Getting The Most Out of Your Summer Reading

Getting The Most Out of Your Summer Reading


Join the fight against extreme poverty

Shani Gilchrist is a member of ONE’s Girls and Women’s Advisory board and an avid reader and organizer of book groups. We asked her to tell us what’s on her reading list this summer and she came up with this powerful list of books that are sure to ignite your passions and move you to action. 

In just a couple of weeks kids across the United States will be rejoicing at the end of the school year, while parents across the United States will be in the throes of adjusting to the summer routine. Vacations have been planned and we’re all hoping to hear the words “I’m bored!” as little as possible. In lieu of all that, we grownups will do anything we can for a few moments of solitude with a book and some quiet. For me, it’s the ultimate summer luxury when I can sit on a porch or in a beach chair with a book while the kids play or are sprawled out around me. In hopes that you’ll be able to steal some moments yourself this summer, I’ve put a list together that includes favorite books I’ve read or plan to read, as well as some for the kids.

With all the advocacy work that the ONE Campaign leads and facilitates, one of my favorite factors is that ONE helps people to peer into the dark and light within the soul of humanity, both in the United States and abroad. In this way, the organization personalizes the need for humanitarian aid, for awareness of what “extreme poverty” really means, and the importance of the power of women and girls.

The books on the list below also offer opportunities to learn about and feel the complexity of the human spirit and how that is affected when a basic need is missing. Some of the books even offer suggestions for ways in which we can all make the world a safer and happier place to live. Happy summer reading!

Reading for Grownups

A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity, Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

The art and science of giving are placed in the spotlight in this book by New York Times columnist Nick Kristof and his Wonder Woman wife, Sheryl WuDunn (her many titles include finance executive, writer, journalist, and lecturer). If anyone has ever wondered if their contributions to help those in need can make a difference, this is the book to read. In this text, the husband-wife team gives practical advice for traditional and creative giving, showing that we all have a skill or talent within us that shines brighter when used in the service of others.

The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson.

Released at the beginning of May, Nelson’s genre-bending memoir has had bibliophile trendsetters whispering for months. This is a love story, of sorts, but Nelson also takes on the tone of a public intellectual while holding personal experience up to the light of what social scientists and theorists have said about gender, sexuality, and marriage, and bringing up children.

Breath, Eyes, Memory, Edwidge Danticat. First published in 1994. Reprint coming in Feb. 2015.

At the age of 25, Danticat’s debut novel caused ripples as she told the story of 12-year-old Sophie Caco, sent from her home in Haiti to New York to be reunited with her mother. As Sophie matures, we see a harrowing battle within her core, which both contrasts and parallels the battle her mother has faced since Sophie was conceived. The story deals with gender roles and identity, political turmoil, psychological turmoil, and the dizzying experience of displacement felt by many immigrants.

Girls at War, Chinua Achebe.

I have a confession to make. Chinua Achebe’s Girls At War was supposed to be the inaugural book for a sort of online book club I tried to put together with some brilliant, altruistic, beautiful women I met at the ONE Campaign’s AYA Summit. The lesson I learned was that it’s not a great idea to start a book club at the height of cold and flu season. I dropped the ball. But despite the fact that we never congregated via Google Hangouts to talk about the book, we all read it and were all moved by the twelve stories depicting the impact contemporary political and social issues had on everyday life in Nigeria during the 20th century.

Searching For Zion, Emily Raboteau.

Emily Raboteau’s Searching For Zion was given to me in April when I was at a writer’s conference. “I really think you need to read this,” the woman said as she placed it into my hands. I was leaving the convention floor to head to the airport to fly home. Once I was settled in on the plane I opened the book. I think I was wiping tears away before we even backed away from the gate. Raboteau’s memoir about her search for her literal and figurative home hits that hard that The reader is taken from Jerusalem to New York, and then to Jamaica, Ethiopia, and Ghana as the biracial author spends her twenties and early thirties finding her place in a post-September 11th world.

SearchingZion_PB1 (1)

Reading for kids

A is for Activist, Innosanto Nagara.

If you’ve ever wondered how to teach a child about modern activism and the call for equality, this book is a fun and easy starting point. As my boys get older and more free (ahem) with their opinions, I’ve been looking for ways to share ideas of active, involved citizenship with them. A is for Activist was a huge hit with my 4-year-old. The board book is written with a powerful cadence that goes right along with his busy superhero personality.

All The WorldLiz Garton Scanlon.

For me, this is one of those children’s books that brings forth a nostalgic sigh. I bought it when my oldest son was 3-years-old, and on rainy days we’d often curl up in a rocking chair together and read it two or three times in a row. The story follows a group of people around a beach vacation. As the day goes along we see the value of nature as well as the importance of family—those who share blood relations and those whom we pick up along the way.


Give A GoatJan West Schrock.

This is the perfect book for kids who love farm animals when a parent is looking for ways to introduce the philanthropic and altruistic ideas. The proceeds from the book go to Heifer International, a nonprofit organization that works to eradicate extreme poverty through sustainable, values-based holistic community development. Give A Goat tells of a 5th grade class that raised money to send animals to an African village after becoming inspired by a book called Beatrice’s Goat. The book shows how small hands can make a big difference across the world.

Prince Siddhartha: The Story of BuddhaJonathan Landaw.

I brought Prince Siddhartha home a couple of weeks ago after my oldest son spent an afternoon doing some random, self-imposed studying. This isn’t normally the way our afternoons go. His topics ranged from Britain’s Prime Minister, David Cameron (I have no idea what led an 8-year-old to look up British politics!), to the organic grocery store in our neighborhood.Then there was one where he’d scrawled Every living being has the same basic wish to be happy and to avoid suffering. Apparently Jr had found some information about Buddha on his search. Prince Siddhartha is broken up into short, kid-friendly chapters about the boy who grew up to be the great sage and teacher we know as Buddha.

Rad American Women A – Z , Kate Schatz.

This book, put plainly, is totally rad. I didn’t think my kids would do backflips over this, but I was wrong. My supercharged 4-year-old now finds ways to insert the word rad into every sentence, and sometimes he’ll ask me to read “A is for Angela [Davis]” twice in a row. The entry on Rachel Carson was a bit hit with my oldest, whose love of science and the environment has recently started to blossom.

Rad American Women


What books would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments.

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