute. I got upset when social situations felt challenging. I took on far too many activities – debating, singing, writing, student politics – then had something close to a breakdown when I finally started worrying about my grades in my senior year. That was when I was given some useful life advice for the first time. A favorite professor told me, “When you’re feeling overwhelmed, go sit in a park for a half-hour. Take some deep breaths. Think about what really matters.” I tried it, and of course it helped. I calmed down, refocused, and ended college in good shape. (more…)

9780812986396By Sara Nović, author of Girl at War: A Novel (Random House Trade Paperbacks, March 2016)

Recently my first novel became an audiobook to which I cannot listen. This is not a complaint, exactly; to write a book someone wants to publish in any format is a writer’s dream. But to hold some disc that contains a thing I made, transformed into a thing I can no longer understand, is a quandary few writers experience. To be a Deaf writer is to make a certain kind of shortlist.

Growing up with a progressive hearing loss, I was educated in spoken English alongside my hearing peers; when that became too difficult I learned American Sign Language (ASL) and had interpreters in class. Still, the linguistic modality in which I am most fluent is written English, because in it I have the most access and the most control. When I’m writing I need not be translated for a hearing audience. When I’m reading a book sounds and words are clear; paper never covers its mouth or turns its head. (more…)

9780553393057A message from Dr. Lisa Damour, author of Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood (Ballantine Books, February 2016).

I’m often stunned by what people say to me when they learn that I’m a psychologist who specializes in working with teenage girls:

“You work with teen girls? There should be a medal for that!” or they shake their heads and say, “Teenage girls … I’m so glad I only have sons.”

When talking about adolescent girls, adults are quick to fall back on stereotypes. Too often, we describe girls as being mean or marginalized, wild or mild, stressed or buoyant. But anyone who spends time with teenagers, anyone who really knows and cares about them, can  tell you that most teenage girls could fit all of these descriptions, and more, on any single day. It’s time to address how dynamic and intricate girls really are.

It’s time to shed light on their inner lives and do so in a way that honors girls and the intelligence of the adults who care about them.  As the mother of two girls and a psychologist who consults to schools and treats girls in my private practice, I wrote Untangled to replace our two-dimensional stereotypes with a sophisticated framework for understanding adolescent development. (more…)

9780307464972A letter of appreciation from Sara Brown, Library Media Specialist at Portage High School in Portage, Michigan.

It is my honor to write in behalf of Mr. Max Brooks, the guest speaker at our first ever Portage CommuniTEEN Read event on November 12, 2015.

We asked Mr. Brooks to be part of this inaugural event in our community to help lay a solid foundation for years to come. He is a fantastic speaker who engages his audience by lacing important topics with humor. We had almost 1,000 students attend his presentations; many were 9″‘ graders. Max kept them engaged and interested which was evident by the 20-30 hands that were raised anytime he asked if there were more questions. Based on participation, adults were no less engrossed. (more…)

9780812995411By Wayne Maines, father of Nicole Maines. The Maines family is the focus of Amy Ellis Nutt’s Becoming Nicole: The Transformation of an American Family (Random House, October 2015)

Recently I had the opportunity to speak at Bowdoin College, in Brunswick, Maine. Before the lecture I spent an hour walking around their beautiful campus, thinking about how to frame my discussion about equality, harassment and my family without getting too emotional. I was concerned that breaking into tears might distract from my message, which acknowledges that we have indeed come far these past five years, but further stresses that there is still a great deal of work to be done.

I am the proud father of identical twins: one is a boy and one is a girl. My beautiful daughter Nicole is transgender. This talk was important to me, a chance to meet with senior staff, middle management and students and have a conversation about transgender rights in schools. (more…)

9780767901260By Ron Suskind, author of A Hope in the Unseen: An American Odyssey from the Inner City to the Ivy League (Broadway Books, 1999)

Two decades ago, I went to the toughest school I could find in America. It happened to be in my hometown, Washington, DC, where I was the national affairs reporter for the Wall Street Journal. Bill Clinton was President, an economic boom was beginning, and despite the OJ Simpson verdict and Rodney King’s plea to “just get along,” there was reasoned optimism that progress in race relations was underway, slow but steady, with a growing African-American middle class and opportunities borne of affirmative action. I found a young man, a big dreamer with a dad in jail and a struggling mom, and followed him, his family, and an ensemble of characters, several of them white and privileged, for four years. The yield-a Pulitzer Prize­ winning series and then best-selling book, A Hope in the Unseen-were works that I hoped would last, and they did. Like The Other Wes Moore or Bryan Stevenson‘s Just Mercy, Hope was a favorite of the common reading experience and went on to sell a half-million copies. (more…)