Reading Archive

Here’s an archive of our favorite readings and a few multimedia (audio and video) files that can be a great complement in your workshop. All of these strong pieces can work for multiple concepts, so the suggested topic is just a starting point.

An asterisk (*) denotes an author of color. We note this because relevant readings for youth often start by bringing in work by someone who looks like them.

We’d love to include readings that worked with your young authors, too! Send them to us at



An American Childhood by Annie Dillard, excerpt | autobiography, revealing details (content: winter, child vs. adult, joy)

Bastard Out of Carolina” excerpt, by Dorothy Alison | last lines, figurative language (content: families, nature)

The Book Thief (excerpt) by Marcus Zusak | revealing details, mood (content: love, friendship)

The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao (excerpt) by Junot Diaz *| mood, figurative language, revealing details (content: character study, Spanish language, family)

Chips” by Kristina Riggle | tension, revealing details (content: intimate partner abuse, arguments)

Chuckie by Victor LaValle, excerpt * | figurative language, revealing details, tension (content: baseball, bullying, fighting, fear)

Cuba 15″ by Nancy Osa *| mood, revealing details (content: families, Spanish language, coming of age)

“The Dursleys,” excerpt from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling | revealing details (content: boring people, families)

A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor, excerpt | revealing details (content: grandmothers, families, clothing description)

Goodness Grapes” by William Brantley Deep Author | figurative language, tension (content: personification of grapes, violence)

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen, excerpt | tension (content: plane crash, man vs nature)

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (excerpt) | tension (content: police brutality)

The Hunger Games (excerpt) by Suzanne Collins | tension (content: life or death, hard choices)

Hunters in the Snow (excerpt) by Tobias Wolff | revealing details (content: winter, hunting)

Indian Education by Sherman Alexie, excerpt * | form (content: racial trauma, First Nations, bullying, poverty)

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings (excerpt) by Maya Angelou *| revealing details, figurative language (content: families, pride, shame)

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson (excerpt) | revealing details, figurative language (content: family, parents)

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (excerpt) by Jack Gantos | revealing details, mood (content: ADHD, child vs. school)

The Kite Runner by Kahled Hosseini, excerpt * | mood (content: friendship, trust)

Laughter by Sandra Cisneros *, excerpt from House on Mango Street * | form, figurative language (content: family, sisters)

“Leaky Cauldron,” excerpt from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling | revealing details, mood (content: describing a new setting)

The Lottery by Shirley Jackson | tension (content: the mundanity of violence, small town life)

The Metamorphosis” (excerpt) by Franz Kafka | tension, mood, revealing details (content: shock, men turning into GIANT BUGS)

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt, excerpt | revealing details (Savannah, wealth, character)

“My Name,” excerpt from The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros * | autobiography, figurative language (content: names, family history, immigration, Spanish)

“My Daddy’s Face is a Study” and “Flirtatious Dance”, excerpts from The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison * | figurative language (content: family, adults and children, fathers, winter)

The Night Circus by Eren Morgenstern, excerpt | revealing details, mood (content: festivals, dusk, anticipation)

Ninth Ward (excerpt) by Jewell Parker Rhodes | tension (content: bullying, fighting)

“Ole Linconton” by Kennedy Fulton Deep author *| figurative language, revealing details (content: family, countryside)

On Storytelling” by Ira Glass, with audio | quick-draw drafting, revision (content: writing, talent, hard work)

One Day in the Life of Ivan Desinovich (excerpt) by Alexsandr Solzhenitsyn | tension (content: prison abuse, Soviet Russia)

The Orange by Troy Jones, Deep author * | figurative language (content: eating, violence)

Salvador Late or Early” by Sandra Cisneros and “A Typical Family Day” by Da’Jon Morgan *| revealing details (content: poverty, families, joy)

Shooting Stars by Glenn Blake, excerpt | tension (content: family, brothers and sisters, nighttime)

“Sick”, an excerpt from The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison * | mood (content: family, illness)

Skin Im In (excerpt, ch. 3) by Sharon Flake * | mood (content: bullying)

Skin Im In (excerpt, ch. 4) by Sharon Flake *| tension, mood (content: self-love, bullying)

Sorry for Your Loss by Lisa Rubenson | mood, form (content: answering machine messages, grief, love)

Sound of Thunder by Ray Bradbury, excerpt | figurative language, tension (content: scifi, monsters)

Stone Butch Blues (excerpt) by Leslie Feinberg | form, mood, revealing details (content: LGBT, epistolary, longing, memories)

