Finding Your Place in the World

This resource is great for:
Motivating young people to read and write regardless of their interests, age, abilities or social background. Learning how reading can help build confidence, a sense of identity and foster empathy. Parents, teachers and educators will feel energised after listening to Kwame’s impassioned words about the power of books. Young people will be encouraged to search for stories which resonate with them.


Introduction

Kwame Alexander is New York Times bestselling children’s author, poet, playwright and producer. He won the Newbery Medal with his book The Crossover and has also been nominated for the CILIP Carnegie Medal. He regularly conducts creative writing workshops in schools, working with over 500 students monthly. He currently lives in Washington, DC.

Kwame joined the Edinburgh International Book Festival this year to take audiences on a journey through his powerful coming-of-age novels all about sports, family and being yourself. Inspired by hip hop and written in verse, the novels are the perfect way to get sports-mad teenagers to pick up a book as well as a ball. We caught up with Kwame to ask some questions about how reading can inspire change in people’s lives and what motivates him to write.

Watch his responses together and discuss the questions below.


Part one 

One of Kwame’s pieces of advice is to stay true to yourself. We asked the author what that means to him and how young people can achieve it in the context of increasing social pressure to fit in.

  • Do you agree with the idea that books are like mirrors? What do you think Kwame means by that?
  • Is there anything that you’ve learnt about yourself by reading? Can you think of a book you’ve read with a character who is like you?
  • How do you think books help us to understand our place in the world?

Part two

We were keen to learn what Kwame means when he talks about ‘finding your place’. We asked him about what strategies he recommends for young people who are discovering who they are. We asked him what he’d say to those young people who are into parkour, surfing, skateboarding or football more than books. Here is what he told us:

  • ‘The mind of the adult begins in the imagination of a child’ – how do you understand this statement?
  • How do you think reading can make people more empathetic with others?
  • How do you think the people around us influence who we are?
  • What do you think makes people feel confident?

Part three

Now that you watched the two short films and got to know Kwame a little, discuss some of his ideas in groups or pairs, considering the following broader questions:

  • Is there something Kwame said in the two interviews that you are likely to remember?
  • Do you disagree with any of the author’s points?
  • How do you think reading can be cool? Why do you think some people think it isn’t?
  • Kwame suggests there are books that could make anybody want to read – do you agree?

Part four

Read one of Kwame Alexander’s books – Rebound, The Crossover or Booked (or all three!) – and talk about his interesting writing style and how it may encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book.

Choose a sport you enjoy and write a short story using active vocabulary – think about the pace and rhythm of your writing. How can you make your sentences run and your verbs jump?


Further information: 

If you would like to learn more about Kwame Alexander’s writing, visit his website: www.kwamealexander.com

More about Kwame’s books in verse:

The Crossover – A powerful novel in verse about twin brothers who are rivals both on and off the basketball court. Winner of the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Honour Award. Twelve-year-old Josh and his twin Jordan have basketball in their blood. They’re kings of the court, star players for their school team. Their father used to be a champion player and they each want nothing more than to follow in his footsteps, but conflict and hardship test their bond. In this heartfelt verse novel, the boys find that life doesn’t come with a playbook and it’s not all about winning.

 

 

Booked – Follow Nick’s trials and triumphs in Kwame Alexander’s bestselling follow-up to The Crossover. Twelve-year-old Nick is a football-mad boy who absolutely hates books. Nominated for the Carnegie Medal and highly commended for the CLPE Poetry Award, Booked sees football, family, love and friendship take centre stage as Nick tries to navigate his parents’ break-up, stand up to bullies and impress the girl of his dreams. The challenges off the pitch seem even harder than scoring a tie-breaking, game-winning goal – and Nick’s life is about to change dramatically.

 

 

Rebound – It’s 1988. Charlie Bell is still mourning his father and struggling to figure out how he feels for his best friend C J. When he gets into trouble one too many times, he’s packed off to stay with his grandparents for the summer. There his cousin Roxie introduces him the world of basketball and a legend on the courts is born. But can Charlie resist when trouble comes knocking once again? Rebound is a stunning coming-of-age novel in verse about basketball, family and staying true to yourself. A prequel to The Crossover and follow-up to Booked with comic-book illustrations Dawud Anyabwile.

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