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5 Recommended Books for those who teach in an Urban School setting

Updated on June 27, 2012

I've been teaching in an urban school setting for the last 15 years. Recently, I've been assigned the task of improving literacy among students ages 16-25. The obvious challenge that I had was increasing their interest in Reading since the first thing they would tell me is that they didn't like to read. In order to step up to this challenge, I began pulling all kinds of literacy resources. Eventually, I found material that not only ignited their spark for reading, but would also help to improve scores and increase their interests in other genres as well. The major key was to find books based on topics that they could relate to in their everyday lives.

#1 The Coldest Winter Ever by Sister Souljah

This is the story of a teenage girl named "Winter" who has been given everything that she could ever want in life. Her daddy is a baller, shotcaller, and is able to provide a fabulous life style for her family. However when her daddy gets busted, her whole world is turned upside down. In order to maintain that lifestyle that she has gotten accustomed to living, she resorts to doing any and everything she can. In other words, she becomes a cold little sister. This book is especially popular among my female students.

#2 The Streets Keep Calling by Chunichi

This is the story of Breeze and how he is fresh out of doing a 5 year bid in prison. There are all kinds of decisions for this young man. Should he live a straight life, hold a low paying job, and struggle to get by everyday? Should he take a risk and get back into the same game that allowed him to have everything he wants and need as well as respect? If he chooses the later, a wrong move could put him back in prison. Then he's got other challenges, particularly with the women in his life. What is a brother to do? This book is extremely popular with the male students in my class.

#3 Do You by Russell Simmons

When you are trying to make it in life, the best advice is from someone who has been at the bottom and worked their way to the top. Russell Simmons is that man. He gives many simple life lessons that encourage you to make it happen while being yourself at the same time. He also uses examples of people that he's worked with, who are also the same people that are popular within this current youth generation.

# 4The Hip Hop Street Curriculum by Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu

One night, I was in Barnes & Nobles trying to find yet another book that would make it easy for me to keep my students engaged. I decided to look in the section of my favorite author and found "gold." This curriculum contains reading passages on popular hip hop artists, debate topics, short essays, activities, & applications all with the African American youth in mind. My intentions were to use the material once a day for maybe 15 minutes. In 2 days, I went through pretty much the whole book because it was just that engaging. I can't thank Dr. Kunjufu enough.

#5 Letters to a Young Brother and Letters to a Young Sister by Hill Harper

In both of these books, actor Hill Harper (He's Got Game, Get on the Bus, CSI:NY) gives his opinions to young fans on just about every issue facing today's youth. In class, I like to read a letter that was sent to him, his response, and then let my students share their own opinions. We have so much fun.

#Also recommended Empire State of Mind "How Jay-Z went from street corner to corner office" by Zack O'Malley Greenburg

This is a recent favorite of mine. In many class discussions, my students have speculated on how Jay-Z became the multimillionaire man that he is today. When one reads this book, they will see that all this brother did was use his gifts & common sense along with a serious work ethic and a little luck to get to where he is now. It should inspire someone to reach their goals in spite of the challenges against them.


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    • dndswordsmith profile image


      6 years ago from Philadelphia County PA

      What a great idea...getting your students attention and encouraging them to read by selecting reading materials that they may understand and interest them. We have to get our children reading at any cost. Reading is essential to gaining knowledge. So, BIG UPS to you!! Really, like your approach.


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