Why Hope Matters
By Dr. Rose Brock
During our formative years, we truly can learn a great deal about ourselves. It was in fifth grade that I had a revelation—I suddenly knew I wanted to be a teacher. I loved everything about the classroom environment (especially the sense of connection and learning), but I also realized that if I became a teacher and commander of the classroom, for the first time, I would be able to talk as much as I wanted. I was that kid that each report card cycle got the “Talks too much” code on her report card. Sharing often and possibly loudly was the way I operated (especially in any English Language Arts classes), and many years later, I’m not convinced I’ve changed much. As a lifelong educator (this is my 27th year teaching), making connections to others by talking about and celebrating books is an essential part of who I am. This brings me to this post and my new book, Hope Wins: A Collection of Inspiring Stories for Young Readers (Penguin, 2022). I’ll get to what it is soon, but I’ll begin with why it happened and why it matters.
For the two decades I worked as an eighth grade ELA teacher and a middle school librarian, there were so many times I wanted to find a way to help my students feel connected to others and less alone, because life can be really hard and isolating at times. Because it’s what worked for me, I tried to do that through books. No, I don’t believe a novel will solve all the world’s ills, but I do know that through the sharing of stories, we have the ability to help readers see others and to be seen in return; I can’t think of a better way to capture and share the human condition.
Fiction often does this for us organically, and it’s where I’m regularly drawn as a reader, but from those twenty years working in public schools, I also learned the power of sharing nonfiction with young people. In addition to the many celebrated novels in both my classroom library and school library, sometimes my students were looking for inspiring stories that were true. In the earlier years of my career, I often turned to books like Chicken Soup for the Soul (HCA, 1993) to encourage them. While I’m still not sure just how “real” those books were, they were important and inspirational to many. What I learned from those collections was that books that are filled with real life experiences and shared lessons have an opportunity to make a profound difference to a young reader.
My newest anthology, Hope Wins, just published (5/10/22), and it’s my hope it will do just that—make a profound difference to a young reader. My Hope Wins and Hope Nation (Penguin Random House, 2018) anthologies are what I call “Projects for Good” because besides sharing personal stories from beloved MG and YA writers, they benefit organizations and charities that I believe matter. As an educator, Hope Wins is the book I wish had existed over the years to give to the young people in my life that were struggling. It tells them, “You can do this. You are strong. You are capable. You are enough. You can hang your heart on hope.”
Since the publication of Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration (a YA anthology) four years ago, teachers and librarians have generously told me how much they personally loved that collection, but how they wished there was one for the younger students with whom they work. Between these requests and knowing the difficulties faced by young people these past two-plus years due to the pandemic (and let’s face it—just life), this seemed to be the right time to collect more stories by authors young people admire. Hope Wins is technically a collection of inspiring stories for young readers, but I would argue it’s a book for all readers who need a shot of hope, regardless of age.
From stories about how to survive feeling like an outcast (selections by authors Adam Gidwitz and Tom Angleberger), or what to do when your parents embarrass you (by Max Brallier), or how to smartly battle bullies (by Pam Muñoz Ryan), or what you can do when forced to deal with loss and grief (by Stuart Gibbs), or how to find your life’s inspiration (by Gordon Korman, Janae Marks, and Soman Chainani), and even considering what are the most important lessons that can be learned from working in your family’s restaurant (by Christina Soontornvat), this treasure trove of shared experiences also includes heartfelt and inspiring pieces by James Bird, Julie Buxbaum, Pablo Cartaya, J.C. Cervantes, Matt de la Peña, Karina Yan Glaser, Veera Hiranandani, Hena Khan, Sarah Mlynowski, Rex Ogle, James Ponti, Ronald L. Smith, and R.L. Stine. I hope this collection will inspire readers and remind them to keep going and teach them that even in the darkest of times, hope can win.
To watch the author contributors share their definition of hope, go to: https://www.teachingbooks.net/qlzmb86.
Text and images are courtesy of Rose Brock and may not be used without express written consent.