Tag Archives: diverse books

Leaving Teaching: Who Gets the Books?


So MANY Books…going to a good home!

After nearly 16 years of teaching and learning with young people, I’m leaving the classroom at the end of the school year.

I am not leaving entirely; rather, I’ll be working in a program that prepares pre-service teachers, a pursuit I’ve wanted to dedicate much more time to doing.

Now, though, is the hard part of leaving. My first thought after accepting my new position was: what is going to happen to my books?  I knew I wanted them to go to someone who knows why a robust, diverse classroom library matters–for all kids, but, in the case of my work, particularly for underserved kids. I also wanted to be able to give the library to someone who might not have the resources to acquire this treasure for him/her/themself.

And while I’ve worked to create a school-wide culture of independent reading at my current school, I’m not so sure it will continue in ways that I’m comfortable.

So, this was a wonderful opportunity to look backwards–something I’m not that fond of doing because, well, when that happens we can see the good and the bad.

Hindsight, certainly.

I have a beloved colleague that used to teach down the hall from me about 10 or 12 years ago. We have continued to be critical, thoughtful friends for each other over the years. He’s wanted to gain a foothold with independent reading with his kids. He knows it matters. He has made smaller achievements with them. He could make leaps and bounds, I think, if he had more resources. His school’s budget has been trimmed even more.

Supplies, particularly books, are usually the first line item to be cut.

He is taking all of the books. All nearly 900 of them that kids WANT to read. He and a colleague are driving across town and will load them all and take them back to their school. 

This colleague sent me an email asking for money for the library.

Is he kidding? But that’s how Chris is. I told him that the fact that I know the books are going to be read and re-read and that that library is going to be used is all the peace of mind I could ever want, and a small step towards giving kids access to all the books they want and need.

But yes, he could take me to dinner and we can catch up as thanks, for sure. Always. I’m also reminded of how ideas leave us connected and believing in the power of literacy and kids’ rights to have literate lives, reminding us to work like heck to realize those ideas.



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Filed under Book Love, Reading Lives, transitions

Update on Taking the Diverse Books Pledge: Harder to Reach 100 Than I Thought (sigh)

I pledged to read at least 100 books written by diverse authors this year. I make my kids keep a chart where they list the number of books read (goal: 40 by year’s end). In keeping with do as I say and also what I do, I thought I should check in to note my progress and make some final plans as the year ends.

I keep too many lists in too many different places. Plus, I read a variety of texts, to my bio kid, with my other kids (students) and a bunch in between. Some recent favorites for the boypie:

For my students:

For Me:

Some In-Progress Reflections: There are not many books that feature kids of color just being kids of color, doing normal kid things. The closest I can find are the John Steptoe, Angela Johnson and Spike Lee board books. In the Johnson books, Joshua goes to the ocean, walks in the rain and looks at birds. There’s nothing didactic about them, and, I’m realizing, those are the books I want to read with my son. I don’t want to always feel like there’s a lesson beyond: hey, it’s fun to wear rain boots and splash in the puddles. Why does it always need to be deeper than that? We need more of THOSE stories! Thus, I’ve found us reading more books about other topics of interest: trucks, Wolfie the Bunny, Find it books because they are FUN, essentially. What is disappointing there, though, is that when these books feature actual people, few, if any, are people of color. UGH.

I do not like when my reading time is compromised. I rarely read at school because I’m (hopefully) having reading conferences with students. I had been reading on our morning commutes, but my toddler now wants to use that time to read together, and I love that special time. That means, though, that I have to carve out time to read, which is fine, but that time is inconsistent of late. I am most settled and happy when I know I’m going to read for a particular amount of time every single day. Since I seem to have insomnia of late, I have been reading for about a half hour or so in the early hours of the morning. I totally get what my students say when they complain about finding time to read. Thing is, though, once you have the time as habit, then it’s much harder to give it up.

