Renée Watson

Episode 6

Renée Watson

Voice Through Verse: Renée Watson on Poetry as Empowerment

Masthead Waves

About this episode

Renée Watson (Piecing Me Together, Ryan Hart series) teaches us about the power of poetry in children's literature, and how the medium gives kids an outlet to find their voice and speak up.


"There's just something about literally raising your voice and letting these words come out of you. That's powerful." - Renée Watson


Maya Angelou was mute for six years. After a traumatizing childhood experience, the famous poet and activist retreated inward and lost her voice. In Renée Watson's kid-friendly but unflinching retelling of her story in "Maya's Song", Watson shows how poetry was the means to Maya finding her voice and going on to use it in unforgettable ways. That's the power of poetry. And that power is something that Renée is passionate about giving to kids.

From incorporating poetic elements in her stories to writing entire stories in verse, Renée utilizes poetry in her writing frequently. In this episode, she joins us to tell us more about how she came to believe in the power of poetry, how she makes it accessible to children, why she thinks it's so important for youth, and more.



  • Chapter 1 - Intro to Renée (1:39)
  • Chapter 2 - 1619 project (4:21)
  • Chapter 3 - Knoxville, Tennessee (9:33)
  • Chapter 4 - Telling Maya's Story (13:08)
  • Chapter 5 - Teaching Youth Poetry (18:34)
  • Chapter 6 - Music as a Gateway to Poetry (21:39)
  • Chapter 7 - Writing About Portland (26:23)
  • Chapter 8 - Sharing Joy With Ryan Hart (28:36)
  • Chapter 9 - Library visits (30:58)
  • Chapter 10 - Voice Through Voice (31:59)
  • Chapter 11 - Beanstack Featured Librarian (32:51)

Renée's Reading Challenge

Download the free reading challenge worksheet, or view the challenge materials on our helpdesk.

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Renée Watson: You literally have a place where you can stop and take a breath at the end of each poem and reflect and talk about just that one moment if you want, before moving on to the next thing, whereas I feel like sometimes when it's prose and it just keeps going in a picture book, you don't necessarily stop and pause and reflect.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: Renée Watson describes poetry as a container for emotions. In her writing for children, she has found these containers to be a highly effective tool for emotionally pacing her stories. She uses this tool when approaching difficult topics, like the dark and dramatic true story of Maya Angelou's life in her book, 'Maya's Song'. Renée is a teaching artist and number one New York Times best-selling author, known for titles such as 'Piecing Me Together’, 'Watch Us Rise' and the 'Ryan Hart Series'. Today, she joins us to talk about the value she's found in poetry for youth, how she makes it accessible for kids and the vocal power the medium holds. We'll also hear which '90s hip-hop album holds the secret to good book editing. And stick around until the end to find out the unique reading challenge Renée has created just for you.


Jordan Lloyd Bookey: My name is Jordan Lloyd Bookey, and this is The Reading Culture, a show where we speak with authors and reading enthusiasts to explore ways to build a stronger culture of reading in our communities. We dive into their personal experiences, their inspirations and why their stories and ideas motivate kids to read more. So Renée, let's start with you telling me about some of your early experiences with reading, if there was a particular teacher or librarian who had an impact on your reading life.

Renée Watson: I had several teachers, I'm so fortunate, and then I had a lot of people in my family who modelled reading and at school. So school-wise, my earliest memory of a teacher handing me books and encouraging me not just to read, but to also tell my story was my second-grade teacher. She... I just remember loving going into the classroom. She always had books for us to choose that were in this little nook in the back of the room that we could go read if we finished work early or something like that. And so that teacher is also the one who... When I gave her a 21-page story that I wrote on my own at home, not as an assignment, she actually read it and gave me feedback and got me a journal and said, "I want you to keep writing and I think you're gonna be a writer one day."

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: Yeah, you did become a writer, a very successful one at that. You write in a lot of different formats and you've done picture books, novels, poems. Can you talk a bit about how your experience with poetry informs these other types of writing? 

Renée Watson: Poetry is about kind of getting to the heart of the matter quickly. It's how can you tell the biggest idea with a less amount of words and the most impact? And so I think that my poetry is maybe... Depending on if I'm praising, if I'm critiquing or celebrating, it will hit harder I think sooner. Whereas when I'm writing prose, there's just more time and more space to let something unfold, especially because I write sometimes about serious topics. I am thinking about, "How can I care about my reader through this text and make sure that they're okay as they're reading these hard things?" So for instance, 'Piecing Me Together', there are pages that are just one sentence or one paragraph, and then there are some that are longer, more full prose, more traditional chapters. And I was thinking about space and breath and giving the character a moment to kind of exhale after they've just read something a little heavy. And then if it's more light-hearted, maybe there could be more words on the page because I don't need to hold you and care for you in that moment as intently.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: Yeah, it's like you're using your poetry as a way to care for your reader.

