All About Adolescent Literacy

All about adolescent literacy. Resources for parents and educators of kids in grades 4-12.
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A video interview with

Tonya Bolden

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Tonya Bolden is a researcher, writer, editor, and publisher with a passion for history and historymakers, and sharing the past with young people. Bolden has written more than 20 books for children and young adults, including biographies of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and George Washington Carver, Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl (winner of a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award), and How to Build a Museum — the story behind the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Bolden’s impeccable research enriches all of her books; she transforms facts into compelling stories that inspire and challenge her readers to learn more. As a child, Bolden thought that one day she would be a teacher, and now she is — teaching young people through her many books.

 

Bio

Author and publisher Tonya Bolden was born in 1959 in New York City to Georgia Bolden, a homemaker, and Willie Bolden, a garment center shipping manager. She grew up in Harlem in a musical family and always loved to read.

“I loved the journeys they allowed, what they taught me about the world, how they gave my imagination a workout. The physicality of the book, I loved that too.”

Bolden graduated from Princeton University in 1981, with a B.A. degree in Slavic languages and literature with a Russian focus. She was named a University Scholar and received the Nicholas Bachko, Jr. Scholarship Prize. In 1985, Bolden earned a Master’s degree in Slavic languages and literature, as well as a Certificate for Advanced Study of the Soviet Union from the Harriman Institute.

After graduating, Bolden worked for Raoulfilm, assisting in the research and development of various film and literary products. She also worked as an English instructor at Malcolm-King College and New Rochelle School of New Resources.

In 1990, Bolden wrote her first book, The Family Heirloom Cookbook. In 1992, Bolden co-authored a children’s book entitled Mama, I Want to Sing with author, playwright, radio and TV personality Vy Higginsen, based on Higginsen’s musical.

Bolden became editor of the Quarterly Black Review of Books in 1994, and served as an editor for 33 Things Every Girl Should Know, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults. During the 1990s, Bolden was very prolific. A partial list of titles includes: The Book of African-American Women: 150 Crusaders, Creators, and Uplifters; And Not Afraid to Dare: The Stories of Ten African-American Women; American Patriots: The Story of Blacks in the Military from the Revolution to Desert Storm; Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists; Maritcha: A Nineteenth Century American Girl; MLK: Journey of a King; Take-Off: American All-Girl Bands During World War II; and George Washington Carver, a book she authored in conjunction with an exhibit about the famous African American inventor created by The Field Museum in Chicago.

“I hope my readers leave my books with a greater love for reading and knowledge-seeking, and also as stronger thinkers, with a more vigorous curiosity.”

To learn more, visit the official Tonya Bolden website.

Selected Books

from Tonya Bolden


Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital

Age Level: 9-12

Michael Shiner was born into slavery in Maryland but bought his freedom. He learned to read and write and thus detailed in his journal the history of Washington, DC. Insightful and accessible, this is a well-documented and handsomely presented look at history.

Buy Capital Days: Michael Shiner's Journal and the Growth of Our Nation's Capital


Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty

Age Level: 9-12

What led up to Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation? Who were the abolitionists and what was their influence? Primary source material and a crisp narrative combine to present a fascinating look at the events leading up to the Proclamation and the period in which it was created.

Buy  Emancipation Proclamation: Lincoln and the Dawn of Liberty


How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture

Age Level: 9-12

The history of African Americans is also the history of the United States. How the history and culture of once enslaved people came to sit proudly on the National Mall in the nation’s capital is told in word and image for a riveting portrait of a particular place and a country’s history.

Buy  How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture


M.L.K.: The Journey of a King

Age Level: 9-12

Martin Luther King’s entire life is presented in this handsome and well-sourced, and highly readable biography. Liberal use of quotes and numerous photographs bring the man, his accomplishments, and the times in which he lived into clear focus.

Buy  M.L.K.: The Journey of a King


Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl

Age Level: 9-12

She was born free in New York City during slavery and turmoil in the United States and went on to graduate from an all-white high school. Maritcha Lyon’s story is drawn from her memoir, augmented by primary source material to bring a girl and the time in which she lived into focus for contemporary readers.

Buy Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl


Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America

Age Level: 9-12

Who was Sara Rector and how did she become wealthy? More intriguing, what happened to this young African American woman who was part of the “Creek [Indian] freedmen”? How the author stumbled on Sarah’s story is included in this spellbinding presentation of an early America and real-life mysteries.

Buy Searching for Sarah Rector: The Richest Black Girl in America