All American Boys
Book Information: Written by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely; Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2015. 310 pp. $17.99 hb. Contemporary Fiction.
Awards: 2016 Walter Dean Myers Award and 2016 Coretta Scott King Honor Award.
Review: All American Boys is a novel that confronts contemporary issues of police brutality when Rashad, a young black teenage boy is brutally beaten by a white police officer because he assumed Rashad was trying to steal. The beating is recorded on someone’s cell phone and soon the situation becomes national news. While Rashad and his family grapple with the emotions that follow the situation, Quinn a white teenage boy from Rashad’s school sees the beating and though he tries his best to put it from his mind he simply cannot. He recognizes the police officer as his best friend’s brother, someone who looked out for him when his dad passed away. The novel is well-written in alternating points of view with Quinn and Rashad as the first person narrator of each alternating chapter. This novel is masterfully spun by the two authors and it would make a good starting grounds to jumpstart a discussion about race relations, police brutality, prejudice, and racism in a high school classroom. Teenagers could express their feelings and tie-in discussion to the Black Lives Matter movement, all relevant real-world current issues. Highly recommended for teens and adults.
Grade level: 8 +
Rating: Highly Recommended
Byline: Jaimie Davis, Graduate Student, School Library Science Program, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA.
#Teaching Idea 1: Become a Character
9.4 The student will read, comprehend, and analyze a variety of literary texts including narratives, narrative nonfiction, poetry, and drama. g) Analyze the cultural or social function of a literary text. m) Use reading strategies to monitor comprehension throughout the reading process. e) Explain the relationships between and among elements of literature: characters, plot, setting, tone, point of view, and theme.
- Activity: Students will take on the persona of one of the characters from the novel. Students will use adjectives, character traits, and given an understanding of perspectives and points of view will “become” one of the characters from this novel. As the character, students will describe the other characters that the character interacts with in the novel. Students will use the novel, internet resource tools, and will work in pairs to compile their lists of character traits using details from the novel to support their character trait selections. Students will be able to explain their reasons for the traits they selected by citing evidence from the text. The librarian will collaborate with the teacher to provide students a lesson on how to cite sources and how to use the citation machine to compile their sources. The teacher will bring the students to the library to use the computer lab when they begin their project. Students will be able to utilize the library book and digital reference resources as they compile their character traits to take on the persona of the character that they have been assigned.
#Teaching Idea 2: Book or Movie Trailer
9.3 ) Discriminate between connotative and denotative meanings and interpret the
connotation. 9.4 m) Use reading strategies to monitor comprehension throughout the reading process. e) Explain the relationships between and among elements of literature: characters, plot, setting, tone, point of view, and theme.
- Activity: Students will make their own book trailer or movie trailer to introduce the novel using a video tool. Students may select from the following video tools: Animoto, Adobe Spark, Powtoon, Sharalike, Stupeflix, or WeVideo. If a student has a preference for use of a different video tool, he or she must receive permission from the teacher. Students will work in groups to create either a book or movie trailer. For the movie trailer, students will be assigned roles to direct, act, and produce the video. The trailer must include audio (voice over and music), and scene changes and transitions. The classroom teacher will collaborate with the librarian to provide students lessons on how to use the web-based video tools to create their video. The Librarian will give students a tutorial of all the video tools and student groups will determine the best tool for their presentation. Students are not permitted to depict any violence or act out a violent scene in the trailer. Students will need to collaborate as a team to produce the final product. The final products will be presented in the school library computer lab.
#Teaching Idea 3: Double Entry Response Journal
9.5 g) Analyze and synthesize information in order to solve problems, answer
questions, or complete a task.
h) Draw conclusions and make inferences on explicit and implied information using
textual support as evidence.
- Activity: Good readers make connections to text as they read, so for this assignment students as students read the novel, they will be required to make at least two-three connection/responses to each chapter. In the left column, students will record events, situations or quotes from the novel that they can relate or react to. In the right column, they will record their connections/reactions to make a connection between the text and themselves (text-to self), another text (text-to-text), or the world (text-to-world). Students will also be required to share their reaction to the connection by writing down how it makes them feel and why. The teacher will model for students how to complete the Double Entry response journal by using the first and second chapter as an example. The teacher will use a document camera so that students can see in real-time the teacher’s event, situation, quote, connection, and the reaction to the text connection.
#Teaching Idea 4: Paired Passage: The Murder of Sean Bell
SOL 9.4 g) Analyze the cultural or social function of a literary text. 9.5 The student will read and analyze a variety of nonfiction texts.
a) Recognize an author’s intended purpose for writing and identify the main idea.
b) Summarize text relating supporting details.
c) Understand the purpose of text structures and use those features to locate
information and gain meaning from texts.
