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Hoping to Get Out Soon: Student Book Review of Tyrell, by Coe Booth

This was the first book I read all by myself.  Books used to be boring to me and I only read school books and didn’t pay close attention, but now I like reading more and more.  Writing this might not make sense, but I’m not here to impress anyone.  I know I’m not the best reader ‘cause I barely started reading. Sometimes I can’t read/pronounce a word, but it’s all good.  I’m kinda similar to Tyrell ‘cause I’m living with relatives who are working two jobs and things are always hard, but I know things are gonna be alright.  I’m gonna get out of [this facility] where I’ve learned to change my thoughts and my ways.  Others say they’ll change when they get out, but they’re always talking about drugs and crime.  I’ve been clean for 6 months and I feel proud ‘cause I finally understand drugs ain’t good for me. Hoping to get out soon-Edgar, Student Participant, Unbound Readathon 2017

This book review of Coe Booth’s novel, Tryell, is one of dozens of book reviews written by students who participated in Unbound, our annual readathon for schools in secure juvenile facilities.  This year 70 schools and more than 2,900 students participated in Unbound. Sponsored by our partner, Scholastic, Unbound celebrates reading and encourages students who are locked up to explore worlds, and ideas, and people far beyond the walls of the detention and youth correctional centers where they are confined.

Four schools--CAPE Detention (Arizona), Okeechobee Girls Academy/Cypress School (Florida), Riverbend Treatment Center (Missouri), and McLaughlin Youth Detention Center (Alaska)--took home first place prizes this year, based on the number of minutes students read over the course of the month-long readathon. You can see all the winners and read more about Unbound here.  Congratulations to these schools--and the students, teachers and secure care staff, who supported students reading at all hours of the day and night.

We added a number of new features to the readathon this year, designed to increase engagement and interaction between the schools. These included a weekly podcast featuring quizzes about literature and live weekly drawings on Youtube to pick the winners. Congratulations to Mat-Su Secondary School, Delmina Woods, Winsor Academy, and Eckerd Youth Challenge Academy for winning our weekly trivia contests.

Unbound offers students--many of whom have been reluctant readers--the chance to read without fear of failing or being laughed at, to imagine and explore, and to dream and aspire. This year we asked teachers to share with us nominees for students who overcame great hurdles to find success reading through Unbound. Out of all the nominations, we selected four winners. Click here to read what teachers had to say about our Most Inspiring Readers from this year.

Unbound wouldn’t be possible without great teachers who make the readathon happen in their sites. This year Hope Sheppard, from the Okeechobee Girls Academy in Florida, won our Above and Beyond Teacher Award for all of her hard work. She inspired who students to leap from 30th place last year to 1st place this year. Congratulations, Hope.

Lastly, we started this readathon with a photo contest. Teachers were asked to submit a photo of their students opening the books from Scholastic. Please enjoy a montage of those entries below.

Announcing Words Unlocked 2017-

In the spirit of National Poetry Month (April), and in an effort to encourage literary exploration by young people held in locked juvenile facilities, we are proud to announce that we will be running our month-long poetry writing initiative and competition, Words Unlocked, again this year.

Our theme for 2017 is Authenticity. Authenticity is commonly referred to as "being real" and being truly authentic requires a genuine sharing of our inner selves, irrespective of the consequences. Very often, our actions in a given moment do not always reflect our authentic selves because we alter or mitigate our behavior to avoid certain consequences.

Being inauthentic can constrain our growth and self-esteem, while being authentic requires us to care enough to ensure that our words and actions reflect our intention. Through Words Unlocked we hope to encourage young people held in locked facilities to explore this theme and voice their truths about authenticity.

All materials for Words Unlocked 2017 is at our Words Unlocked website, effective Monday, March 6th. The website will house a robust set of tools available for public use: daily lesson plans and teacher-ready classroom materials. Please share this information with anyone and everyone you know who might help get these materials to teachers working with incarcerated youth. We hope to have thousands of students participating starting on April 1st.

Far too many young people are locked up around the country. Through this initiative, we continue to ensure that their words are not.

Click here to sign-up for Words Unlocked updates.

Copyright © 2017 Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings, All rights reserved.