Renée Watson: Yeah. So each page is kind of a container for the emotion that the character is going through. And I think I got all of that, I learned how to do that by studying poetry.


Jordan Lloyd Bookey: There are many examples of Renée's use of poetry to express difficult topics, but perhaps one of the best is her work with Nikole Hannah-Jones on The 1619 Project: Born on the Water. The 2021 picture book tells the story of slavery and the history of black resistance in the United States entirely through verse. The book is an incredible and powerful look at the birth of Black America. I wanted to learn more about the process of that book coming to be, and the reasons Renée and Nikole Hannah-Jones chose to approach the writing solely through verse.


Renée Watson: I'm very honored that Nikole reached out and wanted to collaborate for The 1619 Project: Born on the Water. She had been getting a lot of parents and teachers coming to her saying, "We wanna talk about this with our younger kids, and are you gonna do something for them?" And so that's kind of how it became an idea that then became a real thing. And she wanted to work with a writer that wrote for children. So we connected and in our first meeting, I asked her, I was like, "Would you be open to writing this in verse?" And one of the reasons was because we're telling so much history, it's a lot of years that we are covering, right? And I just... I could not wrap my mind around how to do that in prose for a picture book.

Renée Watson: So I felt like the poems could be these kind of snapshots that are taking you through this large, long history. And then I also, like I said earlier, I think that poetry can be a container for emotions and literally kind of hold the reader. And so I wanted teachers and parents who are reading this with their young people, you literally have a place where you can stop and take a breath at the end of each poem and reflect and talk about just that one moment if you want before moving on to the next thing. Whereas I feel like sometimes when it's prose and it just keeps going in a picture book, you don't necessarily stop and pause and reflect. But because they're single poems, you can pull them out and just deal with one at a time, and then in the whole collective.

Renée Watson: And I also wanted to pay tribute and honor to Black poets and the way that we tell stories and how stories have been passed down from one generation to the next with oral history, spoken word, so all of that influence, writing it in verse. And I appreciate Nikole so much because she was like, "Well, I'm a journalist." And I think in the beginning, she was like, "Poetry?" She's already feeling like she's stretching by writing a picture book, and now I'm asking her to stretch even more. But she trusted me and I'm very grateful for that. And so yeah, we worked together on every single poem. Both of our voices are in each verse. So it's not like she wrote one whole poem by herself, and then I did the next one. Our lines are intertwined throughout the whole book.

Renée Watson: And at this point, there are some parts that I like, I can't even remember who wrote that one, who wrote this stanza, or who wrote that line, because we really worked so well together and we're very intentional about making sure our voices blended. And so yeah, it was an honor to work with her on that. And we both also really wanted to start in West Africa before the people were enslaved to make sure that young people reading this also know that their legacy is not just struggle and strife and enduring and overcoming, but that they... We come from a people of great strength and brilliance and that they were humans and they were living their lives and that that was taken from them. That was important for us to start with joy and with them being happy and singing and building and loving each other. I never thought that I would write about slavery, or the topic, I just was not interested in touching in my work.

Renée Watson: I am glad though that I thought about it. And I remember my mother... I was stressing about if I should do it or not, and I kept saying to my mom, "I don't wanna write about slavery. I don't know if I wanna... " And she was like, "Well, you're not. " She's like, "First of all, Nikole's not gonna let that happen, and your work... You've never done that. And these people were people. So you're not gonna write about slavery, you're writing about people and what happened to them." And it kind of shifted my approach for working on the project. Yeah, I'm so glad I said yes. And then Nicholas, his art is brilliant and amazing. So it was a great collaboration. It's something I will always cherish, working with the two of them.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: You mentioned starting with joy, and I actually have a quote of yours sitting right here that I wrote down for myself, and that is "Joy is a shield." I love that idea, and I think you definitely achieved that in this book. I like that the story doesn't start with hardship and suffering in the US, instead it's a joyful origin story and that definitely comes through.


Renée Watson: "Knoxville Tennessee. I always like summer best. You can eat fresh corn from daddy's garden and okra and greens and cabbage and lots of barbecue and buttermilk and homemade ice cream at the church picnic, and listen to gospel music outside at the church homecoming, and go to the mountains with your grandmother, and go barefooted and be warm all the time, not only when you go to bed and sleep."

