I don’t know about you, but summer is just around the corner in the Harris household. I know technically summer won’t be here for a few more weeks, but I define summer as the part of the year where my kids are out of school and at home. In the past, keeping the older kids busy during the summer has been a task in itself. Teenagers naturally want to stay up all night watching TV or playing video games, or having endless amount of sleepovers with their friends, and sleeping the better half of the day. I’ve found that if we let them continue like that, settling back into a school routine can be so much more difficult than it needs to be.
To prevent this from happening, we’ve set ground rules in our house. No matter what time you go to sleep, you have to be up by 8:00 AM. Since we have little ones, we are up like clockwork every morning so we’re always able to be sure the kids are up. In addition, there’s chores and projects to be done around the house, and the learning doesn’t stop just because it’s summer. We feel it helps our kids have an advantage once school starts if we keep them sharp and learning during the summer months.
A love of Reading
When I was a little girl, I went to my local library every week and checked out stacks of books. I didn’t have a television in my room until I was about 16 years old, but I didn’t care because I had my books. I remember reading so many books, fiction and nonfiction, but my favorites were the Sweet Valley High series. I learned so much about family, love, friendship, drugs and even death from these books. I was an only child, so my household as a child was nothing like it is now, but I’ve always had a lifelong love for reading. Later in life my interests turned from fiction to non fiction, I began reading more biographies of fascinating people. Books that shared triumph after tragedy and touched on a multitude of lessons. For me, I learned more from books than I ever did in school. As a kid the only classes that interested me were English, Art and the electives. I didn’t have any interest in history class until I was in college and began to learn the REAL history that American grade schools and high schools don’t teach. When I had my first child, who is half Mexican, I was sure to read everything I could get my hands on about Mexican history and culture. I was determined to teach my baby about his roots and where he comes from. In college I learned so much more about American history and it opened my eyes to so much that has gone on in our own country.
The Struggle to Find Good Books for My Boys
I remember when Boobie, my oldest, was in grade school he didn’t share my love of reading. As a matter of fact, it was difficult to get him interested in any books. Even when he had the freedom to do a book report on any book, it was difficult to find anything that he was even remotely interested in. We went to the public library and picked a few books, and he actually started reading! Of course, these books were biographies of famous sports players like Jackie Robinson and Babe Ruth. Eventually whenever he’d have a book report he’d choose a sports figure to do the book report on. I’m sure that’s typical of many boys.
I noticed it again in grade school with my bonus baby, lil G. He always gravitated towards to sports figures or the leaders of the civil rights movements. I’ve noticed as little kids there’s a plethora of books for little kids. You can choose from an array of books explaining colors and letters, potty training, death, even showing little ones the varieties of cultures in our world. My daughter is a reader like me, so with her I never had a problem picking out books to get excited about. It was always a different story with my boys once they became tweens and teens.
Multicultural Books for Our Tween and Teenage Sons
Boys like stories they can relate to. They like characters that look like them, situations they can understand. I’ve come to understand this, and I’ve compiled a list of books that my husband and my two older sons have read and recommend. Many of these books are about famous sports figures that defied all odds, others are about boys that became men and achieved more than anyone could have dreamed. Some are filled with great advice and others share wisdom that are unique to the situations in that book. Since May is Get Caught Reading Month I thought I’d share these books with you. They all provide great lessons for my multicultural family of boys, and I look forward to sharing many of these books with my younger boys once they are at that age.
Notes to the Future: Words of Wisdom – by Nelson Mandela
“The authorized record of Nelson Mandela’s most inspiring and historically important quotations
Notes to the Future is the definitive book of quotations from one of the great leaders of our time. This collection—gathered from privileged access to Mandela’s vast personal archive of private papers, speeches, correspondence, and audio recordings— features more than three hundred quotations spanning more than sixty years, and includes his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech.
These inspirational quotations, organized into four sections—Struggle, Victory, Wisdom, and Future—are both universal and deeply personal. We see Mandela’s sense of humor, his loneliness and despair, his thoughts on fatherhood, and the reluctant leader who had no choice but to become the man history demanded.”
Rich Dad Poor Dad for Teens: The Secrets about Money–That You Don’t Learn in School! by Robert T. Kiyosaki (April 26 2011)
“Following the highly successful Rich Dad Poor Dad, this edition is just for teens! Many teens are not taught good financial habits by their parents, and certainly don’t encounter them in school! It’s never too early to learn the secrets of managing money wisely, and even young people can learn how to make their money work for them. Thinking rich pays big, as rich dad will prove to this much younger audience, preparing them for a life better and richer than the one their parents had.”