Teenage Horror Story” by Sarah Branson Deep author | tension, revealing details (content: horror, violence)

The Unknown Soldier” by Luc Sante | tension, mood, form (content: death in many forms, list)

White People by Allan Gurganus, excerpt | figurative language, mood (content: family, home, illness)

Wool by Hugh Howey, excerpt | mood, tension (content: approaching disaster, introspection)

“Yet Another Example of the Porousness of Certain Borders (VI),” a story from Brief Interviews with Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace | form (content: family, divorce




1 Dead in the Attic by Chris Rose | journalism/form, mood (content: New Orleans, Katrina, neighborhoods, city history)

Always Go to the Funeral by Diedre Sullivan, with audio | mood, tension (content: family, grief, fathers)

Bird by Bird (excerpt) by Anne Lamott | tone, writing truth, writing brave (content: speaking your truth, coming together through writing)

Finding Your Voice” (excerpt from Bird by Bird) by Anne Lamott | writing truth, writing brave (content: how to write as if your parents aren’t looking)

First Thoughts” by Natalie Goldberg | quick draw drafting (content: loosening up in writing)

Keynote Address, University of the Arts, 2012 by Neil Gaiman, excerpt | quick-draw drafting, revision (content: writing, inspiration)

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris, excerpt | form (content: lisping, children vs adults, school)

My First Conk, excerpt from autobiography by Malcolm X * | autobiography, mood, tension (content: hair, black pride)

The Name They Gave Me by Tasbeeh Herwees * | autobiography, figurative language (content: names, immigration, language justice)

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, excerpt * | form, graphic novel, autobiography (content: revolution, family, youth, religion)

Remembering All the Boys by Elvia Bautista, with audio * | autobiography (content: family, grief, gangs, Mexico)

Snow by Julia Alvarez * | autobiography, revealing details, figurative language (content: immigration, Cold War, language)

Story by Kiara Robertson, Deep author | tension, mood (content: bullying, regret)

Why I Write by Terry Tempest Williams | quick-draw drafting, revision (content: writing, inspiration)

Wild by Cheryl Strayed, excerpt | revealing details, memoir (content: man vs nature, hiking, introspection)

Example author biography by Darian Eason | author bios

Karen Short obituary | revealing details, form (content: a joyful account of a woman’s life)

No One Special: A Black Girl’s Experience in a Youth Detention Center by Trelani Michelle *| mood, writing truth (content: YDCs, trauma)

Pretty” by Katie Makkai | figurative language, mood, revealing details (content: child vs. parent, trauma, self image)

Shitty First Drafts (excerpt from Bird by Bird) by Anne Lamott | revision (content: allowing yourself to write a bad first draft, conquering fear in writing)

“We Regret to Inform You” by Brenda Miller | form (content: epistolary, disappointment explored in the form of rejection letters)




Huffington Post article with links to poems, 2o Young Writers of Color Share Their Favorite Poems

“After the Divorce” by Brian Taylor, Deep author | mood (content: divorce, families)

“At a Station…” by Ezra Pound | form, sentence revision (content: travel)

“At the Galleria Shopping Mall” by Tony Hoagland | mood, tension (content: families, consumerism, America)

Badu interviews Lamar, an erasure” by Camonghne Felix * | form (content: surrealism)

“Becoming Joey” by Paul Gorski, watch it performed here | revealing details, identity, immigration (content: immigration, language justice, names, bullying)

Born Tying Knots” by Samuel Makidemewabe (storyteller) * | form, figurative language (content: youth, description of character)

“The Candy Lady” by Keith F. Miller, Jr. * | form, revealing details (content: poverty, youth, family)

“Chansons Innocentes” by e.e. cummings | mood, tension (content: spring, youth)

Clenched Soul” by Pablo Neruda * | mood (content: love, longing)

“Cornbread” by Silas House | form (content: cooking, family, history)

“Countess P’s Advice for New Girls” by Natasha Trethewey *| form (content: sexism, sex work)

“The Crazy Name You Gave Me” by Tashjadala Norette Anacaryica Mikell, Deep author * | autobiography, figurative language (content: names, family)

“A Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes * | figurative language (content: inspiration, introspection)

“Flounder” by Natasha Trethewey *| form, revealing details (content: biracial, family, identity)

“Genetics” by Jacqueline Woodson * | revealing details (content: family)

“A Girl Like Me” by Angela Johnson * and Women by May Swenson | form (content: sexism, introspection, inspiration)

“The Glass” by Sharon Olds | figurative language, mood (content: families, illness, fathers)