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: 'Knoxville Tennessee' is a poem by Nikki Giovanni, first published in her 1968 poetry collection, Black Judgment. Giovanni is an American poet and activist who was entrenched in the Black Arts movement of the '60s and '70s. While many of her works in Black Judgment and the following anthology, Black Feeling, Black Talk displayed themes of urgency and revolution, Knoxville Tennessee reveled in simplicity and calmness. A departure from the style Giovanni had embraced at the time, the poem hinted at the soft human hidden behind the shroud of necessary anger that she had taken on. Giovanni's work as an activist was and is crucial, but in Knoxville Tennessee, she was able to retreat to a tranquil everydayness and invite others to embrace that feeling. This is what attracted Renée to the poem.

Renée Watson: One of the reasons why I love it so much is because she just normalizes an everyday moment in family life; a barbecue, a family getting together, celebrating summer. And I didn't know this either as a child. I couldn't articulate why I loved her and Langston and Maya Angelou so much, but they had a range in their work. That yes, sometimes they're critiquing America and they are speaking back to power and talking about race and all of the things that are important. They are protest poets and they also talk about everyday life and the humanity of Black folks. And I needed that balance. A lot of times in school, we were just taught through this lens of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, and very rarely was I given a book that was just Black folks loving each other and caring about each other and not having to talk about fighting for freedom or anything like that. So I love Knoxville Tennessee, the reason I love chocolate and so many of her poems that are these little snapshots of just humanity and everydayness of blackness.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: Yeah, absolutely. Are there any small every day moments from your own childhood that resonate for you? 

Renée Watson: My mom, I watched her at night read her Bible and she would have a highlighter and a notebook next to her and she'd write down notes, and she would highlight scripture and underline some of the phrases and sometimes read it out loud. I would hear her quietly kind of whispering these scriptures that she was reading and memorizing them. And there is something about the practice of reading, like how do you read closely, how do you make sure words really sink in and that you own them? I learned that from her by watching her cherish her time when she was reading. And so my books are marked up and underlined and highlighted and earmarked and all that kind of... I'm not very precious with books. I'm precious with the words [chuckle] and the act of reading but the physical book, I mark stuff up all the time because I grew up reading that way.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: In September of 2022, Renée Watson's picture book, Maya's Song, was released. The story follows Maya Angelou's life and journey as a poet and activist. Although it is told in picture book format, Watson doesn't shy away from the dark moments in Angelou's life. Instead, she delicately crafts a narrative that shows readers that dark things will happen, but there will also be light. In the book, she tells the real tale of Maya Angelou's traumatic childhood experience that left her mute for six years and how she eventually found her voice and expression through poetry. What moved me when reading 'Maya's Song' was the idea that poetry helped her overcome her physical muteness. Poetry really is something that is written to be read aloud. And Watson's work often plays on the theme of the importance of using one's voice. Poetry as a medium and speaking up intersect in an interesting way. I asked Renée to tell us more about her thoughts on the power of poem and voice and the role they can play in social causes.

Renée Watson: Protest poets and how poets respond to the world and what's happening, they are the recorders of what is going on. And again, I think when you're young especially, that is a way that if you don't have a lot of money, you don't have a lot of clout, you can still say something and not just feel heard, but be heard, you just need your mind just to make it... I have students who can freestyle and rap and make up lyrics and I'm just like, "You are a genius. How are you doing this? You're not even having to write things down. This is amazing." So yeah, there's just... There's something about literally raising your voice and letting these words come out of you that's powerful, and that Maya, when she went through her trauma, she didn't speak for five years. That is a long time. It's a long time.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: Especially at that age.

Renée Watson: Right, right. But she took so much in. She listened. And people often ask me for advice for writers, "What are you... " And I always say, "Listen more. If you wanna be a good writer, you have to listen. You have to pay attention to what's going on in the world. I want you to pay attention to people's face expressions, how do people engage with each other. Pay attention to the world and how it's moving along." And she did that. She was literally reading the greats, Shakespeare and all these writers, but she also was just listening to birds and she was noticing the expression on her mother's face when she'd come home from work, how tired she was. You can learn a lot about from body language of people who may be saying one thing, but their body is doing something else. And so she became this person who knew how to read the world and understand it. And I think that's why once she started speaking again, my goodness, she had a lot to say. [chuckle]

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: Yeah, I think that really comes across here and it's almost like by the time anybody is old enough or whatever to read 'I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings' and to learn that it's... You probably maybe have passed by some important years during which you could take that advice and do that, right? But I think that's one of the most important things that comes through in the book is this, just out of this very traumatic experience and dark time, there's this period during which she's just... You said she takes in hundreds of thousands of words and just, you really feel that she's absorbing and observing everything, and then bringing that back out, but just sits with it for so long.

