Re-Entry Resources...YES!

People are often fascinated that I am a school librarian.  In many cases, part of those conversations have included a little education on my part on how a school librarian can impact the lives of the children that they serve.   One of the first responses I receive when I tell someone that I'm a school librarian is, 'Are children really reading today?  With the internet and all, wouldn't they be reading on the computer?'   I always have a strong comeback for that one, but this blog post is not devoted to that
argument.  The next question I receive is, "Where do you work?"  When they learn that I work in a lower income community, responses range from, 'Why???' to 'You could be working in the suburbs somewhere,' to  'More devoted teachers are needed like you,' to 'Oooooh wee girl, I don't know how you do it!'  I have to keep my face and mouth in check because I know it doesn't take much for my temper to go from 1 to 100 when people say insensitive things.

Throughout my career, I have served the children of incarcerated men and women.  This has been especially challenging for me because I have such empathy for the children that I serve.   I don't know what it is like to have a parent who is incarcerated and cannot speak or see them.   What I do know is African-American men and women are seemingly sentenced in higher numbers than other ethnic groups.  For example, 'The Sentencing Project,'  a nonprofit that advocates criminal justice reform, looked at incarceration rates for ethnic groups in every state, using data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

Here are some of the most striking findings:
  •  In state prisons, African-Americans are incarcerated at 5.1 times the rate of whites.
  •  Five states — Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin — have a disparity of more than 10 to 1.
  • Twelve states have prison populations that were more than half black: Alabama, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.
  • Maryland has a prison population that’s 72 percent black.
  • In 11 states, at least 1 in 20 adult African-American men is in prison. In Oklahoma, it’s 1 in 15.
  • Latinos are incarcerated at 1.4 times the rate of whites.
Source:  The Sentencing Project
What I have learned while serving the children of incarcerated men and women is it is difficult for the students and their families to find reliable transportation and travel within and out of state to see their parent.  It is expensive for my students to speak to their parent on the phone because the calls from inmates because they are priced very high.  My students miss their parent(s) and every aspect of their lives are affected. 

Re-Entry Resources
Serving as a school librarian and working with the children of incarcerated men and women, leads me to locate resources that will help me serve them better.   Yes, I have had parents reach out to me for assistance and I gladly did so because I'm a librarian and my job is to serve all of my patrons.  The following is a new and valuable television resource that has provided me with a deeper understanding of incarceration and re-entry process in this country.  Another resource is of course a valuable booklist that has been helpful for me to continue to do the work that I do.

Inmates For Change -  One of my friends Mr. Jones, a fellow Chicago southsider and business man, is making a difference in the lives of former incarcerated men and women.  He is the founder and CEO of Inmates for Change, an organization that:
  • Is dedicated to breaking the bondage of destructive thinking.
  • Providing “brokerage” services to ex-offenders at the county, state and federal levels,
  • Provides re-entry services to returning citizens and individuals with felony convictions,
  • Supplies teachers with a classroom curriculum model of critical thinking, interpersonal interaction, conflict resolution, spiritual connectedness,
  • Links men and women to vocational training opportunities and residency assistance.
His show can be viewed on CAN TV, an independent non-for-profit cable news station in Chicago.  Viewers can also view current and past shows on their YouTube channel and call in during their live shows at  Take a moment and view one of the shows where Mr. Jones discusses why the “old you” has to die in order to live so that one can successfully re-enter society.

For more information about Inmates For Change, please contact

Book Lists (K-12 and Adult) -
Books where the protagonist has one or both parents in jail/prison

For Young Children

Youth.GOV - A Government run agency that provides support for the children of incarcerated parents

The National Resource Center on Children and Families of the Incarcerated

If you have any resources that you would like to share, please send them to me at  I will gladly include them on this post so that it can help others.



     Last year I had the opportunity to hear Civil Rights Leader, John Lewis speak.  During this speech, he talked about the 'Good Trouble' he had found himself in over the years.  'Good Trouble,' for him meant standing up for what was unjust, unfair and not right.    

     Over my career as a school librarian I've worked in five schools where I've gotten into trouble for standing up for my students.   My trouble has included:
     - Engaging students and parents in advocating for the purchase of new books for the library 
     -  Working with a team of teachers to stand up to a administrator and encourage them to put 
        'children, not employees first,' in making decisions that would impact the learning community.   
     - Challenging district officials on the dismissal of certified librarians.
     - Advocating for certified school librarians on a national level using social media.  

     Oh yes, I got into trouble and continue to do so.  I don't regret any of my actions.  Children's lives are at stake and the fight continues.  The school  librarian can impact the emotional and social lives of the children that they serve by 
     - Guiding students to books that are of interest to them,
     - Help students apply 21st Century learning skills they have learned while navigating the internet,
     - Maintaining a library environment that is a safe haven.   

     Libraries are game changers and equalizers for school children/young adults, especially those  living in poverty.  I will continue to get into 'Good Trouble,' because our nation's children deserve it. 

In Memorandum

Gloria Milner-Thomas

I recently lost a special person in my life, Gloria Milner-Thomas. Gloria was a librarian mentor, counselor, advisor, defender, fan but most importantly such a good friend.

