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December 9, 2016 Diverse Book Recommendations By John DePasquale
Grades 6–8

    ‘Tis the season for great books! Before I send my students off to enjoy their winter vacations, every year it is my tradition to compile a list of the most popular new books in our classroom library, and to recommend these must-read books to my students. It is not only my hope to fill them with excitement for reading, but to — literally — fill their backpacks with amazing new books to read over their vacation. 

    This school year I am making a deliberate effort to add more diverse books to my library. This is important to me because I believe great books have the potential to reflect our diverse world and the experiences of a reader. However, all too often, it is a struggle for many young people to find their lives and experiences reflected in the books available to them in their classrooms. This effort to diversify my library is inspired by organizations like We Need Diverse Books and their mission to put “more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.” We Need Diverse Books has also partnered with Scholastic Reading Club to create a special collection of diverse books that students and teachers can order through their flyers. This special collection is certainly helping my efforts to stock the classroom library with diverse book titles. As a result, these important books are now more accessible and visible in our classroom. 

    Here’s a list of the new and diverse titles that are currently the most sought-after books in our middle school classroom.  

    Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

    If it’s Monday, it's chicken fingers; Wednesday, chili; and if Ravi and Joe can make it to Friday of their first week of fifth grade, there’ll be pizza for lunch. This is not an easy first week for the two boys. School is not easy for Joe. He usually tries to keep a low profile at school, but he has been the target of a school bully for years and others make him feel different because he has an auditory processing disorder. Ravi, however, starts the year with high hopes. Ravi, who just moved to the United States from India, does not anticipate the challenges that are in store for him at his new school. Nobody, including his teacher, can correctly pronounce his name (it’s rah-VEE), and even though English is his first language, Ravi is sent to the resource room because others claim they don’t understand his accent. Ravi is seen as different, and is the target of ridicule as a result. Although the two boys appear to share very little at the beginning, their commonalities become more apparent as the week progresses. 

    All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

    All American Boys explores the complexity of race and racism in the United States. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of two teenage boys: Rashad is black and Quinn is white. Despite it being false, Rashad is arrested and assaulted by police because he appeared to be stealing. Quinn witnesses the unjustified arrest and excessive force. As the story unfolds, Rashad and Quinn question and confront the uncomfortable realities that exist in our world. For many young people questioning and confronting these ideas, All American Boys is the right book at the right time.

    For more information about All American Boys, I recommend listening to the authors discuss their book in this NPR interview.  

     

     

    Drag Teen by Jeffery Self

    Drag Teen is the story of 17-year-old JT Barnett and his fabulous quest to be named Miss Drag Teen in New York City. JT is convinced to enter the pageant and travels on a road trip to New York City from his small Florida town with his boyfriend Seth. There are, of course, rough times on the trip, but as the journey progress, a more optimistic tone emerges. 

    To learn even more about Drag Teen, listen to author Jeffery Self discuss his book with David Levithan in this Scholastic Reads podcast.

     

     

     

     

    Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

    Raina Telgemeier’s new graphic novel Ghosts is by far the most popular new book in my classroom library. Ghosts follows the success of Telgemeier’s other books SmileSisters, and Drama. In Ghosts, Cat moves to Northern California with her family because the air there is easier for her sister, Maya, to breathe. Maya has cystic fibrosis. Cat loves her sister, but she is hardly excited about the move. She misses her friends and is totally confused by her new town’s obsession with ghosts. Cat confronts all of these feelings as the Day of the Dead celebration approaches. Through Telgemeier’s deeply engaging illustrations, the story weaves together personal discoveries, cultural identity, and a realistic presentation of a serious childhood disorder. 

    This graphic novel is perfect for stimulating important classroom discussions. If you plan to use Ghosts with your class, I recommend this classroom guide.  

    Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz (Author) Miriam Klein Stahl (Illustrator)

    A is for Angela Davis, M is for Maya Lin, and S is for Sonia Sotomayor. Rad American Women A-Z is an alphabet book like none other. Rad as in radical or Rad as in cool, this book profiles amazing American women that challenge conventions and, in different ways, changed American history. From activists like Dolores Huerta to rockers like Patti Smith, the biographies of women representing different races and ethnicities are an inspiration for our young students. To invigorate this inspiration, the book includes a list of things young people can do to be rad!

    For ideas on how to use Rad American Women A-Z in the classroom, visit the book’s website. There you will also find downloadable images of Miriam Klein Stahl’s powerful illustrations. 


    What books do you use in the classroom to promote diversity?

