My Very Own Library

National Author Event December 7, 2022

Please join us for a Q&A with Newberry Award winning author Jasmine Warga who discusses her book Other Words from Home! Register at this link to participate.

National Author Engagement and UChicago Alumni Book Club

Please join us for three excellent opportunities for your students all over the country to hear from award winning and best selling Latinx authors, artists and creators.

Meg Medina and Angela Dominguez join us at 12pm CT to discuss Mango, Abuela and Me.
December 10, 2021 via Zoom Please use this link to register.

Meg Medina joins us again to discuss Merci Suárez Changes Gears at 12pm CT
December 14, 2021 via Zoom. Please
use this link to register.

Juan Felipe Herrera and Lauren Castillo join us to discuss Imagine at 12pm CT December 15, 2021 via Zoom. Please use this link to register.


If you are an alum, in partnership with 57th Street Books, My Very Own Library curated a set of books for all families to engage in a discussion of Reuben Jonathan Miller’s, faculty member at the Crown School, book Halfway Home.

Curated in partnership with 57th Street Books, My Very Own Library is pleased to provide a reading list geared towards a younger audience to accompany your family’s reading of Reuben Jonathan Miller’s book Halfway Home. Designed for readers pre-kindergarten to high school, this list seeks to bring the conversation around mass incarceration spurred in Halfway Home to a younger audience. We hope these titles aid in your reading of Halfway Home and help support a conversation in your family and beyond.

57th Street Books was established in 1983 and caters to the literary interests of the greater South Side community. With a world-class children’s department, a deep backlist selection, and an enthusiastic staff, 57th Street Books has established itself as a gem among independent bookstores and is the sister store to the Seminary Co-op Bookstore, the largest academic bookstore in the country. In 2019, the Seminary Co-op Bookstores became the country’s first not-for-profit bookstores whose mission is bookselling

My Very Own Library partners with non-profit organizations and school districts throughout the United States and the Dominican Republic to support literacy in schools and communities. My Very Own Library is committed to working with schools and communities to increase equity and access to books for all school age children.

PreK-2nd Grade

Missing Daddy, Mariame Kaba
This book is a crucial tool for parents, educators, and anyone who cares about the well-being of children who, through no fault of their own, are forced to bear the consequences of our country’s obsession with incarceration. For children who desperately miss their parents, feel confused, or are teased at school, this book can go a long way in letting them know that they are not alone and in normalizing their experiences.” –Eve L. Ewing

A little girl who misses her father because he’s away in prison shares how his absence affects different parts of her life. Her greatest excitement is the days when she gets to visit her beloved father. With gorgeous illustrations throughout, this book illuminates the heartaches of dealing with missing a parent.

Missing Daddy was selected as one of Chicago Public Library’s Best of the Best Books 2019.

Visiting Day, Jaqueline Woodson
In this moving picture book from multi-award winning author Jacqueline Woodson, a young girl and her grandmother prepare for a very special day–the one day a month they get to visit the girl’s father in prison. Only on visiting day is there chicken frying in the kitchen at 6 a.m, and Grandma in her Sunday dress, humming soft and low. As the little girl and her grandmother get ready, her father, who adores her, is getting ready, too, and readers get to join the community of families who make the trip together, as well as the triumphant reunion between father and child, all told in Woodson’s trademark lyrical style, and beautifully illustrated by James Ransome.

3rd-5th Grade

From the Desk of Zoe Washington, Janae Marks

Zoe Washington isn’t sure what to write. What does a girl say to the father she’s never met, hadn’t heard from until his letter arrived on her twelfth birthday, and who’s been in prison for a terrible crime? A crime he says he never committed. Could Marcus really be innocent? Zoe is determined to uncover the truth. Even if it means hiding his letters and her investigation from the rest of her family. Everyone else thinks Zoe’s worrying about doing a good job at her bakery internship and proving to her parents that she’s worthy of auditioning for Food Network’s Kids Bake Challenge. But with bakery confections on one part of her mind, and Marcus’s conviction weighing heavily on the other, this is one recipe Zoe doesn’t know how to balance. The only thing she knows to be true: Everyone lies.

When Marcus tells Zoe he is innocent, and her grandmother agrees, Zoe begins to learn about inequality in the criminal justice system, and she sets out to find the alibi witness who can prove his innocence. (Publishers Weekly, An Anti-Racist Children’s and YA Reading List)

Courage, Barbara Binns
Ever since T’Shawn’s dad died, his mother has been struggling to keep the family afloat. So, when he’s offered a spot on a prestigious diving team at the local private swim club, he knows that joining would only add another bill to the pile. But T studies hard and never gets into trouble, so he thinks his mom might be willing to bear the cost… until he finds out that his older brother, Lamont, is getting released early from prison. Luckily, T’Shawn is given a scholarship, and he can put all his frustration into diving practices. But when criminal activity increases in the neighborhood and people begin to suspect Lamont, T’Shawn begins to worry that maybe his brother hasn’t left his criminal past behind after all. Can they put the broken pieces of their relationship back together?

6th-8th Grade

An Uninterrupted View of the Sky, Melanie Crowder

Modern history unearthed as a boy becomes an innocent victim of corruption in Bolivia’s crime world, where the power of family is both a prison and a means of survival. It’s 1999 in Bolivia and Francisco’s life consists of school, soccer, and trying to find space for himself in his family’s cramped yet boisterous home. But when his father is arrested on false charges and sent to prison by a corrupt system that targets the uneducated, the poor, and the indigenous majority, Francisco and his sister are left with no choice: They must move into prison with their father. There, they find a world unlike anything they’ve ever known, where everything–a door, a mattress, protection from other inmates–has its price. Prison life is dirty, dire, and dehumanizing. With their lives upended, Francisco faces an impossible decision: Break up the family and take his sister to their grandparents in the Andean highlands, fleeing the city and the future within his grasp, or remain together in the increasingly dangerous prison. Pulled between two undesirable options, Francisco must confront everything he once believed about the world and his place within it. In this heart- wrenching novel, Melanie Crowder sheds light on a little-known era of modern South American history–where injustice still looms large–and proves that hope can be found, even in the most desperate places.

