Poetry Friday: brown girl dreaming

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

In this deeply moving collection of semi-autobiographical poems, award-winning author and poet Jacqueline Woodson reflects on her childhood as a Southern-born, New York-raised African American girl in 1960s and 1970s America.

While every passage is memorable and moving in its own way, as a librarian and educator, I found stevie and me particularly poignant.


stevie and me

Every Monday, my mother takes us

to the library around the corner. We are allowed

to take out seven books each. On those days,

no one complains

that all I want are picture books.

Those days, no one tells me to read faster

to read harder books

to read like Dell.

No one is there to say, Not that book,

when I stop in front of the small paperback

with a brown boy on the cover.


I read:

One day my momma told me,

“You know you’re gonna have

a little friend come stay with you.”

And I said, “Who is it?”

If someone had been fussing with me

to read like my sister, I might have missed

the picture book filled with brown people, more

brown people than I’d ever seen

in a book before.

The little boy’s name was Steven but

his mother kept calling him Stevie.

My name is Robert but my momma don’t

call me Robertie.

If someone had taken

that book out of my hand

said, You’re too old for this


I’d never have believed

that someone who looked like me

could be in the pages of the book

that someone who looked like me

had a story.

We need libraries. We need diverse books. We need to look beyond reading levels and lexiles and strive to connect young readers with books that speak to them, motivate them, and inspire them.

We need to do more, because our kids deserve nothing less.

Woodson, Jacqueline. Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014. Print. Pages 227-228.

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  • Reply lindabaie

    The more we can have, the better for every child. This book is wonderful, I agree, Jane. Thanks for sharing Stevie.

    November 4, 2016 at 1:01 pm
    • Reply janekwhittingham@gmail.com

      Isn’t it just wonderful? So glad to be a part of a community that’s working so hard to connect kids with meaningful books.

      November 6, 2016 at 8:28 pm
  • Reply Linda Mitchell

    I just want to say Amen…..because I read your post as a prayer. Yes! So glad to share this profession with you. And, Brown Girl Dreaming is absolutely stunning in so many ways. Getting to meet Jackie Woodson — or just hearing her speak– is on my bucket list!
    Have a great week.

    November 4, 2016 at 2:17 pm
    • Reply janekwhittingham@gmail.com

      Yes! Such a fantastic book, but such a talented, passionate poet and author. Great reminders for when the going gets tough and we wonder if we’re actually making a real difference – because we are, even if it’s just one child at a time.

      November 6, 2016 at 8:30 pm
  • Reply jama

    Hear, hear! More diverse books and no adult-imposed restrictions about what is age appropriate for any reader. BGD is one of my all-time faves, so nice to read stevie and me again.

    November 4, 2016 at 3:05 pm
    • Reply Jane

      YES! I’m so glad that I grew up with completely supportive parents who trusted me to pick books that were right for me. I’m all for providing suggestions and guidance when appropriate, but in the end, different people have different needs at different times in their lives, and we should always respect that.

      November 7, 2016 at 7:34 am
  • Reply Violet Nesdoly

    I recently read BGD too, and enjoyed it thoroughly. What a pivotal moment she experienced–in a library. What a great place to work, Jane.

    November 4, 2016 at 7:56 pm
    • Reply Jane

      It really is! Being able to support children and families can be challenging, but always so rewarding and inspiring.

      November 8, 2016 at 11:10 pm
  • Reply dmayr

    Yay for libraries and yay for any book that can make a difference in a child’s life.

    November 5, 2016 at 8:11 am
  • Reply Brenda Davis Harsham

    So true, and I love Brown Girl Dreaming. Each of us have a voice and a purpose we are meant to find. A library is like a puzzle, and everyone finds a different picture when they put the pieces together for themselves.

    November 5, 2016 at 8:58 am
  • Reply Laura Purdie Salas

    Love this poem! Not only its message of diversity, but of reading choice, too!

    November 5, 2016 at 1:05 pm
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