Want to learn more about race in America? This book list will help

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For 17 years, John Brennan has been working to spur community conversations about race, racial and social injustice, and addressing systemic racism.

It's what prompted Brennan to start the Suburban Mosaic Book of the Year program. Each year, participants from member schools and libraries choose age-appropriate books for the coming year from preschool through adult titles. Selected books have included stories about the problems Black Americans face, childhood illness, disabilities, foster care, gender identity, "fitting in" and bullying of children, climate change, and sex-trafficking.

"We have put forward the problems faced by immigrants and refugees, discrimination against people of Islamic faith, and those of Asian and Hispanic heritage, poverty, homelessness and hate crimes," said Brennan, of Mount Prospect, a retired Catholic priest.

This year's titles were chosen by the group of volunteers before the pivotal May 25 murder of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking nationwide Black Lives Matter protests, rallies and riots.

"An awakening of white Americans and their subsequent actions regarding racism in our country could be a turning point in our history of race relations," Brennan said. "We actually have kind of preempted this big discussion that is going on throughout the nation in many schools, churches and many communities."

Books on race

This year's Suburban Mosaic Book of the Year reading list includes these titles: Preschool-first grade, "The Remember Balloons" by Jessie Oliveros; second-third grades, "Turning Pages: My Life Story" by Sonia Sotomayor; fourth-fifth grades, "The Boy at the Back of the Class" by Onjali Q. Rauf; middle school, "It Wasn't Me" by Dana Alison Levy; high school, "Internment" by Samira Ahmed; and adult, "So You Want to Talk About Race" by Ijeoma Oluo.

COVID-19 rental aid

Cook County residents can apply for the COVID-19 Recovery Rental Assistance program through 4 p.m. Monday.

The $20 million program's deadline was extended due to recent storms that left residents in some parts of the county without power, internet and other vital services.

Applicants could receive up to three months of rental assistance. Payments will be made directly to landlords on behalf of tenants. Funding is available by lottery to renter households with incomes under 80% of the area median income who have unpaid rent balances charged during the pandemic. Per the county's equitable distribution model, 25% of the funding is targeted to help residents in the hardest-hit communities.

To review eligibility and apply for rental assistance visit cookcountyil.gov/recovery. Applications are available in several languages, including Spanish, Polish, Russian, Korean, Chinese, Arabic, and Hindi.