In writing this book, we read a TON of great books: educational resources, fun fiction books for kids, and books about diversity that helped us articulate our own experiences. We’ll start posting some of our favorites here, as well as some of the books we recommended in our appendices. Come back for updates soon!
Here are some of the titles we recommend in “Appendix B: Books to Read to Develop Greater Empathy”:
ABC A Family Alphabet Book by Bobbie Combs (different families)
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold (school classroom where all are welcome)
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell (two penguin dads)
And That’s Why She’s My Mama by Tiarra Nizario (adoption)
Game Changers: The Story of Venus and Serena Williams by Lesa Cline-Ramsome (powerful black women role models being the best in tennis)
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan (Islam)
Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (a boy who wants to dress up like a mermaid).
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe (African folk tale)
Mommy, Mama, and Me by Lesléa Newman (two moms)
Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill (two princesses fall in love)
Stonewall: A Building. An Uprising. A Revolution. by Rob Sanders (LGBTQ history)
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz (the varieties of beautiful skin tones)
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson (a child of color in a mostly white space)
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi (a Korean girl hides her name then celebrates it)
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox (beautiful pictures of children around the world sharing the same joy and pain, smiles and tears, even while their lives and homes are different)
We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families by Todd Parr
Non-Fiction Resource Books for Older Children
Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford Edwards and Duchess Harris
The Civil Rights Movement by Irma McClaurin with Virginia Schomp
The Harlem Renaissance by Dolores Johnson with Virginia Schomp
Pride: Celebrating Diversity and Community by Robin Stevenson
Taking Action Against Racism by Cath Senker
Middle-Grade Chapter Books and Graphic Novels (summaries provided by Amazon.com):
As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gillman
Synopsis: Charlie Lamonte is thirteen years old, queer, black, and questioning what was once a firm belief in God. So naturally, she’s spending a week of her summer vacation stuck at an all-white Christian youth backpacking camp. As the journey wears on and the rhetoric wears thin, she can’t help but poke holes in the pious obliviousness of this storied sanctuary with little regard for people like herself… or her fellow camper, Sydney.
Blended by Sharon M. Draper
Synopsis: Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and Anastasia’s son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves.
Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged [again] at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole?
It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Synopsis: Esperanza thought she’d always live a privileged life on her family’s ranch in Mexico. She’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and Mama, Papa, and Abuelita to care for her. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard work, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick and a strike for better working conditions threatens to uproot their new life, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances—because Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that’s been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing.
Soon Jerome meets another ghost: Emmett Till, a boy from a very different time but similar circumstances. Emmett helps Jerome process what has happened, on a journey towards recognizing how historical racism may have led to the events that ended his life. Jerome also meets Sarah, the daughter of the police officer, who grapples with her father’s actions.
Once again Jewell Parker Rhodes deftly weaves historical and socio-political layers into a gripping and poignant story about how children and families face the complexities of today’s world, and how one boy grows to understand American blackness in the aftermath of his own death.
Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper
Synopsis: From multiple award-winning author Sharon Draper comes a story that will forever change how we all look at anyone with a disability, perfect for fans of R. J. Palacio’s Wonder.
Eleven-year-old Melody is not like most people. She can’t walk. She can’t talk. She can’t write. All because she has cerebral palsy. But she also has a photographic memory; she can remember every detail of everything she has ever experienced. She’s the smartest kid in her whole school, but NO ONE knows it. Most people—her teachers, her doctors, her classmates—dismiss her as mentally challenged because she can’t tell them otherwise. But Melody refuses to be defined by her disability. And she’s determined to let everyone know it…somehow.
Star Crossed by Barbara Dee
Synopsis: Twelve-year-old Mattie is thrilled when she learns the eighth grade play will be Romeo and Juliet. In particular, she can’t wait to share the stage with Gemma Braithwaite, who has been cast as Juliet. Gemma is brilliant, pretty—and British!—and Mattie starts to see her as more than just a friend. But Mattie has also had an on/off crush on her classmate Elijah since, well, forever. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls?
If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things offstage are beginning to resemble their own Shakespearean drama: the cast is fighting, and the boy playing Romeo may not be up to the challenge of the role. And due to a last-minute emergency, Mattie is asked to step up and take over the leading role—opposite Gemma’s Juliet—just as Mattie’s secret crush starts to become not-so-secret in her group of friends.
Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale about Harriet Tubman by Nathan Hale
Synopsis: Araminta Ross was born a slave in Delaware in the early nineteenth century. Slavery meant that her family could be ripped apart at any time, and that she could be put to work in dangerous places and for abusive people. But north of the Mason-Dixon line, slavery was illegal. If she could run away and make it north without being caught or killed, she’d be free. Facing enormous danger, Araminta made it, and once free, she changed her name to Harriet Tubman. Tubman spent the rest of her life helping slaves run away like she did, every time taking her life in her hands. Nathan Hale tells her incredible true-life story with the humor and sensitivity he’s shown in every one of the Hazardous Tales—perfect for reluctant readers and classroom discussions.
Yes, I’m Hot in This: The Hilarious Truth about Life in a Hijab by Huda Fahmy
Synopsis: At some point in our lives, we’ve all felt a little out of place. Huda Fahmy has found it’s a little more difficult to fade into the crowd when wearing a hijab.
In Yes, I’m Hot in This, Huda navigates the sometimes-rocky waters of life from the unique perspective of an American-Muslim woman, breaking down misconceptions of her culture one comic at a time. From recounting the many questions she gets about her hijab every day (yes, she does have hair) and explaining how she runs in an abaya (just fine, thank you) to dealing with misconceptions about Muslims, Yes, I’m Hot in This tackles universal feelings from a point of view we don’t hear from nearly enough.
Every one of us has experienced love, misunderstanding, anger, and a deep desire for pizza. In Yes, I’m Hot in This, Huda’s clever comics demonstrate humor’s ability to bring us together, no matter how different we may appear on the surface.
Books for Parents:
Beyond the books cited in the main chapters of the book, these are additional resources to read and consider adopting as book club selections or buying for your own home library:
Gender and Sexuality:
Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin
The Queer and Transgender Resilience Workbook: Skills for Navigating Sexual Orientation & Gender Expression by Anneliese A. Singh
She/He/They/Me: For the Sisters, Misters, and Binary Resisters by Robyn Ryle
This Is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids: A Question & Answer Guide to Everyday Life by Dannielle Owens-Reid and Kristin Russo
How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America by Jennifer Harvey
White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum
www.teacherspayteachers.com Joy notes that these are important resources that other teachers have already made available to one another. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. But each curriculum lesson should also be reappropriated to make it work in your context because each classroom is different, each group of kids is different, and each teacher is different.
The website https://www.embracerace.org/blog/26-childrens-books-to-support-conversations-on-race-racism-resistance provides updated lists of children’s books that can be used in a variety of contexts for conversations about race and racism.