I set out to read only diverse books, but my interests take me everywhere. I read a bunch of parenting books. Okay, actually I read only one that made sense to me, so I stopped there (Peaceful Parent, Happy Kid) because I knew that if I didn’t watch out, I was going to parent as I was parented and I didn’t really like that, and others on Family Traditions and another one on Failure. All are ones I highly recommend, but none are written by diverse authors.

I’m going to ball park my current progress and say I’m at about 50 books, give or take a picture book here or there. With one month to go and midterms, a national conference (woot!), and teacher-related stuff, who knows if I’ll make it to 100, but I’m going to try my hardest. I’ll also share my progress with my students tomorrow as a way of modeling the need to reflect and re-evaluate and, as having a growth mindset suggests, continuing with deliberate practice to meet my goal.

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Summer, Summer, Summer: READING

Re Jane by Patrica Park is on my list

One of my favorite questions is always about what I’m reading. A dear friend passed along some books she’s reading this summer and then came the reciprocal question. It’s my favorite question, but it’s also one that has become laden with a bit of anxiety. I simply do not have as much time to read as I wanted.

Now, with summer nearly here, so close I can conjure up early mornings with time to read, and to read and to read, I turn to making lists. As of this moment, on this day, these are the books I’m looking forward to reading this summer. Some are annotated with reasons while others are not. All of them, however, are ones that I hope will allow me to remember, yet again, why the best summers are the ones where there are endless numbers of books to read and time to read them…

  • A Window Opens, Elisabeth Egan (doesn’t come out until September, but one of my favorite bloggers reviewed it and it sounds lovely)
  • Saint Anything, Sarah Dessen; summer means Sarah Dessen. If you loved Dawson’s Creek (and the opening song “I Don’t Wanna Wait” just started playing in my head), then you’ll love everything she writes. Easy, breezy, YA
  • Me, Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews: one of the books that I couldn’t keep on the shelves of my classroom library. I want to read it before the movie comes out this summer (which, BTW, the kids said is also quite hilarious). It’s good because my students are always after me to have more funny books for them. This one fits their requests.
  • Loving Day, Mat Johnson (Roxane Gay said it’s good. That’s enough for me).
  • In the Country, Mia Alvar (another Roxane Gay rec; I want to read beyond single stories and haven’t read much about Filipino folks; this collection of short stories looks delicious)
  • Make Your Home Among Strangers, Jennine Capo Crucet: Cuban American, immigration, elitism (I’ve now devolved into keywords; my shorthand helps me be able to write faster)
  • The Other Side of Bird Hill, Naomi Jackson: from Brooklyn to Barbados, sisters, sent to live with grandmother, obeah
  • Re: Jane, Patricia Park: Korean American orphan, au pair, Seoul, romantic wonderings
  • The Light of the World, Elizabeth Alexander: memoir, poetry
  • God Help the Child, Toni Morrison; let me give Toni Morrison ONE MORE SHOT
  • Jam on the Vine, LaShonda Barnett
  • Ordinary Light, Tracy K. Smith: memoir, poetry
  • Balm, Dolen Perkins-Valdez (maybe; I remember enjoying Wench, but I don’t know if I can take the emotional gut punch another time)


Filed under Reading Lives

Guest Post #2 for MA Literacy: Diverse Books for Middle School Readers

I’m guest blogging for Mass Literacy. Check out my second post: Diverse Books for Middle School Readers if you’re looking for some great reads for that audience. Stay tuned for Post #3: Diverse Books for High School Readers in the coming weeks.

Post #1: Why We Need Diverse Books

Happy reading!


Filed under Literacy, Teaching Texts

Guest Blogging for MA Literacy

Photo: MA Literacy

I’m doing a few guest posts about why we need diverse books for the wonderful Mass Literacy, the foundation that named me one of five literacy champions last year.