Not Without Laughter (Dover Thrift Editions) – by Langston Hughes
“A shining star of the Harlem Renaissance movement, Langston Hughes is one of modern literature’s most revered African-American authors. Although best known for his poetry, Hughes produced in Not Without Laughter a powerful and pioneering classic novel.
This stirring coming-of-age tale unfolds in 1930s rural Kansas. A poignant portrait of African-American family life in the early twentieth century, it follows the story of young Sandy Rogers as he grows from a boy to a man.
A fascinating chronicle of a family’s joys and hardships, Not Without Laughter is a vivid exploration of growing up and growing strong in a racially divided society. A rich and important work, it masterfully echoes the black American experience.”
The Rose that Grew from Concrete – by Tupac Shakur
“His death was tragic — a violent homage to the power of his voice.
His legacy is indomitable — as vibrant and alive today as it has ever been.
Tupac Shakur’s most intimate and honest thoughts were uncovered only after his death with the instant classic The Rose That Grew from Concrete.
For the first time in paperback, this collection of deeply personal poetry is a mirror into the legendary artist’s enigmatic world and its many contradictions.
Written in his own hand from the time he was nineteen, these seventy-two poems embrace his spirit, his energy — and his ultimate message of hope.”
Season of Life: A Football Star, a Boy, a Journey to Manhood – by Jeffrey Marx
“The bestselling inspirational book in which the author reunites with a childhood football hero, now a minister and coach, and witnesses a revelatory demonstration of the true meaning of manhood.
Joe Ehrmann, a former NFL football star and volunteer coach for the Gilman high school football team, teaches his players the keys to successful defense: penetrate, pursue, punish, love. Love? A former captain of the Baltimore Colts and now an ordained minister, Ehrmann is serious about the game of football but even more serious about the purpose of life. Season of Life is his inspirational story as told by Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Jeffrey Marx, who was a ballboy for the Colts when he first met Ehrmann.
Ehrmann now devotes his life to teaching young men a whole new meaning of masculinity. He teaches the boys at Gilman the precepts of his Building Men for Others program: Being a man means emphasizing relationships and having a cause bigger than yourself. It means accepting responsibility and leading courageously. It means that empathy, integrity, and living a life of service to others are more important than points on a scoreboard.”
Richard Wright and the Library Card – by William Miller
“As a young black man in the segregated South of the 1920s, Wright was hungry to explore new worlds through books, but was forbidden from borrowing them from the library. This touching account tells of his love of reading, and how his unwavering perseverance, along with the help of a co-worker, came together to make Richard’s dream a reality
An inspirational story for children of all backgrounds, Richard Wright and the Library Card shares a poignant turning point in the life of a young man who became one of this country’s most brilliant writers, the author of Native Son and Black Boy.”
Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story – by Martin Luther King, Jr.
“This is not a drama with only one actor. More precisely it is the chronicle of 50,000 Blacks who took to heart the principles of nonviolence, who learned to fight for their rights with the weapon of love, and who, in the process, acquired a new estimate of their own human worth. It is the story of Negro leaders of many faiths and divided allegiances, who came together in the bond of a cause they knew was right. And of the Negro followers, many of them beyond middle age, who walked to work and home again as much as 12 miles a day for over a year rather than submit to the discourtesies and humiliation of segregated buses. .
There is also another side to the picture: it is the white community of Montgomery, long led or intimidated by a few extremists, that finally turned in disgust on the perpetrators of crime in the name of segregation. The change should not be exaggerated…Yet by the end of the bus struggle it was clear that the vast majority of Montgomery whites preferred peace and law to the excesses performed in its name. And even though the many saw segregation as right because it was the tradition, there were always the courageous few who saw the injustice and fought against it side by side with Blacks.”
Let Them Play (True Story) – by Margot Theis Raven
“Segregated Charleston, SC, 1955: There are 62 official Little League programs in South Carolina — all but one of the leagues is composed entirely of white players. The Cannon Street YMCA All-Stars, an all-black team, is formed in the hopes of playing in the state’s annual Little League Tournament. What should have been a time of enjoyment, however, turns sour when all of the other leagues refuse to play against them and even pull out of the program. As the only remaining Little League team in the state, Cannon Street was named state winner by default, giving the boys a legitimate spot in the Little League Baseball World Series held in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. While the Cannon Street team is invited to the game as guests, they are not allowed to participate since they have not officially “played” and won their state’s tournament. Let Them Play takes its name from the chant shouted by the spectators who attended the World Series final. Author Margot Theis Raven recounts the inspiring tales of the Cannon Street All-Stars as they arrived in Williamsport, PA and never got the chance to play for the title thanks to the bigotry and ignorance of the South Carolina teams. Winning by forfeit, the Cannon Streeters were subsequently not allowed to participate in Williamsburg because they had not “played” their way into the tournament. Let Them Play is an important civil rights story in American history with an even more important message about equality and tolerance. It’s a tale of humanity against the backdrop of America’s favorite pastime that’s sure to please fans of the sport and mankind. This summer will mark the 50th year since the fans’ shouts of Let Them Play fell on deaf ears and 14 boys learned a cruel lesson in backwards politics and prejudice. This book can help teach us a new lesson and assure something like this never happens again.”
