Dear Future Teachers,
If you've been keeping up with Dear Future Teachers for a while, you might have noticed a theme of recommending books for the classroom. I believe literacy is liberation, and a huge way that we can help our students develop more knowledge or critical thinking skills is through literature. Not only can books provide more knowledge, but they also provide a chance to include representation in your classroom. The world is diverse, and your classroom library should be too! This week, in continuing our recognition of Black History Month, I am providing a list of books featuring or written by Black individuals to incorporate into your classroom.
Books for Elementary School
My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera follows a young girl who is bullied for her hair. She finds comfort in a neighbor, who uses her garden as a metaphor to spark self-love and appreciation for Black hair. If you would like to purchase this book, click this link.
The Old Truck by Jarrett Pumphrey and Jerome Pumphrey depicts the story of a young girl who worked alongside her family on their farm. This truck is an integral part of the hard work the family completed, and it helped them finish the tasks they needed in order to keep the farm running. The girl eventually grows up to run her own farm, and the old truck becomes a central theme in her life once again. If you would like to purchase this book, click this link.
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio helps teach about the American electoral system and the importance of voting through a fun story of a young girl named Grace, who is determined to become the first female president. Grace participates in a mock election in her school against a popular male candidate. The race is tough, but Grace shows perseverance and determination to be the change she wants to see. If you would like to purchase this book, click this link.
Ana and Andrew Series by Christine Platt is a series about siblings Ana and Andrew. The pair are always looking for an adventure. They also learn so much about African history and culture throughout their various adventures. This series is both informative and fun to read at the elementary school level. If you would like to purchase the Ana and Andrew collection, click this link.
Pony on the Twelfth Floor by Polly Faber tells a story of young Kizzy, who really wants a pony of her own. One day, Kizzy finds a pony in the supermarket! The book follows Kizzy as she tries to keep her new pet a secret. The overall message of the book is to follow your dreams! If you want to include Kizzy's story in your classroom library, click the link here.
Books for Middle School
The Crossover by Kwame Alexander tells the story of twins Josh and Jordan. The brothers play basketball together and have a close bond. That all starts to change when Jordan meets a new girl. The book is told through poems, and beautifully captures the changing dynamic between brothers, as well as their individual passions and talents. If you'd like to purchase this book, click the following link.
Like Vanessa by Tami Charles tells a story of coming to understand self-worth and beauty. Vanessa, who struggles with self-esteem, enters a school pageant after watching the 1983 Miss America pageant. Vanessa comes to realize what beauty truly is, appreciating herself in ways she hadn't before. This is a great book for middle school students who also might struggle with self-esteem in such a transformative period in their lives. If you would like to purchase this book, click this link.
The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon is a story about brothers Caleb and Bobby, who love to go on adventures, and dream of exploring the world beyond their town. Caleb and Bobby meet their new neighbor, 16-year old Styx Malone who is mega-cool. Styx has the idea to attempt the Great Escalator Trade, where they would trade small items for increasingly large or valuable items. However, Styx also has a few secrets that might change everything. If you would like to purchase this book, click this link.
How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons takes readers back in time to the 1940s. Ella, the 12-year old protagonist is from a small town in South Carolina. Ella is invited to spend the Christmas holidays with her mother in Boston, where she discovers more about her family history. After her visit, she returns to the Jim Crow South, to discover that one of her classmates has been accused of murdering two white girls. This book allows students to engage in a riveting story of young Ella, as she comes to terms with her history as well as balances her childhood with the palpable racial tensions of the 1940s. If you're interested in purchasing this book, click the link here.
Blended by Sharon M. Draper is a book about 11-year old Isabella, who switches back and forth between her father's house and her mother's house. Isabella not only has to physically move between the homes, but she also has to balance her various identities between the two worlds. With a white mother and Black father, as well as living in two completely different neighborhoods, Isabella learns about the complexities of her identity. She also struggles with the tension between her parents, which is a large weight on her shoulders. Middle school students will be enraptured in Isabella's story. If you're interested in this book, click this link.
Books for High School
Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant is about 16-year old Tessa Johnson, a young writer who never sees herself in the literature that she reads. Through her writing, Tessa is able to make herself into the protagonist of the story. Tessa is accepted into a prestigious creative writing program, however she suffers from writer's block while there. Her best friend, Caroline, suggests that Tessa try to find inspiration for her writing by creating a real-life love story of her own. Tessa tries to follow Caroline's advice, but risks losing herself in the process. If you want Tessa's story in your classroom library, check out the book here.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas is about Bri, the daughter of a late hip-hop legend. Bri wants to become a famous rapper, however she has to battle her reputation of troublemaker at school. Bri's first song ends up becoming quite popular, but Bri has to deal with her troublemaker reputation being dragged into the media. With financial burdens at home, Bri desperately wants to make it big as a rapper and accomplish her dreams. Bri has to struggle between working towards her dreams and not wanting to be perceived as a menace. If you want to include this book in your classroom, click the following link.
The Field Guide to the North American Teenager by Ben Philippe is about a Canadian boy named Norris, who moves to Texas. Norris begins to categorize his U.S. classmates ranging from Jocks to Loners. Eventually, Norris comes to realize that his classmates are more than just their labels as he starts to get to know them in more depth. Usually snarky and sarcastic, Norris has realized new people have become important in his life, and he has to learn to stop hiding behind his snark to keep his new friends in his life. If you want to purchase this book, click this link.
Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds is about two teenagers who meet and fall in love, but are separated by a tragedy. Jack and Kate bonded at a party and quickly fell for each other. Sadly, Kate dies unexpectedly. Jack is transported back in time to when they first met, and Jack tries everything he can to save her life. Unfortunately, saving Kate may come at a price. This novel captures a beautiful friendship. If you want to add it to your classroom collection, click this link.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone, similar to The Hate U Give, tackles the difficult reality of police brutality. Justyce McAllister is an honors student and a great friend to others, but one day he is targeted by local police. Justyce and his friend Manny were driving around together one day, listening to music and rolling the windows down, when they caught the attention of an off-duty cop. The situation escalated into something dire, and Justyce becomes the center of public scrutiny. If you want to purchase this book, click the following link.
I highly recommend all of these books for K-12 classrooms. You may have noticed some cover topics such as racism, identity formation, and police brutality while others are just books about kids, living their lives. Representation matters, and having books that your students can see themselves in is so important. However, while it is important to cover difficult realities that many students face in their lives, it's also important to include books in your classroom with Black protagonists who just navigating their childhood. Capturing hope is just as crucial as having conversations about systemic racism. I encourage you to go through these books, or find more like them, to start adding to your classroom library! Remember to subscribe so you won't miss our next post!