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

Kwame Alexander

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Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, and New York Times bestselling author of 21 books, including The Crossover, which received: the 2015 John Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award Honor, The NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor, and the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award.

His other works include the award-winning children’s picture book Acoustic Rooster and His Barnyard Band, optioned as a children’s television show, and He Said She Said, a YA novel.

Alexander believes that poetry can change the world, and he uses it to inspire and empower young people through his Book-in-a-Day literacy program which has created more than 3,000 student authors at 69 schools across the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean. A regular speaker and workshop presenter at conferences in the U.S., he also travels the world planting seeds of literary love (Brazil, Italy, France, and Turkey).

Alexander has also led a delegation of 20 writers and activists to Ghana, where they delivered books, built a library, and provided literacy professional development to 300 teachers, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an International literacy program he co-founded. In 2015, Kwame served as Bank Street College of Education’s first writer-in-residence.

Learn more at Alexander’s official website.

Selected Books

from Kwame Alexander


Age Level: 9-12

In this follow-up to the Newbery-winning novel The Crossover, soccer, family, love, and friendship, take center stage as twelve-year-old Nick learns the power of words as he wrestles with problems at home, stands up to a bully, and tries to impress the girl of his dreams. Helping him along are his best friend and sometimes teammate Coby, and The Mac, a rapping librarian who gives Nick inspiring books to read. This electric and heartfelt novel-in-verse by poet Kwame Alexander bends and breaks as it captures all the thrills and setbacks, action, and emotion of a World Cup match!

Buy Booked

The Crossover

Age Level: 9-12

The Bell twins are stars on the basketball court and comrades in life. While there are some differences — Josh shaves his head and Jordan loves his locks — both twins adhere to the Bell basketball rules: In this game of life, your family is the court, and the ball is your heart. When life intervenes in the form of a new girl, the balance shifts and growing apart proves painful. Alexander eloquently mashes up concrete poetry, hip-hop, a love of jazz, and a thriving family bond. The effect is poetry in motion. It is a rare verse novel that is fundamentally poetic rather than using this writing trend as a device. There is also a quirky vocabulary element that adds a fun intellectual note to the narrative. This may be just the right book for those hard-to-match youth who live for sports or music or both. (2015 Newbery Medal Winner)

Buy  The Crossover

He Said, She Said

Age Level: Teen

Sparks will fly in this hip-hop-hot teen novel that mixes social protest and star-crossed romance, from Newbery Medal winner Kwame Alexander (The Crossing). Two high school seniors are thrown together when they unexpectedly end up leading the biggest social protest this side of the Mississippi — with a lot of help from social media.

Buy He Said, She Said

Crush: Love Poems for Teenagers

Age Level: Teen

A collection of poetry for young people, edited by Alexander, including a wide variety of forms: tanka, haiku, long titles that lead into short first lines, verbal formulas that lead to sung discoveries, French phrases, prose poems, and poems written in Spanglish. The book is divided into three sections with various speakers, and a fourth section that includes poems by Sherman Alexie, Pablo Neruda, Nikki Giovanni, and the title poem, "Crush," by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Buy Crush: Love Poems for Teenagers

Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets

Age Level: 9-12

Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award–winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen.

Buy Out of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets


Age Level: 9-12

Before Josh and Jordan Bell were streaking up and down the court, their father was learning his own moves. In this prequel to Newbery Medal winner The Crossover, Chuck Bell takes center stage, as readers get a glimpse of his childhood and how he became the jazz music worshiping, basketball star his sons look up to.

Buy Rebound

The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life

Age Level: 9-12

Kwame uses basketball terminology and anecdotes from famous athletes and leaders to inspire and motivate young people to achieve and succeed.

Buy The Playbook: 52 Rules to Aim, Shoot, and Score in This Game Called Life


Age Level: 9-12

Born to a legendary and chronically addicted rock star father, Blade Morrison just wants to spend some time with his girlfriend and his guitar in a drama-free zone. When a family secret is exposed, Blade's life changes completely and sends him on a new journey.

Buy Solo