- Activity: The teacher will lead the students to read aloud the article “The Murder of Sean Bell. The librarian and the teacher will guide the students to make their initial connections with the non-fiction text. Students will make connections between the boys, students, and teachers from the articles to the various characters in All American Boys and their responses. Students will read and respond using a non-fiction text graphic organizer. The graphic organizer will ask students for the following information: three important facts or statistics, an opinion from the article, their opinion after reading the article, the main idea with three supporting details, and the author’s purpose. After reading the article the librarian will have stations set up that will break down the information from the article. Students will rotate between the stations to gather more information that they will fill into their graphic organizer. Students will be able to tie in their reading from this article to All American boys, and should have at least two take-aways from the lesson.
#Teaching Idea 5: Take Action Against an Injustice Public Service Announcement
SOL 9.4 g) Analyze the cultural or social function of a literary text.
- After completing their reading of All American Boys, Students will work with a partner to identify an example of injustice. Examples of injustices in society include but are not limited to rape, gang violence, bullying etc. The teacher and the librarian will collaborate on this lesson to provide students will information about various injustices in society. The librarian will have stations with information about injustices. The librarian will explain to students that they will use a provided graphic organizer to rotate between the stations to learn about the different injustices. Students will get an understanding of different injustices to help them select the specific injustice that they will use for this assignment. Once student groups have information about all the injustices, the teacher/and or librarian will assign students a specific injustice that they will research and take action against. Students will return to the library the next day to sit at get more specific research on their topic. The Librarian will have centers set up for students assigned to the specific injustice to complete more in depth research for their PSA presentation. Using “The Six Steps/ Principles for Nonviolent Social Change” from the King Center as a guide, students will chart out an action plan of how to challenge the injustice using nonviolent means. Each plan must answer the following questions: What would you do first? Who might you talk to? Where might you get information? What action might you take? (The King Center, 2014). Students will compile their information to create a Public Service Announcement Commercial. The librarian will give students a lesson on video tools and how to use them to create their PSA. The final product will be a student-created PSA. The librarian will run the PSA’s on the school tv news broadcast.
Further Explorations (7)
1- Anderson, M. (2015, November 23). The Other Student Activists. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/student-activism-history-injustice/417129/ This article highlights students across the United States have organized peaceful protests to bring attention to an issue requiring change on their college’s campus. The article indicates that youth activism is on the rise, and can be used to discuss the youth activism in All American Boys.
2- Coates, T. (2015). Between the world and me. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau. In this memoir, Coates explains to his son the realities of what it means to be a Black boy and man in America. Coates shares his truths about how he feels he is perceived in the world through lessons and revelations from his experiences. This memoir has educational significance towards the themes of All American Boys and would be of interest to students broaden the scope of Rashad and his family.
3- CNN. com (2017, June 22). Trayvon Martin Shooting Fast Facts. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/05/us/trayvon-martin-shooting-fast-facts/index.html This article from CNN provides facts about the case outlining a teenage male, Trayvon Martin, and the man acquitted of the fatal shooting, George Zimmerman. Students would be able to analyze a similar issue, where the violent act was not done by a member of law enforcement.
4- Esquivel, P. (2016) Shooting of White Unarmed Teenager has racially diverse Fresno trying to make sense of Black Lives Matter. LA Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-fresno-shooting-20160721-snap-story.html An unarmed teenager from Fresno, California was fatally shot by a police officer during a traffic stop. It drew cries of outrage from residents of various races and ethnicities in Fresno. This article would appeal for its diverse and different view on the same issue that sparked Black Lives Matter, however the unarmed teenager was a white male instead. This article reveals on a different perspective the basic humanity of all people, and how one issue does not just affect one race of people.
5- Ferroni, N. (2012, October 24) We teach Racism, Sexism, and Discrimination in Schools. HuffPost.Com [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-ferroni/teaching-education-discrimination_b_1826113.html. In this blog writer Nicholas Ferroni explains that schools teach racism, sexism, and discrimination in schools because the curriculum that teachers are given does not accurately depict history and thus teachers are teaching students racism, sexism, and discrimination. The author draws on his experiences as a classroom history teacher and explains that though the lessons are not blatant, but by omitting information children are being misled in their learning and as a result do not learn to appreciate and embrace diversity.
6- Peterson, B. (2008) Whitewashing the Past. Rethinking Schools. Retrieved from http://rethinkingschools.aidcvt.com/restrict.asp?path=archive/23_01/past231.shtml Peterson discusses how schools misrepresent history in history and literature books by leaving out true and factual events from history and not truly representing things as they actually occurred. His honest and earnest explanations show that his information is valid and relevant and should stimulate further discussions of why discrimination is not a subject taught in a school’s curriculum.
