Books for Transformation: All American Boys & Save Me a Seat

Last month I shared TED Talks to provide inspiration for transformation.  This month, I draw your attention to published texts that relate directly or indirectly to the Visioning work.  Beyond reading the books highlighted this month, I challenge you to share them with others through conversations rooted in positive, intentional change in classrooms, at schools, and across districts.

To kick off this series of posts, I draw your attention to two books about perspective, the lives of children and adolescents, and the role schools play in their social lives.

First, I share All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Published in 2015, this novel has been named a 2016 Coretta Scott King Author Honor book, was the recipient of the Walter Dean Myers Award for Outstanding Children’s Literature, as well as numerous other awards.

All American Boys

Second, make note of Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan.  Published in 2016, this book has already been awarded a 2016 National Parenting Product Award as well as it has appeared on the master list for seven state awards.

Save Me a Seat

The former, All American Boys, was written for students in grades 9-12 and adults everywhere.  Both a call to action and a reminder of reality, the story is told through the perspective of two narrators.  Without revealing the plot line extensively, I will share that these two teens struggle with the repercussions a single violent act in their community.  Characters Rashad and Quinn paint a picture of the world that we as educators must recognize, remember, and consider as we know the massive impact their social lives have on education.

“Rashad is absent again today.”

We also know that the development of the whole child is part of our responsibility.  We strive toward this premise: IIc. Learning standards should embrace development of the whole person to build students’ capacity to shape their own destiny as individuals and as contributing members of society.  This means the development of our students as whole people matters and cannot be disregarded as we recognize their needs every day.  Second, we know from Maslow that we must meet the physiological and safety needs of our children long before we are able to expect them to engage in learning experiences in our classrooms.

The latter, Save Me a Seat, is written for upper elementary and middle school children.  Adults, though, should read this as well for the value it provides.  This book serves as a call to action in its own way.  The narration, like All American Boys, is provided through the lives of two characters, Joe and Ravi.  These boys articulate so many shortcomings of their own school and of their educators.  Opportunities missed and misunderstandings emphasized caused me to wonder if I as a teacher myself had inadvertently took actions (or failed to take actions) like the teachers articulated in this book.

“My first name is Ravi. It’s pronounced rah-VEE, with a soft rah and a strong VEE.”

Both books are similar in writing style and structure, as they each share a story through the eyes of alternating characters.  They are also alike in that they shed light on the extent of the impact that social interactions have on our students and the apparent disillusionment that we as teachers sometimes appear to exhibit.  All American Boys and Save Me a Seat are books that I will not long forget and will discuss with colleagues as often as they will engage in conversation.


I encourage you to read (or re-read) All American Boys and Save Me a Seat and talk to someone about these books.  Ask questions.  Challenge your thinking.

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