Renée Watson: I also love that there's... Brian has an illustration in the book where she's first speaking again after her silence and she's sitting under the porch and she has this book and she's speaking, and I think about the quiet girls, and there's something about also allowing young people to be quiet and not pushing them to speak before they want to or before they're ready. We live in a culture that is so obsessed with speaking of, speaking now, being the loudest, being right, having something to say, voicing your opinion, "What do you think? What do you think?" And I think that that is important, right? And I have absolutely written those characters, Watch Us Rise, those girls are on fire, they are ready to take over all of the things, feminists...

Renée Watson: But there are also young girls who are just thinking and pondering and growing into themselves and they need a moment. And that's okay too. I wanna make space for them in books. We sometimes write the loudest, strongest characters. And I think it's also something to take away from her life was that she did... She knew how to be quiet. She knew how to share space and not have to be the only one speaking and not needing to show off. And I think that's why when she started speaking, people listened to her. So it's a lesson to take away too, for the adults who are working with young people to just think about offering grace and how do you nurture a young person's voice instead of pushing them, like how can we be gentle and encourage them, but also give them space to grow into who they're becoming? 


Jordan Lloyd Bookey: Outside of writing herself, Renée has dedicated a great deal of her life to teaching the craft to others. She was a writer in residence for over 20 years in public schools, and has taught various programs and workshops across the country for both adults and youth. As exemplified by 'Maya's Song', her work is frequently centered around poetry as a way to deal with trauma. Despite the emotional and educational value that poetry can provide, often even adults have a difficult time fully understanding and embracing the medium, and the task of teaching the art of poetry to children can be tricky. I was curious how Renée approaches introducing poetry to students.


Renée Watson: My favorite kinda starter, especially if I'm with a new group of students, is to ask them where they're from, and I use Willie Perdomo's Where I'm From poem, I have a Where I'm From poem, I share mine, I share his and we talk about, why do writers write about where they're from? Who cares? Why is it important that I'm writing about this little neighborhood in Northeast Portland? And we just have a conversation about... Especially when you're young, so many people are speaking for you, you don't have a lot of power, you can't vote, [chuckle] you're not making the rules at home, at school, there's a... You do not have a lot of power as a young person, but you have your voice, and you can own your narrative and say, "Yeah, I know that the statistics say this about my neighborhood, I know that this is the stereotype about my people, but this is my story, my personal story, this is who I am, and this is why I matter, this is what I care about, this is what I'm afraid of, and these are the people who love me and who I love back."

Renée Watson: So I like to start there, especially when I was teaching as a teaching artist, sometimes you have a meeting with the teacher or the principal, and they are getting you familiar with their school, and they would often tell me, "So this class is this way, and this class is that way, and when you get in there, there's gonna be this table group that sits in the back," so I already have this perception of who the bad kids are.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: I remember teaching, it was like, "4B, 4B is the bad kids."


Renée Watson: Yes.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: I mean, no kids are bad, but that's basically what people say.

Renée Watson: Right. But that is what they would say.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: You better have your game together when you get in there.

Renée Watson: Absolutely, and I get why that happens, but also I want to meet young people where they are, and I don't wanna only know what people say about them, but what they say about their own self and their own neighborhood and their own families, and so, poetry is a way to get them talking about all of that, and I'm always telling, "You can break the rules. And when you're writing your essay for your English teacher, there's a certain way you have to go about language, but in poetry, you can play around with things and we can imagine different ways to say things," and so I think they get excited about the idea of breaking rules and speaking up, talking back to the world, that's kinda how I like to approach it. And tell them, "Take the mic back and tell me your story."

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: This idea of breaking rules and having fun with language is quite similar to another conversation Renée had with her friend and New York Times best-selling author, Jason Reynolds. On her website, you can find their discussion about writing inspirations. In it, Jason Reynolds admits that he didn't grow up as a reader, but Queen Latifah was one of his most important influences that turned him onto the craft. This struck me as it was similar to how my husband, who's also Black, speaks about his childhood experiences with reading. Together, my husband and I have created Beanstack, which is a reading company, and we are both voracious readers now, but as a kid, reading had less appeal for him. There was a gulf between him and the White characters in his school books and that didn't stir much passion. The turning point for my husband was finding books that mirrored his own experience, and for Jason Reynolds, it was when verse and music started connecting him to the written word. I was really interested in this idea of music as a gateway to poetry. I asked Renée for her thoughts on the topic.

