Warrior Library Media Specialist, Lover of Street Literature,
Hip-Hop/House Music Lover, Reviewer of Books and Girlie Girl
Oh, My Funny Student
*Please note: To protect the privacy of my student in this article, she will be called Bianca.
My Student *Bianca
Last year, my student *Bianca read Ni-Ni Simone's "Shortie Like Mine" in one day. I believe her excitement about reading the book was peaked after hearing a book talk on some of the new books in the library. After reading the book, she came back to the library to check out "If I Were Your Girl". Unfortunately the three copies including the fourth, my personal copy, were all checked out. I thought about ordering another copy but couldn't because I had spent all of my fall book money. Needless to say, she was frustrated. I placed the book on reserve for her and reassured her that the book would return soon.
Since placing the book on reserve, Bianca stopped by the library every day to see if the book had been returned. Bianca would lean in the library door before school, during the lunch periods and after school and say, "Is it here?', with a smile and a gleam in her eyes. I assured her that when the book was returned, I would bring the book to her classroom. Believe me, I really understood her urgency to read the next book in the series. When you are reading a really good book series, you want to finish one book and continue onto the next one without interruption. The worst that can happen is when the book is checked out, one can feel frustrated because you have to wait to see what happened to the character(s).
What I didnt' realize was how 'determined' Bianca could be. Since the book had not been returned, she decided to take matters into her own hands. The female students at my school place a book they are reading directly in the back of their clear book bags. They do this to show off what they are reading to other students while walking down the hallways during passing periods. When Bianca spotted the book in another students bag she told them to 'hurry up', because 'she' was ready to read the book. When she learned that one of the girls was almost done reading the book one morning, she begged her to return it before school ended. The young lady did and of course, Bianca returned after school to finally pick up her book. Since that time, Bianca has read all five books in the Ni Ni Simone book series and is waiting for the author's spring 2012 release.
This year, Bianca is a Senior and has read just about all of my popular YA Fiction in my library. To keep her interested and reading, I've introduced her to adult Street Lit. books written by Ashley & JaQuavis. Ashley & JaQuavis style of writing is fast paced, suspenseful and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I felt that their books would surely interest Bianca. She checked out "The Cartel - Part I" along with four other titles to keep her reading over the three week Christmas vacation. When school resumed Bianca was back in the library again. She expressed how much she enjoyed the book and we exchanged opinions about some of the characters.
The Cartel Series by Ashley & JaQuavis
When Bianca learned that "The Cartel - Part II" was still checked out, I assured her that it would return soon. She asked me who had the book and my reply was, "We are not going to go down that path again, you can't harass people to finish the book early for your convenience." I assured her that I would reserve the book for her and suggested that she check out another book while she waited. I also mentioned that the book would return a day or so because one of the teachers, who is a avid Street Lit. reader, had checked it out. With that, Bianca left the library and I thought all was well. Well it wasn't, during our conversation I made a big mistake. While assuring Bianca that the book would return soon, I accidentally said the name of the teacher who had the book, Mrs. Bates.
The next day, Mrs. Bates returned the book. When I thanked her for bringing the book back early because a student had requested the book, she knew about the student. She said Bianca came to her classroom three times looking for the book. I also learned that she accidentally went to another teacher's class in error looking the book as well. Upon the third time coming to the classroom and interrupting class, Mrs. Bates finally asked Bianca, "Who are you?" (I just wish you could have heard how Mrs. Bates asked that question, you would be laughing too!) She was just as surprised as I was in Bianca's boldness and determination to check out, The Cartel - Part II". Needless to say, I checked the book out to Bianca and delivered it to her while she was attending her British Literature class. In true Bianca style, she read the book under a 24 hour period. While she is waiting for "The Cartel - Part III", to return, she is reading a book by another popular Street Lit. author.
I share this story with all of you to say this is why I'm committed to providing good cautionary stories for African-American pre-teens and teens. Street Lit books in particular are stories that my students have deep affinity to. These stories take place in neighborhoods that are similar to their own, describe a experience that they can relate to and makes them think about the choices that affect their lives.
My Library Media Center
While many of my librarian colleagues shy away from circulating these books, I don't. I am very fortunate to have a supportive administrative team at my school that is supportive of my efforts to get students reading. I am also able to circulate these adult Street Lit titles in accordance to the library collection development policy. The emotional and social needs of my students is quite unique from other library programs throughout the district, city and state. This is why I continue to identify books that 'speak' to my students. I often wonder who was the person(s) that said African-American children don't read? They need to visit my library and other libraries across the country where Street Lit. circulation statistics are higher than other genres. Maybe, just maybe they will rethink that statement.