Action Book Clubs across the country are combining reading with community service—and having fun along the way! In this series, we’re highlighting some of our favorite reading groups. To find out how you can start an Action Book Club of your own visit the program’s web page.
Action Book Club Location: Minneapolis, MN
Good Read: All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Good Deed: Sharing books and social justice info in Little Free Libraries
Books can provide a window into situations that feel impossible to understand. After the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis this May, many families looked for ways to talk to their kids about the tragedy and engage in the fight against racism. This Action Book Club—made up of 13- and 14-year-old boys who have known each other for years—read the YA book All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely to better understand how racism can affect kids like them.
Teen-boy book clubs can be rare. Between soccer practice, video games, and homework, it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of extra free time for reading. But half of this club flew through this engaging book in a couple of days. (The other half finished just in time for the meeting, and that’s okay!)
Though COVID-19 kept the meeting outside, the book club was still able to discuss All American Boys in person and make connections between the book and George Floyd. They talked about instances of racism they’ve seen at their own school and what it means to stand up for someone. Action Book Club member Rocco noted that the book reminded him of the song “The Bigger Picture” by Lil Baby, a favorite on the radio.
Several of the parents read the book, too, and helped facilitate the discussion. Rocco’s mom, Ngoc Nelson, shared her story of immigration and the exclusion she felt.
“Our family immigrated to the U.S. when I was three,” said Ngoc. “I wanted Rocco to be part of this book club, because I want him to understand how racial identity is formed and racial inequality is reproduced. I want him to know and embrace his skin color, race, and ethnicity.
“I spent years trying to be ‘white’ and hoped that people didn’t see me as Asian. But when we don’t see race, we ignore the preconceived notions and expectations, and we ignore the impact of discrimination in the world. We can’t work to fix what we don’t see.”
Another parent, Erik Gilg, said he wanted his son Nate to link what he reads to real life—especially in Minneapolis. “History and race and class aren’t theoretical; they are lived,” said Erik. “He has more understanding of all the actors in the George Floyd murder, I think, because of reading the book.”
For their service project, the group chose to share their copies of All American Boys in local Little Free Libraries. But first, they would research antiracist organizations and insert their information into the books, along with an explanation of why readers should donate to that cause. We salute this Action Book Club for working to be part of the solution.
Do have an Action Book Club story to share? Submit it here!