Renée Watson: I grew up listening to everything, R&B, Gospel. My grandfather had a huge record collection, my brother was a DJ, so music is a huge part of my life, and I do bring it into the classroom. One of my favorite lessons to do with young people to get them excited about revision, because who's excited about revising anything? 


Renée Watson: Is to play them... I have a question on the board, and the question is, write about a time you remade something, you took something, and I usually talk about styling their clothes or leftovers becoming another meal, that whole thing. And while they're free writing, I play... I start with Roberta Flack's Killing Me Softly. And they're just listening to it for a little bit, and then I fade it and then I start playing the Fugees' Killing Me Softly, the remix, and play that for a little bit, and then when we have a class conversation, I ask, say, "Okay, what did you write? What did you... What have you remade?" And we get a list going and then I say, "What did you notice while you were writing about the music I played?" And that conversation leads into talking about remixing and remaking and how the same words put to a different beat can give you a different emotion, a different feeling.

Renée Watson: And that is what I'm gonna have you do with your work today, I want you to choose something, and I want you to add some undertones, I want you to highlight some things, take some things out and make it the same but different, and it's not because something's wrong with it, obviously the Fugees loved that song. It's a tribute almost to like, "I wanna get in on this thing." So I feel like that helps, just kinda eases everyone's anxiety around, "Oh no, I did something wrong, and now she's making me change it," or... No, it's like, "No, this is so good, pick something that you love and make it even better."

Renée Watson: And how can you do that? And music is a way of showing young people how artists have different versions of the same thing. So I use music to teach lessons like that, sometimes I just have it playing in the background, and sometimes I'll bring in a poem that... I mean, a song that goes along with the theme of the poem I'm teaching, just to show them that storytelling is happening in many, many ways in our lives, even when we're just retelling what happened on the subway, you were telling the story, we are storytellers, and we sometimes put on voices and reenact what's happened when we're telling someone about our day, and so I take all of that, the songs they listen to, their casualness with telling stories and encourage them that they already do it, and they already have so many stories in them 'cause they listen to music, and now I'm just asking them to share that more broadly and openly with the class.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: I like that idea, like the frame of, you're remixing what you wrote and giving them that idea is really... That does definitely resonate with the younger crowd.

Renée Watson: And it helps them I think feel less intimidated. So much of writing is, especially in revision can make you feel it's daunting, it's a big task to ask someone to go back to something, especially if I've already said it's good, and that I really like it, so I'm very good at saying, "We are working on first drafts today," so that they know that eventually you're gonna come back to this and work on it some more, and I share my edits too. I show them sometimes my editorial letters, and they're just like, "What?" I'm like, "Yeah, the book that you finally get in the bookstore is... [chuckle] That has been written 15 times before it's actually published," and that the real writing happens in revision, so it's nice to talk about that.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: Okay, let's talk a bit about Portland. You tend to write a lot about this city that you grew up in, and you've talked about reading the Ramona series by Beverly Cleary, which is also set there, what was it like to grow up there, and how has it influenced you? 

Renée Watson: While I was growing up in Portland, I don't know that I appreciated it or loved it in the way that I do once I moved. It was special to me because my family is there and I had my best friends and my church and all of that but I didn't really understand how much Portland and the people there were so crucial to who I am until I moved to New York. I think leaving home made me love home more, and I went back to those books, the Ramona series. When I was a child, I loved reading those books because Ramona was just a great character, she's complicated, she wasn't perfect, she was sometimes jealous, sometimes bossy, she would throw tantrums like she was a real kid, but I also love that book because I knew Klickitat Street and I knew the library and the school she was walking to. I felt so seen, like my city is in a book, this is amazing. And it wasn't until I was much older than I was like, "But wait a minute, where are the people of color? There are no Black girls in this book, and we're in that neighborhood."

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: It's like seen and invisible all at once.