“Grass” by Carl Sandburg | figurative language (content: war, violence, nature)

Hatteras Calling” by Conrad Aiken (a local Savannah poet) | tension (content: nature, storms, man vs nature)

“Home Court” by José Olivarez * | figurative language, tension, (content: basketball, grief, friendship, fathers)

I Go Back to May 1937″ by Sharon Olds, with audio | mood (content: families, history, family conflict)

If I Tell You” by Vickie M. Ortiz Vazquez * | autobiography, revealing details (content: race, stereotypes)

“Just Thick” by Bree LeVine-DeSpain * | autobiography, revealing details, figurative language (content: food, body positivity, Southern lives)

“Kasonya” by CaSonya Johnson, Deep author * | autobiography, revision: story-level (content: families, mothers, names)

“Late For School” by Yasmaine Semaj Simmons, Deep author  | tension (content: families, mothers)

“Life is Hard” by Edward Fox, Deep author | figurative language (content: struggle, self-worth)

“Lonely Chestnut Chair” by Chloe Anderson, Deep author  | figurative language (content: families, houses)

“Mother to Son” by Langston Hughes * | figurative language (content: families, mothers, struggle)

“My Brother, The Artist, At Seven” by Philip Levine | form (content: immigration, families, youth)

“My Street” by Andrea Walker, Deep author | revealing details, figurative language (content: families, environment)

“Nobody Trusts Silence” by Nikki Giovanni * | form, mood (content: society)

“not an elegy for Mike Brown” by Danez Smith * | tension, (content: Black Lives Matter movement, race, grief)

“Oranges” by Gary Soto | form, mood (content: love)

“A Small Needful Fact” by Ross Gay (poem about Eric Garner) * | revealing details, tension, last lines, (content: Black Lives Matter movement, grief)

“The Secret Garden in the Hood” by Danez Smith| figurative language, mood (content: gun violence, metamorphosis of bodies, child death)

“Shirt” by Robert Pinsky | mood, tension (content: labor, global economy, history)

“Sisterhood” by Jena McNutt, Deep author | form (dictionary entry), family (content: family, sisters)

“Sizeless” by Chanelle Bergeron, Deep writing fellow | figurative language, autobiography, revealing details, nature (content: introspection, identity)

“Speak” by Faiz Ahmed Faiz * | tension (content: revolution, bravery, voice)

Strange Fruit” by Abel Meeropol | mood, (content: racial violence, racial trauma, death)

“Summertime” by Jericho Brown * | form, revealing details

“Theme for English B” by Langston Hughes *, with lesson ideas | autobiography, tension (content: race, privilege)

“To a Poor Old Woman” by William Carlos Williams | form, line breaks (content: age, poverty, food)

“To Make a Poem in Prison” by Etheridge Knight * with audio (read by the poet, whose voice is electrifying) | mood (content: prison, writing)

“Two Big Cupcakes” by Teaysia Biggins, Deep author * | figurative language (content: kissing)

“Valentine for Ernest Mann” by Naomi Shihab Nye * | figurative language (content: the concept of poetry, the idea of beauty and/or love)

“Weight on Weight” by D’erea Johnson, Deep author * | figurative language (content: family, struggle)

“What the Dog Perhaps Hears” by Lisel Mueller | mood, tension (content: dogs, hidden things)

“When I Saw Halmoni Folding Clothes” by Hae-Jin Scott, Deep author * | figurative language, mood (content: family, work)

When the Burning Begins” by Patricia Smith * with audio (read beautifully by the spoken word poet herself) | mood, tension (content: family, food, family traditions)

Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon | autobiography, revealing details, audio of poet reading available here (content: family, identity)

Where I’m From” by Natasia Banner *, Deep author | autobiography, revealing details (content: family, community)

“Where I’m From” by various Deep authors * | autobiography, revealing details (content, family, community)

“Who Knows If The Moon’s” by e.e. cummings | form, mood (content: surrealism, love)

won’t you celebrate with me” by Lucille Clifton * | form (content: identity, pride)

“Burma” by Yuan Aung* Deep author | mood, revealing details (content: pride, identity)

Canela” by Naomi Reyes* Deep author | mood, revealing details (content: pride, identity, food heritage, immigrant experience, Spanish language)

“I Will Be Chosen” by Ramesh Kathanadhi *| form, multigenre, tension (content: bullying, sports, school, pride, contains art)

“Raised By Women” by Kelly Norman Ellis *| form, revealing details (content: family, celebration of home life, feminism)