Read my first post, Why We Need Diverse Books, here. Stay tuned for future posts about books for middle school and high school readers. Also, feel free to check the previous post where I’m tallying my progress towards reading 100 Diverse Books in 2015. Still time for you to join me!

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Filed under Equity, Literacy, Reading Lives

Taking the Diverse Books Pledge: Keep It 100

We Need Diverse Books has issued a challenge for all readers:twitter-100-pledge (1)

From the website:

By pledging to read, 5, 10, 15, 25, or even 100 DIVERSE books.

Books where people of color can be first-page HEROES rather than second-class citizens. Books in which LGBTQIA characters can represent social CHANGE rather than social problems. And books where people with disabilities can be just…people.

This is a challenge I can get behind! I’ll list and link to the books I and my darling boy read (and provide some brief annotations) in hopes that folks will read along with us.

Books Read:

  1. Joshua By the Sea, Angela Johnson: makes me long for summer; an African American family spends a wonderful day at the beach; Joshua explores; board book, beautiful illustrations
  2. Whose Toes are Those? Jabari Asim, board book, great way for babies to play along while they find their toes
  3. Whose Knees are These? Jabari Asim, board book, similar to Toes, funny and affirming
  4. Goodnight Baby, Cheryl Willis Hudson, board book, cute illustrations, short and great for trying to get a baby into some sort of bedtime routine
  5. Pretty Brown Face, Andrea Davis Pinkney, another affirming book, though illustrations remind me of something that came out of the 70s (the father has an Afro that’s pretty dope, lol), board book; there’s a mirror on the last page so the baby can look at him/herself. I love that.
  6. The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring, Lucille Clifton: one of my all-time favorite books. Hands down. Two boys, one of whom is named King Shabazz, go out in search of spring. Their quest leads them through their urban neighborhood. Wonderful illustrations, great interracial boy friendship. Delightful.