7- Watson, R. (2008). The Murder of Sean Bell: from pain to poetry. Rethinking schools. 23(1) fall 2008. Retrieved from http://rethinkingschools.aidcvt.com/archive/23_01/sean231.shtml. This article discusses a teacher’s experiences with using poetry to teach students about social injustices that were current events at the time. Students were able to connect to the current events and write poetry from their reading connections.
1. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander.
- The author of this non-fiction book argues that today’s society is still not colorblind and that racial caste still exists today in America. She has researched the topic well to argue her points made about how mass incarceration is to create a system of social control- the majority of incarcerated people are black males. This partner title would be of interest to students interested in the Black Lives Matter movement, and would provide additional readings for them to explore on the topic while also providing a global perspective and helping students to develop critical thinking skills.
2. March Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Illustrated by Nate Powell.
- The entire March trilogy would provide background knowledge on John Lewis and his role in the civil rights movement through the format of a graphic novel. However, Book two hones in on the strategies used by the activists to create a non-violent movement. The information presented in the trilogy is valid, reliable, and promotes the understanding of the civil rights movement through the lens of a graphic novel. This material would help students develop critical thinking skills and aesthetic appreciation.
3. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption by Bryan Stevenson
- Bryan Stevenson is a lawyer, activist, and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, AL. In his book he explains his fight for justice and redemption for the people that he has represented as a lawyer. Most of his cases consist of racial inequity in the American criminal justice system. This partner title would provide a different perspective of the topic regarding police brutality towards unarmed black males, and also gives an opportunity for students to develop skills in critical analysis and making informed judgments in their daily lives.
4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.
- This is a contemporary fiction novel that provides a different aspect of the same type of event. The main character witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend done by a police officer. Another very riveting story that teens could read. This partner title develops and shares similar themes with All American Boys, while also presenting a different point of view on the same topic in a different and objective manner.
5. The Little Voice: a rebellious novel by Joss Sheldon.
- This novel is about a male that grapples with listening to the voices in his head as a child, his “egot” tell him what to do and how he makes decisions. This partner title provides a different perspective where students could relate a character’s decision making and being true to himself similar in a way to Quinn from All American Boys which makes it.
This novel can be paired with To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.
Alexander, M. (2012). The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the age of colorblindness. New York, NY: The New Press.
Anderson, M. (2015, November 23). The Other Student Activists. The Atlantic. Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/11/student-activism-history-injustice/417129/
Coates, T. (2015). Between the world and me. New York, NY: Spiegel & Grau.
CNN. com (2017, June 22). Trayvon Martin Shooting Fast Facts. Retrieved from http://www.cnn.com/2013/06/05/us/trayvon-martin-shooting-fast-facts/index.html
Esquivel, P. (2016) Shooting of White Unarmed Teenager has racially diverse Fresno trying to make sense of Black Lives Matter. LA Times. Retrieved from http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-fresno-shooting-20160721-snap-story.html
Facing History and Ourselves. (2016). Six Steps for Nonviolent Social Change. Retrieved from https://www.facinghistory.org/resource-library/eyes-prize-americas-civil-rights-movement/six-steps-nonviolent-social-change.
Ferroni, N. (2012, October 24) We teach Racism, Sexism, and Discrimination in Schools. HuffPost.Com [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nicholas-ferroni/teaching-education-discrimination_b_1826113.html.
Forsyth, John. 1995. “Through Characters’ Eyes,” Teaching Literature in High School: The Novel. pp. 16-17. Urbana, IL: NCTE.
Lewis, J. Aydin, A., (2014). March Book Two. Illus. Nate Powell. Marietta, GA: Top shelf productions.
Mardis, M. (2015). The collection program in schools: concepts and practices (6th ed). Santa Barbara, CA: Libraries Unlimited.
Peterson, B. (2008) Whitewashing the Past. Rethinking Schools. Retrieved from http://rethinkingschools.aidcvt.com/restrict.asp?path=archive/23_01/past231.shtml
Reynolds, J. & Kiely, B. (2015). All American Boys. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Sheldon, J. (2016). The Little Voice. United Kingdon, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Stevenson, B. (2015) Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. New York, NY; Spiegel & Grau.
Thomas, A. (2017). The Hate U Give. New York, NY: Balzar and Bray.
The King Center. (2014). The King Philosophy. Retrieved from http://www.thekingcenter.org/king-philosophy#sub2.
Watson, R. (2008). The Murder of Sean Bell: from pain to poetry. Rethinking schools. 23(1) fall 2008. Retrieved from http://rethinkingschools.aidcvt.com/archive/23_01/sean231.shtml.