A good book has the power to transport us to new places, stir our senses and inspire our dreams. For young adults, embarking on a literary journey with a character they can relate to can be affirming, engaging and life changing.
This was the case for Teddy, a 2020 graduate of Osseo Area Learning Center. When trying to help Teddy find a choice reading novel, his English teacher, Emily Bollinger, gave him a copy of the book “Dear Martin” by author Nic Stone. That’s when everything changed.
“We had incredible conversations about how he saw himself in the book, how he could connect to some of the tough stuff within its pages,” Bollinger said. “He explicitly called out the importance of representation and thanked another teacher for introducing him to ‘books with black people’ in ninth grade.”
Sensing there was something special here, Bollinger emailed Penguin Random House Publishing and author Stone asking for an advanced reader’s copy of her next book, “Dear Justyce.” A week later, Cathy at Penguin Random House came through.
“I wish I could have filmed my student’s reaction to seeing the book. It was beautiful,” Bollinger relayed to the author.
When Teddy finished his advanced copy of “Dear Justyce” in May, Bollinger encouraged him to share his thoughts with Stone directly. Here’s an excerpt of that message:
“I wanted to take the time to thank you and tell you how amazing your books were… Quan is an inspiration to a lot of kids like me. Quan showed me that just because I went down the wrong road doesn’t mean I can’t turn around on the next one. He never stopped fighting; he got his diploma and got out of jail. Today, I am working on my diploma and am only a few credits away. Just like Quan, I won’t stop until I have it. Thank you, Nic Stone, for sharing these amazing stories with me; they touched my heart and showed me a little more of the world we live in. I can’t wait for the next book!”
This partnership between OALC and Penguin Random House would not have been possible without the dedication of mission-driven staff and an author who recognized just how impactful her words and characters could be for young adults.
As Bollinger summed up, “I love my job.”
Photo: Teddy, a 2020 graduate of Osseo Area Learning Center, embarked on a powerful literary journey last spring, thanks to his English teacher, Emily Bollinger. Photo by Park Center Senior High Counselor Dan Nguyen.