Boost your student’s reading proficiency with Tina Wells’ ‘Honest June’ trilogy and more

Mixing life lessons with entertainment, Black children’s authors like Tina Wells create meaningful books that can positively impact reading proficiency scores. 

After weathering long lines at uniform and office supply stores, many parents and students are now easing into the school year. While back-to-school shopping may have been intense, it still pales in comparison to the primary question on most parents’ minds: Is their child receiving a quality education?

For many Black children, the response to that question depends on numerous factors, including funding, disciplinary policies and staffing. Predominantly Black school districts receive $23 billion less than their white counterparts, according to a 2019 report. Significantly less funding, in addition to a lack of diversity in school personnel, disproportionately high suspension and expulsion rates, and lower salaries for teachers, contribute to the widening learning gap. 

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Images: Penguin Random House

These circumstances routinely lead to Black students performing lower in school, especially in math and reading. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading report, Black eighth-grade students had the lowest percentage of scores at or above the NAEP proficient level in 2022, at only 16%. Fourth-grade Black students also had the lowest percentage at or above the proficient level, at only 17%.

Despite the external factors, parents can help improve their children’s proficiency scores by encouraging more reading at home. Several studies show that increased exposure to literary materials at home benefits children who may perform lower. Parents can take control of their children’s futures by being intentional about reading at home. 

Diversifying the literary world creates the perfect foundation for positive literary reinforcements. Tina Wells is one of many Black authors creating stories for children of color that are fun and relatable. 

“[Reading] shouldn’t be a chore,” Wells told theGrio. “It’s really important for books to take especially tweens [and] younger readers on journeys where they can just escape for a little bit, get into a story, really experience it, and have some fun.”

The serial author released the third and final installment of her middle-aged children’s book trilogy “Honest June” in April. “Honest June: Secrets and Spies” follows middle-schooler June Jackson, who is under a truth-telling spell as she navigates friendship, first love, and the fallout from a newly discovered family secret. 

Like most tweens, June is navigating pivotal life moments while working to identify who she wants to be. It is a stage where children are highly impressionable and need strong guidance. In her writing, Wells strives to ground her characters in values and teach readers lessons. She believes creating content that is entertaining and full of advice is her responsibility as a creative.

“I like to write books that have lessons in them but aren’t heavy-handed,” Wells explained. “I think you have to give [children both] the entertainment and the fun. I always said, as a writer for middle grade, I want parents to feel safe with their children [reading] my books.”

Wells also wants young readers to feel seen and represented in her books. Whether the detail is as small as a main character wearing glasses or as large as anxiety and mental wellness, she aims to normalize different situations in her novels. Her goal with each book is to connect with children, especially those of color. 

“It’s incredibly important because we’re losing too many babies,” Wells said. “They exist in a world where they can write thoughts and communicate in ways that sometimes the people closest to them aren’t aware [of]. We have to normalize it. We have to make it a conversation.”

Looking for other Black children’s authors to enhance your children’s reading skills while exciting their imaginations? Check out the following authors:

Paula Chase

Kereen Getten

J. Dillard

Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

Nic Stone

B. B. Alston

Barbara Binns

David Barclay Moore

Jason Reynolds

Jacqueline Woodson

Kayla Grant

Kayla Grant is a multimedia journalist with bylines in Business Insider, Shondaland, Oz Magazine, Prism, Rolling Out and more. She writes about culture, books and entertainment news. Follow her on Twitter: @TheKaylaGrant  

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