Literary Activism

Action Item: Social Justice Focused Classroom Libraries in MO, IL, and MS

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Kelly Jensen


Kelly is a former librarian and a long-time blogger at STACKED. She's the editor/author of (DON'T) CALL ME CRAZY: 33 VOICES START THE CONVERSATION ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH and the editor/author of HERE WE ARE: FEMINISM FOR THE REAL WORLD. Her next book, BODY TALK, will publish in Fall 2020. Follow her on Instagram @heykellyjensen.

Late last year, librarian Angie Manfredi took to Twitter with a challenge: How many classrooms in need could the book community fund over the course of one day? Other librarians and bloggers and authors and industry folk joined in, and it quickly became apparent that there were a whole lot of people out there just itching to do some good, whether by spreading the word or opening their wallets or both.

On Inauguration Day, we (we being Kelly Jensen and Leila Roy) put together a list of classrooms in need, with a focus on classrooms that served immigrant, refugee, and ESL communities. With the help of Book Twitter, every single one of those classrooms was fully funded by the end of the day. Since then, every Friday, we’ve continued to highlight and advocate for similar classrooms, and again and again Book Twitter has come through.

Now, we’re bringing our Fund ‘Em Fridays to you, the Book Riot Community. Please boost, donate if you can, or even pick out a classroom to personally champion!

And now, our classrooms of the week. We’ve got three this week, all pulled from a search for highest need and interest in creating a social justice themed library for the classroom. The amounts needed for each fall on the lower side, so we can totally knock them all out this week, and we should.


Books For 7th Grade Students That Love To Read, St. Louis, MO

I teach reading and writing in a high needs community of St. Louis. Despite the hardships my students face, they are incredibly motivated individuals. I am truly impressed with how hard working they are.

My students don’t give up when the learning gets tough and always exceed expectations just because they want to.

They are intrinsically motivated to improve and do better. Perhaps what I admire most about them is how kind they are. They are by far the sweetest and most polite group of kids I have ever taught.

My Project

Do you remember what it was like the first time you read a book that you couldn’t put down? By simply opening the cover, you were able to forget everything and escape into a different world.

The books I am requesting are high interest and will help my students develop a love of reading.

The books in our classroom library are well loved, but after being used for so many years they are falling apart. Our class library is in need of updating. Students will be allowed to check out these books to read for their independent study. By practicing reading with a book of choice they will improve their reading scores and fall in love with literature.



Books, Art, Action, Chicago, IL

My students are curious, playful, energetic, and excited, yet they are nervous about 8th grade and doing well academically so they can get admitted into a selective enrollment high school. Because many of my kids have had a sibling with me before, they know my expectations for them. They do their best to give 100% academically but sometimes it is hard when they have responsibilities at home like taking care of younger siblings while parents are working or cooking the meals until mom gets home. Some are being harassed by gang members to join them.

My Project

My 8th grade kids love to read, sketch and act out scenes or lines from their favorite books with their friends so what better way to encourage my reluctant readers than to entice them with art and drama activities which require them to read books in order to participate? Help me make it possible to put more independent readers on the road to becoming life-long readers! I need all the help and ‘village’ I can get to make this possible now and for many more 8th graders to come! We need books and art supplies like colored pencils and sketch pads. Reading using art and drama is a wonderful way to get those non-readers to join the bandwagon, so please make a contribution to our project.


Teaching Tolerance: Misconception vs. Reality, Raymond, MS

My students live in a high poverty rural area and it takes them at least 45 minutes to get to school every day because the buses are limited. Many of the students are being raised by family members such as a grandmother, aunt, cousin, etc. My students really look forward to being away from home because it gives them a chance to escape some of the hardships that they have to face. The students have very high hopes of obtaining quality education in order to be successful outside of the poverty level.

This high school is one of the more culturally diverse schools in the district.

We have a mixture of different races and religions and students love to organize events themselves. Our school has minimum activities or extra-curricular activities, so the teachers provide a lot of the EXTRA for the students.

My Project

These materials will help me teach my students about the social injustices that have happened in the past as well as the social injustices that are still happening today.Students will read The New Jim Crow and compare it to the documentary, 13th, which explains the mass incarceration of African American males. Students will use The Hate U Give and Night to research how the events in both text are still relevant in today’s society. The mass killing of Jews can be researched and incorporated with nonfiction texts in the class. Many of the students are unaware of the issues that are happening around them- locally or nationally. It is imperative that students research, read, learn, and digest information about social injustice, racism, and police brutality within the world in which they live.

Social media has corrupted our students, but reality has to be explained and shown to them in order to destroy the misconceptions that they have about the world events.

Students will read The Jungle and analyze the text and compare how immigrants are being treated in today’s world. Teaching students tolerance is vital to their existence before they leave high school, and I would like to make a difference for the students I teach.