These 3rd Graders Will Help You Diversify Your Summer Reading List

Summer is finally here, and with it the annual challenge: How do we keep kids reading?

Many schools have reading challenges. Your local library likely has resources along with help from places like Scholastic, Edutopia and others.

If nothing else, you can always provide your students with a list of suggested reads. But, before you do, take an inventory of the titles on the list. Do they reflect the diversity in your classroom, school, and larger community?

In the language of Rudine Sims Bishop, our children need books that serve as mirrors and windows. They should allow children to see something of themselves in them, while also transporting them or teaching them about new people or places. As a teacher who serves predominantly students of color, I have always pushed myself to find as many “mirror” books as possible within the sea of mostly white characters and authors.

My class has been receiving Scholastic Book Club reading catalogs all year, and we’ve been less than impressed by the lack of racial diversity. So, I was skeptical when I came across the link to their summer reading book list. I looked it over quickly, and found 10 books featuring characters of color. Out of 45 books this feels like an improvement, but it’s far from equitable considering that more than half of our country’s K-12 population is Black, Latino or Asian.

Luckily, there are organizations like Teaching for Change who make it their mission to provide diverse and social justice-oriented texts for all ages. Their 2016 Summer Reading List is a much needed antidote to the overwhelming whiteness presented by most resources out there.

If you’re looking for reviews straight from students themselves however, I’d like to humbly offer you another option. In the fall, when my students learned about the lack of diversity in kid’s literature we decided to do something about it. So, we wrote book reviews of our favorite books featuring characters of color. The result is a blog called We Read Diverse Books (in honor of the hashtag campaign #WeNeedDiverseBooks).

The goal was to show the world that characters of color matter. Additionally, we hoped to share our favorite stories with characters of color to help other readers in search of more diverse stories. And finally, these reviews are a message to libraries, book stores and publishers: We want more diverse books. These are just a few of our favorite stories featuring Black, Latino or Asian characters, but we need more!

Some of the books you’ve likely heard of like Ezra Jack Keats’ Peter’s Chair or Jacqueline Woodson’s The Other Side. Hopefully you’ll find some new books as well though, like Nikki Grimes’ Almost Zero or Jacqueline Jules’ Zapato Power series.

My students’ reviews are imperfect, but they are honest. They’re the real opinions of my third grade class, and I couldn’t be prouder. I hope you appreciate them and they can introduce you to a new favorite character or author.

Here's a list of books reviewed by my 3rd graders this year:

Picture Books
Allie’s Basketball Dream by Barbara E. Barber
Big Bushy Mustache by Gary Soto
Grace for President by Kelly DiPucchio
Jamaica Tag-Along (Jamaica Series) by Juanita Havill
Ling and Ting Share a Birthday (Ling and Ting Series) by Grace Lin
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keats
Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
Saturday at the New You by Barbara E. Barber
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

Chapter Books
Almost Zero (Dyamonde Daniel series) by Nikki Grimes
Freddie Ramos Springs into Action (Zapato Power Series) by Jacqueline Jules
Freddie Ramos Takes Off (Zapato Power Series) by Jacqueline Jules
Inky the Indigo Fairy (Rainbow Magic Series) by Daisy Meadows
Max Loves Muñecas by Zetta Elliott
My Name is Maria Isabel by Alma Flor Ada

If you appreciate these reviews please comment on them and share!


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