Trevor’s Story: A Book about a Biracial Boy (Meeting the Challenge) – by Bethany Kandel
“Ten-year-old Trevor Sage-el describes his life at home and at school, his feelings about being son of a white mother and a black father, and what he likes and does not like about being biracial.”
Facing the Giants – by Alex Kendrick
“IT’S BEEN SIX YEARS without a winning season and Coach Grant Taylor’s job is on the line. Unless the Shiloh Christian Eagles turn things around—and fast—he’s history. Unfortunately, their leading scorer has just left for a rival school and the team has lost its drive. The pressure is on.
On the home front, things aren’t much better for Grant. His house is falling apart. His old clunker of a car keeps dying, and the coach and his wife have been unsuccessful in their attempts to start a family.
When Grant receives a message from an unexpected visitor, he searches for a stronger purpose for his football team. When faced with unbelievable odds, Grant and his Shiloh Eagles must rise above their fear and step up to their greatest test of strength and courage.”
“Ben Carson used to be the class dummy. Today he is one of the world’s most brilliant surgeons. Gifted Hands Kids Edition tells the extraordinary true story of an angry, young boy from the inner city who, through faith and determination, grew up to become one of the world’s leading pediatric neurosurgeons. When Ben was in school, his peers called him the class dummy. But his mother encouraged him to succeed, and Ben discovered a deep love of learning. Ben found that anything is possible with trust and determination.”
Satchel Paige – by Lesa Cline-Ransome
“No one pitched like Leroy “Satchel” Paige. Fans packed the stands to see how many batters he could strike out in one game. He dazzled them with his unique pitching style, and he even gave nicknames to some of his trademark pitches — there was the “hesitation,” his magic slow ball, and the “bee ball,” named because it would always “be” where he wanted it to be.
Follow Satch’s career through these beautiful illustrations as he begins playing in the semipros and goes on to become the first African American to pitch in a major League World Series, and the first Negro Leaguer to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.”
We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball – by Kadim Nelson
“The story of Negro League baseball is the story of gifted athletes and determined owners; of racial discrimination and international sportsmanship; of fortunes won and lost; of triumphs and defeats on and off the field. It is a perfect mirror for the social and political history of black America in the first half of the twentieth century. But most of all, the story of the Negro Leagues is about hundreds of unsung heroes who overcame segregation, hatred, terrible conditions, and low pay to do the one thing they loved more than anything else in the world: play ball.
We Are the Ship is a tour de force for baseball lovers of all ages.”
What Are You?: Voices of Mixed-Race Young People – by Pearl Fuyo Gaskins
“In the past three decades, the number of interracial marriages in the United States has increased by more than 800 percent. Now over four million children and teenagers do not identify themselves as being just one race or another.
Here is a book that allows these young people to speak in their own voices about their own lives.
What Are You? is based on the interviews the author has made over the past two years with mixed-race young people around the country. These fresh voices explore issues and topics such as dating, families, and the double prejudice and double insight that come from being mixed, but not mixed-up.”
Safe At Home – by Sharon Robinson
“A high-interest sports novel from the author of PROMISES TO KEEP: HOW JACKIE ROBINSON CHANGED AMERICA.
Ten-year-old Elijah Breeze, aka Jumper, is having the hardest summer of his life. His father has just died; his mother has moved them from the suburbs to New York City’s Harlem area; and he has to spend the summer at baseball camp. Basketball is Jumper’s game. He doesn’t know anything about baseball, or city life, or how to keep going without his dad. Jumper struggles in his new life, but he’s encouraged by the support of his coach and by his grandma’s wisdom. He finds out it is possible to start over in a new place with new people . . . and still hold on to what’s important from his past.”
I’ve teamed up with these three lovely ladies, also moms of young boys and men,in order to help spread this message.
Do you have any books to add? Have you read any of the books I’ve listed? For more book recommendations, view the link up below. If you also have written an article with book recommendations for tween and teenage boys, feel free to link up with us!
We also invite you to join us tomorrow, at 9PM EST for our inaugural chat on Twitter. You can follow along under the hashtag #VoicesForOurSons. Hope to see you there to discuss Summer Tips and Safety for our Tween and Teen Boys!
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