If you’re a librarian, teacher or a parent you often are tasked with helping a kid find a book that they actually want to read. Too often schools select books based on some arbitrary canon that reflects neither the experiences or worldview of the students that are forced to read them. If you do this day in and day out for years it becomes easy to check out and decide not to read at all. But reading opens up the world.

Reading allows everyone to access information and information can be the difference between life and death.
Students who have become “reluctant readers” may be that way because they haven’t found anything they like to read or a reason to do it. If they’ve got little parent support it’s even easier to find yourself in that category. Often reluctant readers are those kids who aren’t having much success in school, but they don’t have to be. Often reluctant readers are stereotyped as the black and brown kids. Take a look at the covers of mainstream books and those for reluctant readers and you’ll be able to see which ones feature black and brown faces, but I digress.
The “In the Margins” list of books for incarcerated youth and at-risk teens is a favorite of mine because I can always find books for kids who live in circumstances that aren’t sweet and ripe for fond rememberings. Their lives are hard and they need stories that show them that they aren’t alone and there is light at the end of the tunnel. These books do that. Take a look at them. Buy them. Share them.

If you’re wondering what I consider At-Risk then these kids qualify:

  • Kids who have been or have family members who have been incarcerated
  • Kids who do or know people who do a recreational drugs that negatively impact their lives
  • Kids in foster care
  • Kids in non-traditional homes (living with a sister or grandparent)
  • Kids who have limited mobility (no access to public transit or personal vehicles)
  • Kids who have been retained
  • Kids who have been recruited or at risk of being recruited by gangs
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