6 Books To Read To Talk About Race In The Classroom: For Middle and High School Students

Dear Future Teachers,


Most of my content centers around Elementary Education because I want to go into Elementary Education myself. Lately, I've been sharing a lot of books and resources to use at the elementary level to teach about race and racism. However, I thought I should dedicate a post for the older students to be able to have these discussions in your classrooms, too! While picture books are a great way to open up these conversations at any age, there are plenty of age-appropriate books introducing teens to the topic of racism through literature. Without further ado, I'd like to share 6 books for middle and high school level courses to help you navigate the necessary conversation around racism.


The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

First up, we have The Hate U Give. (Note: I was super excited to find a gif that actually had this book in it, and I just had to use it!). I personally own this book myself, and I think it's a great book to read with high school students. The main character of this novel is named Starr Carter, a Black girl who experiences both the wealthy suburban school life and a less wealthy neighborhood living situation. Starr witnesses a fatal police shooting of her friend, a young Black boy named Khalil. This book tackles the difficult subject of police brutality in a language that's accessible and relatable for high school students. My own sister isn't a fan of reading herself, but I lent her my copy of the book and she was invested from beginning to end. I highly recommend getting a copy for your high school classroom!


You can purchase this book here.


Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Next we have Brown Girl Dreaming, an excellent book to share with middle school students. In this book, Woodson shares personal stories from her childhood through poetry. Woodson grew up during the 60s and 70s, and through her poems, she describes what it was like to experience the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement while also struggling with the lingering impact of the Jim Crow era. Woodson captures the voice of children in her writing, easily creating visuals for young teens to understand her story.


You can purchase this book here.



A Good Kind Of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramée

Another novel for the middle school level, A Good Kind of Trouble introduces Shayla, a 7th grader who is navigating middle school with her friends. Shayla also contemplates her role as a Black girl who is told that she is "not black enough", grappling with what that statement really means, and how that impacts her identity. Shayla is introduced to powerful protests and to the Black Lives Matter movement, where she begins to unpack the heaviness of police brutality in her community and takes her first steps into advocacy and activism. Follow Shayla as she decides how far she's willing to go to fight for what is right.


You can purchase this book here.



This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How To Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work by Tiffany Jewel

This book is geared towards both middle and high school students. This social justice book holds 20 chapters educating readers on the origins of modern day racism, what space readers occupy in a systemically discriminatory society, and provides action steps to actively combat racism. The book discusses microaggressions in the language we use, explains the various types of oppression different marginalized communities have felt respectively, and dives into the history of different populations of people. Students (and adults) are given a voice in becoming resistant towards discrimination and racism. I recommend this book because it turns passive learning and spins it into action, where students can direct their energy into becoming anti-racist, fighting for equality, and understanding how they can help better their community for everyone.


You can purchase this book here.


Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson

This book was adapted from the book, Just Mercy, where lawyer Bryan Stevenson becomes aware of injustices within the legal system. Stevenson focuses on the wrongfully convicted, how their lives are impacted, and fighting for their freedom. In the adaptation, the language is centered to reach and impact young people, calling them to action in our fight for justice. It creates compassion for the demographic of people who are more likely to be wrongfully convicted and provides understanding for how the justice system disproportionately affects marginalized communities. If you want, you can even purchase the original version for yourself to get a more complete understanding of the story Stevenson is sharing, and learn how to tackle this topic with your class!


You can purchase the original version here and the adapted version here.


Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

The final novel is another written by Jacqueline Woodson. I actually read Harbor Me for my Children's Literature class this past semester and really enjoyed it. I would recommend this book for the middle school level because the language targets younger audiences, and it will be easier for them to relate to the characters in the story. Harbor Me tells the stories of six students, all from various backgrounds, ethnicities, and locations, who lean on each other for support during difficult situations. The book covers deportation, racial profiling, untraditional family structures, and much more. Each child understands the importance of compassion and empathy, and they all quickly learn how to best support each other, even if they didn't understand each other at first. Definitely a must-have for your middle school classroom!


You can purchase this book here.

I hope these books can help you as you tackle how to discuss race within your own middle and high school classrooms (or with your own kids at home)! Especially during a time where racial issues are at the forefront of our news outlets, it's important for students to understand the complexities of race and ethnicity in our country, and develop compassion for others regardless of race. It may seem like a daunting conversation, or one that shouldn't take place in the classroom, but trust me, many students experience racism outside of the classroom. It's vital to have these conversations and acknowledge the very real fear students face every day. Utilize literature, such as the recommendations above, to create conversation within your classroom that is age appropriate but educational! If you have any more suggestions to be added to this list, I would love to hear them! Contact me via my contact form on my home page or email me at dearfutureteachers@gmail.com!


Much Love,


Emily B.