     

    ‘Tis the season for great books! Before I send my students off to enjoy their winter vacations, every year it is my tradition to compile a list of the most popular new books in our classroom library, and to recommend these must-read books to my students. It is not only my hope to fill them with excitement for reading, but to — literally — fill their backpacks with amazing new books to read over their vacation. 

    This school year I am making a deliberate effort to add more diverse books to my library. This is important to me because I believe great books have the potential to reflect our diverse world and the experiences of a reader. However, all too often, it is a struggle for many young people to find their lives and experiences reflected in the books available to them in their classrooms. This effort to diversify my library is inspired by organizations like We Need Diverse Books and their mission to put “more books featuring diverse characters into the hands of all children.” We Need Diverse Books has also partnered with Scholastic Reading Club to create a special collection of diverse books that students and teachers can order through their flyers. This special collection is certainly helping my efforts to stock the classroom library with diverse book titles. As a result, these important books are now more accessible and visible in our classroom. 

    Here’s a list of the new and diverse titles that are currently the most sought-after books in our middle school classroom.  

    Save Me A Seat by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan

    If it’s Monday, it's chicken fingers; Wednesday, chili; and if Ravi and Joe can make it to Friday of their first week of fifth grade, there’ll be pizza for lunch. This is not an easy first week for the two boys. School is not easy for Joe. He usually tries to keep a low profile at school, but he has been the target of a school bully for years and others make him feel different because he has an auditory processing disorder. Ravi, however, starts the year with high hopes. Ravi, who just moved to the United States from India, does not anticipate the challenges that are in store for him at his new school. Nobody, including his teacher, can correctly pronounce his name (it’s rah-VEE), and even though English is his first language, Ravi is sent to the resource room because others claim they don’t understand his accent. Ravi is seen as different, and is the target of ridicule as a result. Although the two boys appear to share very little at the beginning, their commonalities become more apparent as the week progresses. 

    All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

    All American Boys explores the complexity of race and racism in the United States. The story is told from the alternating perspectives of two teenage boys: Rashad is black and Quinn is white. Despite it being false, Rashad is arrested and assaulted by police because he appeared to be stealing. Quinn witnesses the unjustified arrest and excessive force. As the story unfolds, Rashad and Quinn question and confront the uncomfortable realities that exist in our world. For many young people questioning and confronting these ideas, All American Boys is the right book at the right time.

    For more information about All American Boys, I recommend listening to the authors discuss their book in this NPR interview.  

     

     

    Drag Teen by Jeffery Self

    Drag Teen is the story of 17-year-old JT Barnett and his fabulous quest to be named Miss Drag Teen in New York City. JT is convinced to enter the pageant and travels on a road trip to New York City from his small Florida town with his boyfriend Seth. There are, of course, rough times on the trip, but as the journey progress, a more optimistic tone emerges. 

    To learn even more about Drag Teen, listen to author Jeffery Self discuss his book with David Levithan in this Scholastic Reads podcast.

     

     

     

     

    Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

    Raina Telgemeier’s new graphic novel Ghosts is by far the most popular new book in my classroom library. Ghosts follows the success of Telgemeier’s other books SmileSisters, and Drama. In Ghosts, Cat moves to Northern California with her family because the air there is easier for her sister, Maya, to breathe. Maya has cystic fibrosis. Cat loves her sister, but she is hardly excited about the move. She misses her friends and is totally confused by her new town’s obsession with ghosts. Cat confronts all of these feelings as the Day of the Dead celebration approaches. Through Telgemeier’s deeply engaging illustrations, the story weaves together personal discoveries, cultural identity, and a realistic presentation of a serious childhood disorder. 

    This graphic novel is perfect for stimulating important classroom discussions. If you plan to use Ghosts with your class, I recommend this classroom guide.  

    Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz (Author) Miriam Klein Stahl (Illustrator)

    A is for Angela Davis, M is for Maya Lin, and S is for Sonia Sotomayor. Rad American Women A-Z is an alphabet book like none other. Rad as in radical or Rad as in cool, this book profiles amazing American women that challenge conventions and, in different ways, changed American history. From activists like Dolores Huerta to rockers like Patti Smith, the biographies of women representing different races and ethnicities are an inspiration for our young students. To invigorate this inspiration, the book includes a list of things young people can do to be rad!

    For ideas on how to use Rad American Women A-Z in the classroom, visit the book’s website. There you will also find downloadable images of Miriam Klein Stahl’s powerful illustrations. 


    What books do you use in the classroom to promote diversity?

     

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