    The Boy Who Didn’t Believe in Spring

  7. Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children, Sandra L. Pinkney, Photographs by Myles C. Pinkney: a board book that describes shades of black and brown in creative, empowering language (my favorite “I am the midnight blue in a licorice stick”) that all kids need, black and brown kids, particularly. With photographs of actual children, some words you’re probably going to need to look up (well, I looked up Unakite, which is one of the words used as a descriptor), and the repeated phrase “I am Black. I am unique” this is a great book that depicts various shades of Blackness.
  8. So Much, Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury: A raucous celebration of family members who all come over to see the baby–well, so it seems. From uncle, to aunties, to others, this book is such fun to read. The language is reminiscent of, I’m thinking, Cooke’s cultural background, as some of the linguistic patterns seem West Indian (which makes sense given Cooke’s background). One visitor, the cousin, arrives and wants to fight with the baby, which did give me pause. Everyone else wants to hug and kiss the baby except the young cousin, who wants to fight. I imagine that we will have to have conversations about why hitting and fighting is inappropriate, eventually. However, for now, and even then, we will keep this book as one to read again and again because it is simply a delight: Black families, engaged in preparations for a great surprise, overly positive and loving.
  9. Ask the Passengers, A.S. King: I’m taking a course through a fantastic PD program called Teachers as Scholars. My seminar is about LGBTQI young adult literature in the classroom and this novel is one of the first ones I’m reading for my class. It’s an interesting concept: a young woman is in her senior year of high school, questioning if she’s a lesbian. She lives in a small town with awful parents (her dad’s a pot head and her mother is just…vile), plus her two closest friends are both in their own secret gay relationships. To get through it all, the main character, Astrid, sends her love out to passing airplanes. The book is cute for the first third but I was frustrated with Astrid and her seeming helplessness, though she gets an extra boost from Socrates and her supportive Humanities teacher. I also detested the mother. I found her so awful that she was beyond believable, but, that gives me something to talk about during my seminar. There are also two random mentions of people of color (I think Astrid’s girlfriend is Black and there’s a school board member whose race is mentioned), which absolutely confused me. Then, one of the characters disappears and reappears as the author is trying to tie up loose ends. Okay, so this book is one to add to a classroom library because it’s a portrayal of coming out, small town, lesbian. I’d imagine that this would be useful in a broader collection of LGBTQI stories.
  10. ABCs of African American Poetry, Ashley Bryan: I took to my bookshelves to start reading many of the books I’ve collected over the years to my son. This picture book has excerpts from the work of 26 Black poets. Sometimes the initial letter is not the first letter of the word (that threw me off a bit but once I realized that, it was fun to see where the letter would appear), promoting new discoveries. Additionally, the full information of the poets and their poems is at the end of the book for further reading. Bryan’s colorful, beautiful illustrations provide a wonderful pairing with the poems.
  11. Two Boys Kissing, David Levithan: I LOVED this book. The narrator–or Greek chorus?–felt like many of the friends I’ve known and loved. As the story played out, of two boys who wanted to break a record, of another couple that had been together for a while, of a different, new couple and of a lonely young man, I wanted to know every single story these kids had to tell. Every single one. I didn’t find any parts of the story contrived, and I think that’s because there’s also a part of this story that resonates with older readers, those of us who actually were around when AIDS took so many from us (and still is)…I could write forever about this book. For now, I’ll just recommend it wholeheartedly. An excellent young adult book that is also just write for grown-ups, too.
  12. Gracefully Grayson, Ami Polansky: Grayson is a boy who knows he is a girl. Living with his aunt and uncle in Chicago after his parents die, Grayson struggles to tell others what he has always known to be true. A great middle grade novel, largely because it is thoughtful and gentle and has some great examples of what it means to be an upstander when we see something wrong.
  13. Nino Wrestles the World, Yuyi Morales: In this delightful picture book, Nino wrestles various figures of his imagination in the custom of the Lucha Libre wrestlers. Nino is imaginative and Morales’ drawings are fantastic. Nino does meet his match at the end of the book, and it’s an even bigger challenge than a Lucha Libre!
  14. My Cold Plum Lemon Pie Bluesy Mood, Tameka Fryer Brown: One worry I have is that Black boys get labeled as “angry” far too quickly. Rather than helping them to use their words to express how they are feeling, they are punished. More patience! I think this adorable book will help. The Black boy at the center of this picture book uses all kinds of wonderful adjectives to describe his various moods. Readers can’t help but be encouraged to try their own descriptive words to express the many moods they’re in.
  15. Adaptation, Malinda Lo: This science fiction novel grabbed me at the beginning when birds started falling from the sky. I found it to get my adrenaline pumping as I wondered why the protagonist, Reece, had wounds that seemed to heal quickly, why she and her bestie spent time out in the middle of the desert and can’t talk about what happened. She has an encounter with another young woman that lets her explore her sexual orientation, too. Engaging, compelling, fast read for those who love Sci fi and those who don’t. I am the latter and I thoroughly enjoyed this book.
  16. Too Many Mangos, Tammy Paikai: I love it when friends give us books as gifts! This delightful picture book helps understand the gift of sharing. The illustrations feature a varied cast of Hawaiian characters beautifully drawn. Readers will also get a joyful glimpse of life as they learn about mangos and much more. This book will be in our permanent collection.
  17. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces, Isabel Quintero: Gabi reminds me of a well-developed Ugly Betty if you remember that TV show from the early 2000s. She describes herself at various times as “overweight,” “nerdy,” “Mexican,” but that doesn’t really scratch the surface. Gabi is also a loyal friend to her besties who have their own challenges (including coming out and teen pregnancy among other things), a father who battles substance abuse and a mom and aunt who don’t believe that she is actually a good girl. Oh, and Gabi is also a senior who has her mind set on going to UC-Berkeley. With an irrepressible sense of humor and a voice that rang amazingly true and reminiscent of young people I actually know, this book is one I’d consider reading as a whole class novel. It’s that good.

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