As a young child with Lupus and arthritis, Montgomery Jones of Denver discovered the power of books. Within their pages she could find an escape, a lesson, and a new character to try on. Now, she feels indebted to books and dedicates her time to studying them, then spreading their good word.
Jones served as a literacy coordinator for City Year Denver, an AmeriCorps program, and has brought Project Lit Book Club, a grassroots organization increasing access to culturally relevant books, to Compass Academy and Denver Discovery School. She heads up a Well-Read Black Girl Club at Denver’s Second Star to the Right Bookstore.
“I think it’s just as important for kids with marginalized identities to see themselves [in books] as it is for kids that are white, cisgender, heterosexual, Christian—those kids that often see themselves in books—to read about different identities and understand that everyone is different, and learn about the beauties in the differences we all have,” says Jones.
Jones spoke to Colorado Parent about the club, the importance of books, and ways for families to share a love of reading.
Tell us about the book club.
[Well-Read Black Girl Club] is intended for adults, but since it’s [hosted by] a children’s bookstore, we sometimes read young adult books. We have had a 12-year-old girl attend with her mom, all the way up to women in the 60s and 70s. At least half of the people that have come have been parents themselves, and many of them have discussed how a story relates back to their identity as a parent and raising a child in this current climate. Non-black allies are more than welcome to come.
I think Well-Read Black Girl holds the publishing industry to accountability. We need these books. We need them published, and we will celebrate them. I just hope that any adults in a book club then spread the joy of reading about marginalized identities to children.
What are some other ways families can join in?
Try [volunteering with] Reading Partners Colorado, I love them and what they are doing for the community. I also run the @BookFairiesColorado Instagram page. We book fairies hide books in our communities for other people to find. If there are any potential new fairies or mini-fairies who would like to hide books for fellow Coloradans, you can reach out and I will feature your book drops.
What’s next for you?
I would love to work as a school librarian; that would be long-term. I’ve noticed in the schools I’ve worked at in the last five, six years that the position has been diluted because in education a lot of things are being cut back. I would love to be the librarian I had as a child where they know me, they know what I’m trying to do for school, and they can pick out the perfect book for me. Doing that, I’d also have in my personal repertoire of books about different kinds of children—every spectrum from kids of varying sexualities, races, nationalities, religions.
It’s important to stress the importance of reading, especially for children, because it creates well-rounded and empathetic adults later on. That’s one part. The other part is you have to be willing to educate yourself and find those books to give your children, that’s a big part of being a well-rounded and caring soul throughout your whole life, childhood into adulthood.
Must-Read Books for Wise, Young Minds
Check out a few of Montgomery Jones’ favorite book recommendations for children, tweens, and teens.
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Maybe He Just Likes You by Barbara Dee
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
George by Alex Gino
The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag
Pet by Akwaeke Emezi
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi; illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
New Kid by Jerry Craft
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Stand Up, Yumi Chung! by Jessica Kim
Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez