When I was a teenager I use to really look forward to the summer. It felt like my life would be a little bit more under my own control because I did not have to get up at a crazy hour and go to school everyday during the week. I did not go to the best high school. I found the teachers unimaginative and boring, the homework was simply busy work and served no purpose. My high school was also in a community that I did not like at all because my parents made the decision to move from the predominantly Black working class neighborhood that I knew as a child, to a much less Black more middle-class suburban neighborhood. Many families make similar choices, too, in hopes to provide their children with a better education and often because these suburban neighborhoods appear to be safer, are less policed, have better grocery stores, etc., and are affordable as young parents grow in their careers and their incomes improved. For me, it wasn’t Black enough …
My new predominantly white high school did not prepare me that well for the challenges of college, something I discovered once I was in college. Fortunately, I had other factors working for me that helped me make it through which were instilled in me by my parents. One of those factors was that my parents gifted in me a love of reading. I don’t remember my life as a child without a book or without an active library card, especially since the library was located right next door to my father’s job. They read to me then I read to them, then to myself. I witnessed my parents reading the paper every single day, they read books, details in important documents, the Bible, and they demonstrated for me that no one could pull anything over on them primarily because they read.
Every summer in Indianapolis I hear a lot about various organizations offering opportunities for our teens to get a job and “stay out of trouble.” I think this is great because it does serve that purpose, it allows for them to develop important values and skills and hopefully they earn some good moola. Additionally, there is the potential for great mentorship by an adult outside of their family who genuinely cares about their future and can serve as a great role model in a profession that they may want to pursue. Plus, they can make some new friends, which is always good. I firmly believe that teens working in the summer is key to preventing some of the violence that we tend to see erupt at this time. Maybe our local police should pick up a book. Here’s a thought — a teen and police book club. Might help.
I strongly encourage our teens to also take the time to read a few books this summer. There are some really wonderful books written specifically for teens and if you need some help making choices, just ask any of our wonderful local library staff for help. If you don’t have a library card, you can get one easily and even better, if you sign up to participate in the library summer reading program, like the one offered through the Indianapolis Public Library, you can earn some real cool rewards. Hurry and sign-up because the Summer Reading Program begins June 4th and runs through July 28th. The theme this year is “Everyday Superheroes.” Adults can sign up also, I’ve already signed up for one of the Adult Summer Reading events.
Here are some book recommendations I learned about from our wonderful Teen Program specialist at IndyPL Kirsten Weaver plus a few I just know are good books, just to get you off to a good start:
“Tyler Johnson Was Here,” by Jay Coles. Coles is from Indianapolis so we really need to support him!
“March: Book One,” by John Lewis (Congressman) and Andrew Aydin
“How Dare the Sun Rise,” by Sandra Uwiringiyinana
“Courage to Soar,” by Simone Biles
“Renegades,” by Marissa Meyer
“Miles Morales: Spider-Man,” by Jason Reynolds and Kadir Nelson
“Zeroes,” by Scott Westerfield, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti
“The Hate You Give,” by Angie Thomas
“Turtles All the Way Down,” by John Green. Green is also a local bestselling author and this is his latest book.
“Native Son,” by Richard Wright. A classic. I suggest a parent read this with a teen to help with a deeper interpretation.
Dr. Terri Jett is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Butler University and Special Assistant to the Provost for Diversity and Inclusivity. She also serves as an Indianapolis Public Library Board Trustee.