Recipe poem examples | form, revealing details (content: identity)

“Shoulders” by Naomi Shihab Nye *| mood, revealing details, figurative language (content: fathers and sons, gentleness)

Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou *| form, mood, figurative language (content: pride, overcoming racism)

“Sure You Can Ask Me a Personal Question” by Diane Burns *| form (content: First Nations, racism)

Example author biography by Darian Eason

“When Death Comes – A Poem” by Mary Oliver | mood, figurative language (content: imagining death, living life)

“Evolution of my Block” by Jacob Saenz *| revealing details (content: gangs, coming of age, home)

Global Warming Blues” and “Sunday” by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie *| form, mood (content: climate change, blues music, family)

“Masters in China” by Priscilla Ahn *| figurative language (content: describing a loved one)

“Prayer for the Starlight Campers” by Alexis Orgera | form, mood (content: a Goodnight Moon for the world)

Raised by Men” by Erin DeYoung | form, revealing details (content: a “Raised By” poem, sexism)

“Sick” by Shel Silverstein | form, revealing details (content: a list of maladies, staying home from school)

“The Shipfitter’s Wife” by Dorianne Laux | mood, revealing details, figurative language (content: ways to show love, hard labor)

“This is Just to Say” by William Carlos Williams | form, revealing details (content: brevity, love)

“When 12 Play Was on Repeat” by Mahagony L Browne * | form, revealing details, tension (content: teenage sexuality, coming of age)

“Want” by Joan Larkin | form, revealing details (content: LGBT, loving someone different from you)

Excerpt from the Iliad (attributed to Homer) | form, figurative language (content: grief, mourning, revenge)

“White Lies” by Natasha Trethewey | revealing details, mood (content: racism, identity)

“The Guild” and “Grandmother Love Poem” by Sharon Olds | mood, revealing details (content: opposing poems on age, what we pass down, and vitality)

Spoken Word

“Switch” by Carvens Lissaint and Cynthia Ceez Keteku * | form, tension (content: LGBT, homophobia, death, being Black and queer)

“I Am NOT Black You are NOT White” by Prince Ea * (with words) | form, figurative language (content: labels, identity, race, society)

“Pass On” by Michael Lee (with words)| form, figurative language, (content: death, grief, life)

“Three Ways to Speak English” by Jamila Lyiscott  * (with words)| form (content: home languages, language justice)

“Totally Like Whatever, You Know” by Taylor Mali (with words)|form (content: confidence, voice)

“Like Totally Whatever” by Melissa Lozada-Oliva (response to Mali) *| form, revealing details, figurative language (content: confidence, sexism, feminism)

“Only One Me” by Sean Mauricette (with words, no video)| form, tension (content: bullying, pride)

“Dear Straight People” by Denise Frohman * | form, tension, figurative language (content: LGBT, pride, homophobia)

“Birthday” by Andrea Gibson | form, figurative language (content: LGBT, coming of age, the beauty of humanity)

“Accents” by Denise Frohman * (text here)|form, revealing details (content: immigrant experience, families, Spanish language)

“No Child Left Behind” by Denise Frohman * and Dominique Christina * (words here) | form, tension (content: problems with the school system, oppression)

“‘cuz he’s black'” by Javon Johnson * (text here)| form, tension (content: police brutality)

“OCD” by Neil Hilborn (text here) | form, mood (content: mental illness, lost love)

“I-M-A-N-I” by the Baton Rouge slam team (text here) | form, getting to know you (content: names others see as difficult, pride)

“Whale” by the Boston slam team (text here) | form, figurative language (content: bullying, body-shaming, self-acceptance)

“Ode to Soulja Boy” by the Baton Rouge slam team (text here) | form (content: a prayer to Soulja Boy, a celebration of coming-of-age)

“N-400” by Yujane (text here) | form (content: a spoken erasure poem, immigration, belonging)

“America’s Next Top Model” by the Chicago slam team (text here) | form, figurative language (content: racism, violence)


(Help us expand this section! Send us your suggestions at

Dinnertime Scene by Abria Springfield (Deep author) * | form, dialogue, (content: family)

Topdog/Underdog excerpt by Suzan Lori Parks *| form, dialogue (content: family, power)

Peer Gynt (excerpt) by Henrik Ibsen | form, dialogue, revealing details, tension (content: hunting, adventure, family)

Hurt Village (excerpt) by Katori Hall *  | form, dialogue (content: poverty, family life, trying to get ahead)


Ms. Marvel (excerpt) by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona | form (content: Muslim America, family life, feeling different)


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