I met her years ago when I was assigned as a librarian at a little school in west Englewood called Copernicus (now Langford Academy). I was nervous about my new career in school libraries. I had left corporate America and wanted to be successful. Though my parents were both teachers and provided me with advisement and support, they couldn't hold my hand during the day at work. It was Gloria who held my hand during the day.

When I was introduced to Gloria by the principal, her eyes got really big and she looked me up and down....from the top of my head to the tips of my toes. She quietly went to her desk drawer and began pulling out several books. I can still hear her voice as she said, 'You gonna need this, and this one, oh yes you are going to need this book too!' She finally stood up and said, 'Stand your ground with the children, be fair and patient...they aren't used to receiving library service. We haven't had a librarian in years.' I told her thank you for the books, stood up and began walking out of her Assistant principals office. '....and one more thing Ms Boyd,' she paused and looked over her glasses and firmly said, ' right by those children.'

This first time encounter with Gloria describes her to a T. She was very generous, she gave away advice for free and was a staunch advocate for children living in poverty. She walked with a purpose of serving others and taking care and loving her family.

Outside of my family she has always been my greatest cheerleader. She encouraged me to hold my head high and continue to walk with conviction when my position at the Department of Libraries was closed and I had to return to the school level. When I told her that I had found a position teaching at Phillips High School, the biggest grin spread across her face. 'You know that's MY high are going to do well there!' And I did!.

As years passed and she became ill and it was sometimes tiring for her to talk on the phone, I still marveled at her mental strength, clarity and advocacy in serving children in lower income communities. She would say, 'It's those little things that you do for children that will remain with them for a lifetime.'

One of the last books she read with her students

I'm going to miss my friend. I'm going to miss those weekend conversations where we would talk and sometimes debate on education policy. (I could never present a strong enough argument to win a debate with her!)

Gloria was a one-of-a-kind beautiful human being. I just wish that more people within the education community could have had the opportunity to talk to her or just work with her. She experienced much, tolerated too much and endured things that most couldn't during their career. It often saddened me that some who were WEAK viewed her as a threat when she was an asset to every organization/system she lended her time to. That was Gloria.

I thank her son and daughter for SHARING their mother with us. I understand she was a workaholic and her mind was always on the next grant or program idea. I speak on behalf of the hundreds of teachers Gloria helped, inspired or fussed at.....she helped mold us all into the Educators that keep SERVICE of CHILDREN at the center of our practice. 

Black People, Children's Literature and Monkeys

     As a black librarian, the only book in my library that depicts a monkey is Curious George. The stories are based on life lessons and he is portrayed as what he is: an animal.  Throughout the Obama administration, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama were likened to monkeys/apes, needless to say some paid the price for doing so.  Let me get back to my point because that subject really angers me.

There was once a time when black people were commonly compared to monkeys in children's literature. It suggests that blacks were a different, sub-human species.  It also has the connotations of slavery and everything associated with it.  It stirs up the same emotions as calling blacks a nigger, which in itself ONLY has cultural connotations.  So in other words, the comparison to monkey is almost objectively worse, especially when books with the comparison is presented to young children. 

I'm respectful of the families and cultures I serve through the library and the books I select for the collection. Here's one of the primary sources I used for my research.  You can see for how this subject that has unfairly been used to describe beautiful  men and women who have fought and open doors for the black community.

Enough with stereotyping black people as monkeys!

The Coon Caricature: Blacks as Monkeys #365black #blackhistory

Credentialed School Librarians

"Nah." Rosa Parks,1955

          For many, Parks was the quiet seamstress and mother of the Civil Rights Movement when in fact, she was so much more.

As a child she listened to her grandfather, who admired the teachings of Marcus Garvey, tell stories of a unification and empowerment of black people.  Hearing these stories of struggle, self-pride and determination inspired her to become an activist for justice.  Her husband  Raymond was the founder of the Montgomery branch of the NAACP and she served as the chapter’s secretary.   

What many do not know, when Parks was 18, she narrowly escaped a rape attempt of a white man while working as a domestic. Years later, Parks would serve as an NAACP investigator for the sexual violence against black women by white men.  Parks worked on many cases with the NAACP, including the Scottsboro Boys defense of 9 black teenage boys accused of rape in Alabama in 1931.

Parks was trained in non-violent resistant strategies by the NAACP.    After her 1955 historic bus ride, Parks was often the target of death threats and struggled to gain employment within the Birmingham area.  Parks and her husband relocated to Detroit, Michigan in 1957 where she continued to work as a seamstress.  She was hired by Congressman John Conyers to work as his administrative assistant in 1965 until her retirement in 1988.    Parks continued to lend her support in causes after retirement by participating in the anti-apartheid movement in the 1990s.

I proudly wear this t-shirt today to celebrate Rosa Parks, 
a black woman, a feminist, MY SHERO.   


All I can say after viewing this photo from the Washington Post, 'Day in Pictures,' page is RESPECT. Sometimes we take for granted that books are available for us within a short walk or click on our computers.   I can only imagine what this woman had to go through to get these books.   This picture is a reminder to me to stop complaining.