Ruby On the Outside, Nora Baskin

Ruby’s mom is in prison, and to tell anyone the truth is to risk true friendship in this novel that accurately and sensitively addresses a subject too often overlooked–from the author of The Summer Before Boys. Eleven-year-old Ruby Danes is about to start middle school, and only her aunt knows her deepest, darkest, secret: her mother is in prison. Then Margalit Tipps moves into Ruby’s condo complex, and the two immediately hit it off. Ruby thinks she’s found her first true-blue friend–but can she tell Margalit the truth about her mom? Maybe not. Because it turns out that Margalit’s family history seems closely connected to the very event that put her mother in prison, and if Ruby comes clean, she could lose everything she cares about most.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy by Emmanuel Acho
An engaging children’s book whose aim is opening a dialogue about systemic racism, inspired by Emmanuel Acho’s viral video series “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man.”

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy is an accessible book for children to learn about systemic racism and racist behavior. For the awkward questions white and non-black parents don’t know how to answer, this book is an essential guide to help support communication on how to dismantle racism in our youngest generation.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy creates a safe, judgment-free space for curious children to ask questions they’ve long been afraid to verbalize. How can I have white privilege if I’m not wealthy? Why do Black people protest against the police? If Black people can say the N-word, why can’t I? And many, many more.

Young people have the power to effect sweeping change, and the key to mending the racial divide in America lies in giving them the tools to ask honest questions and take in the difficult answers. Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Boy is just one way young readers can begin to short circuit racism within their own lives and communities.

High School
Concrete Rose, Angie Thomas

Black Boy Joy Kwame Mbalia, Ed.
Celebrate the joys of Black boyhood with stories from seventeen bestselling, critically acclaimed Black authors–including Jason Reynolds (the Track series), Jerry Craft (New Kid), and edited by Kwame Mbalia (the Tristan Strong series)!

Black boy joy is…
Picking out a fresh first-day-of-school outfit.
Saving the universe in an epic intergalactic race.
Finding your voice—and your rhymes—during tough times. Flying on your skateboard like nobody’s watching.

And more! From seventeen acclaimed Black male and non-binary authors comes a vibrant collection of stories, comics, and poems about the power of joy and the wonders of Black boyhood. Contributors include: B. B. Alston, Dean Atta, P. Djèlí Clark, Jay Coles, Jerry Craft, Lamar Giles, Don P. Hooper, George M. Johnson, Varian Johnson, Kwame Mbalia, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Tochi Onyebuchi, Julian Randall, Jason Reynolds, Justin Reynolds, DaVaun Sanders, and Julian Winters.

International phenomenon Angie Thomas revisits Garden Heights seventeen years before the events of The Hate U Give in this searing and poignant exploration of Black boyhood and manhood.If there’s one thing seventeen-year-old Maverick Carter knows, it’s that a real man takes care of his family. As the son of a former gang legend, Mav does that the only way he knows how: dealing for the King Lords. With this money he can help his mom, who works two jobs while his dad’s in prison. Life’s not perfect, but with a fly girlfriend and a cousin who always has his back, Mav’s got everything under control. Until, that is, Maverick finds out he’s a father. Suddenly, he has a baby, Seven, who depends on him for everything. But it’s not so easy to sling dope, finish school, and raise a child. So when he’s offered the chance to go straight, he takes it. In a world where he’s expected to amount to nothing, maybe Mav can prove he’s different. When King Lord blood runs through your veins, though, you can’t just walk away. Loyalty, revenge, and responsibility threaten to tear Mav apart, especially after the brutal murder of a loved one. He’ll have to figure out for himself what it really means to be a man.

No Choirboy, Susan Kuklin

No Choirboy takes readers inside America’s prisons and allows inmates sentenced to death as teenagers to speak for themselves. In their own voices–raw and uncensored–they talk about their lives in prison and share their thoughts and feelings about how they ended up there. Susan Kuklin also gets inside the system, exploring capital punishment itself and the intricacies and inequities of criminal justice in the United States.

This is a searing, unforgettable read, and one that could change the way we think about crime and punishment.

2018-2019 MVOL School Orientations

MVOL partner schools are gearing up to support their book fair events this 2018-2019 school year! Here’s a sneak peak at 

orientation with Newark Public Schools and Scholastic Book Fairs.

MVOL 2018 Awards Breakfast

MVOL 2018 Awards Breakfast

The United Way of Essex and West Hudson was proud to host this year’s 2nd annual MVOL All Star Reader Banquet, where we honored 31 outstanding readers from Newark Public Schools in the My Very Own Library program. An extra special thank you to Superintendent Elect, Roger Leon, and all of the parents, family members, Principals, My Very Own Library Coordinators, and representatives from Newark Public Schools who helped us honor these exceptional readers! #AllStarReaders#UWEWHLiteracy

MVOL International Book Share 2018

MVOL International Book Share 2018

On June 19, 2018 The United Way of Essex and West Hudson proudly supported the first My Very Own Library International Book Share in Newark, NJ.  Students from South 17th Street School in Newark, NJ generously donated books from their My Very Own Library home libraries to students at Abraham Lincoln School in San Juan, Puerto Rico! Book reviews, and special “book club key” all play an extra special role in this initiative!

Click HERE to read the article featured in Tap Into Newark