Renée Watson: Yeah, it's all of that all at the same time. As a writer now, it's so important for me to make sure that Black Portland is on the page, that Black girls in the Pacific Northwest feel seen. I think about how history is taught in our schools, and a lot of times we're told about the Great Migration from the South to the North and it kinda stops there, we don't really learn about Black folks and how they got to the West or the Pacific Northwest, and so yeah, it's important for me to make sure that that's a part of the narrative too, and just to help... Hopefully expand what we consider to be Black stories and Black narratives everywhere, and even in Oregon, and so I wanna make sure that those stories are told.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: On that note, you just released the newest installment of the Ryan Hart Series with 'Ways to Share Joy'. It's a wonderful book and in all the books you are really bringing representation to Portland. Ryan Hart is this adorable character, she's very passionate and resilient and courageous, and my daughter totally loves her, as do I. Her story, and the book overall are really a remix to the Ramona series, which had such a strong impact on you growing up, so maybe you could talk a bit about what writing the Ryan Hart series has been like for you.

Renée Watson: Yes, it's like my ode to Portland, my ode to the Ramona series and Beverly Cleary. I think Ryan and Ramona would be friends if they were growing up at the same time. Ryan is... We begin the series with her in the fourth grade, and she's trying to grow into her name, her name is Ryan, which means king, and her parents are always telling her, be who we named you to be, we want you to be a leader, we want you to be thoughtful and kind, and that's hard when you're a 10-year... It's hard when you're grown, but it's especially hard when you're 10, and so sometimes she gets it right, and sometimes she doesn't, and the series kinda follows her in trying to live up to her name. So she's dealing with... For what...

Renée Watson: When you're that age, it's big issues, friendship, drama and bullying and also finding your voice, which is a common theme through most of my books. Ryan learns about joy versus happiness, and her grandmother is teaching her that horrible things are gonna always happen but you have a choice to hold onto your joy, and so you might not be happy about what's going on, but you can still be grateful for things, there's still something good to praise, life is always bittersweet, in the same day, you could get the best news and the worst news, the same week, you'll have some good days and some not so good days, and so what do you do with that as a kid with all those emotions? And so Ryan is figuring that out in this book, and I'm excited to share it with young people. This is the third book of the series, there's gonna be four, and then we say goodbye to Ryan as she is graduating from fifth grade, going into middle school.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: Yeah. Well, you spend a lot of time in elementary and middle schools yourself, are there any moments or experiences during your many school and library visits that really stand out to you? 

Renée Watson: One thing that's very, very touching to me is when I see young people who are wearing the same hairstyle of the character. [chuckle] And they feel so proud that their hair looks like Ryan's hair. This happened a lot with Born on the Water too, a lot of pictures were being taken and we were getting tagged of girls doing their hair like the girl in the book, and there's something that is just so powerful to me, Black hair is such, I don't know, a badge of pride and honor, and also something that gets criticized and critiqued and talked about and misunderstood and all the things, so to have little Black girls loving their hair and feeling seen because of characters on a book is really powerful and moving to me.


Jordan Lloyd Bookey: For today's episode, Renée has prepared a reading challenge with a theme of writing in verse, it's called Voice Through Verse. I'll let her take it from here.

Renée Watson: So we've talked a lot about poetry and prose today, so my challenge is to read poetry books and novels in verse, and some that I recommend are One Last Word by Nikki Grimes and Reckless, Glorious, Girl by Ellen Hagen. And after you read that, my challenge is to write a poem in response to one of the poems that you read.

Jordan Lloyd Bookey: All of our listeners can join Renée's reading challenge, Voice Through Verse, by visiting There you can find all the details and recommendations and check out all of our past reading challenges from guests like Meg Medina and Karina Yan Glaser. And now it's time for today's Beanstack featured librarian.

Pat Toney: My name is Pat Toney, I'm a Children's Services Librarian at Oakland Public Library in California. A book I like to recommend to teens is the Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley. It's a book that stuck with me, it's got a lot of passion and power. I love the story about the strength of the women in the family, as well as the modern-day tale of Native Americans. And after reading Tommy Orange's Here Here, I think it's just great to provide more information about modern-day native society. So yeah, that's what I really like to recommend for teens.


Jordan Lloyd Bookey: This has been the Reading Culture, and you've been listening to our conversation with Renée Watson. Again, I'm your host, Jordan Lloyd Bookey, and currently, I'm reading A Burning by Megha Majumdar and The Door of No Return by Kwame Alexander. If you enjoyed today's show, please show some love and rate, subscribe and share the Reading Culture among your friends and networks. To learn more about how you can help grow your community's reading culture, you can check out all of our resources on This episode was produced by Jackie Lamport and Lower Street Media and script-edited by Josiah Lamberto-Egan. We'll be back in two weeks with another episode of the show. Thanks for joining and keep reading.


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