New Books For New Readers

Newsweek called KH's New Books level-headed and honest and nothing a young person couldn't stand to know, December 1990


Kentucky Humanities's award-winning New Books for New Readers is a series of books written at the 4th grade reading level for adult literacy students. The 64-page books are written by scholars with the help of literacy students and their tutors, and cover topics in Kentucky history, literature, and folklore. Some also appeal to elementary school students. The titles are are written with a simplicity of sentence and language but with a complexity of vision. Experienced readers find the topics so interesting that they do not notice that the text is 4th grade level. For a complete story of New Books for New Readers, click here.

25th Anniversary of Heartwood

Nikky Finney’s Heartwood, the “tiny little book about the human heart and what it can do,” was first released by the University Press of Kentucky 25 years ago as part of Kentucky Humanities’ New Books for New Readers, a series designed for adult literacy students. In this expanded anniversary edition, with a new preface by Finney, readers will find lessons about life and understanding, and the encouragement to live audaciously while acknowledging the goodness that is all around us—if we only strive to recognize and embrace it.

You can purchase Heartwood at


Discussion questions and answers are available for eight of the New Books for New Readers. Simply click on the book below to download the discussion questions for that book. For the answer key, you may email Kathleen Pool at

by Nancy Disher Baird


From the 1833 cholera epidemic and the story of Luke Blackburn, dubbed the "Hero of Hickman" and elected governor in 1879 after his efforts to combat yellow fever, to Louise Caudill's efforts to open the first hospital in Morehead, Healing Kentucky tells the story of the two-hundred-year struggle to provide good health care to all Kentuckians.

by James Holmberg
This book, written at the 4th grade reading level, tells the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, the greatest journey of exploration in American history.

by R. Gerald Alvey
Learn what folklore and folk culture are and enjoy a generous helping of the sayings, rhymes, songs, tall tales, superstitions, and riddles that make folklore fun.
by Nikky Finney
Beneath our hard exteriors is our heartwood, our true nature. In this touching novel, two young women, Trina Sims and Jenny Bryan, discover how much they are alike despite their different skin colors.
by George Ella Lyon
Thirteen warm, funny, and sad short stories about people making hard decisions for their families and themselves.
by Richard Taylor
Learn about the defeat of a small army of Kentuckians by Indians at Blue Licks in 1782, the murder of a slave by two of Thomas Jefferson's nephews in western Kentucky in 1807, and the bizarre Beauchamp-Sharp murder in Frankfort in 1825.
by Lee A. Dew
Kentucky Home Place tells of eight generations of a Western Kentucky farm family whose story begins in 1799 with a land claim and continues through the present, chronicling changes in both farming and rural lifes.
by Carol Crowe-Carraco
Short biographies of Kentucky women who had a vision of a better life for themselves and for others and the courage to make their ideas become real.
by A. Gwynn Henderson
This book is an account of the lives of one Native American family living in Kentucky in 1585, 150 years before Daniel Boone was born.
by Ronald Eades
From school prayer to flag burning, Fights for Rights touches on issues that will generate plenty of discussion among readers of all ages. Funded by the American Bar Association, this book will be of special value to adults learning English and working to acquire U. S. citizenship.
by James C. Klotter
Four mysteries from Kentucky's past -- the disappearance of pioneer James Harrod and embezzler "Honest Dick" Tate, the battlefield death of Tecumseh, and the assassination of Gov. William Goebel.
by Lynwood Montell
An entertaining collection of "haint" tales passed on through the ages, told by narrators who believe the stories to be true.

edited by Mark Lucas
Stories from six of the South's finest writers: James Weldon Johnson, Jesse Stuart, Olive Ann Burns, Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, and James Still.

Where to Order

The University Press of Kentucky
663 South Limestone
Lexington, KY 40508-4008

Books retail for $5.95 and many of the titles are sold in the Kentucky State Park gift shops. Books may also be ordered through the internet at


KH would like to thank the following organizations for their assistance in the success of the New Books for New Readers project: National Endowment for the Humanities, The University Press of Kentucky, Kentucky Humanities Alumni Board, Kentucky Post, Louisville Courier-Journal, Moninger Schmidt Fund, Scripps-Howard Foundation, Financial Women International, Kentucky Heritage Council, Kentucky Dept. for Libraries and Archives, and the American Bar Association.