For Read Across America we should be focusing on books that make students feel seen, valued, and loved. We should focus on books that truly focus on America. When we know better, we do better. Here are some book recommendations to help you build a more inclusive library today and always. Keep reading below for all the details.
Spoiler alert: you won't find any Dr. Seuss here!
Sharing stories of food and celebrations is a wonderful way to showcase various traditions and cultures. Teaching about the unique experiences of all different people is actually reading across America. Take a look at some of the titles we LOVE:
Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillardis the perfect depiction of a modern Indigenous family coming together around the tradition of making fry bread together and the history behind it.
Freedom Soup by Tami Charles is a beautiful story of a family making their traditional New Years soup, freedom soup. While Ti Gran is teaching Belle how to make the soup, she is also educating her about the Haitian Revolution. It is a joyous story of a cultural celebration that all children will enjoy.
Bilal Cooks Dal by Aisha Syed is a wonderful book to showcase the importance of friendship and teamwork. Bilal shares his love of his favorite food, dal. Making it is a slow process, one that takes a lot of patience, but in the end it was worth it. Food is a wonderful way to showcase various cultural and family traditions and we love this book!
Dumpling Day by Meera Sriram is a super sweet, rhyming picture book that tales a story of various families making their own unique dumplings to bring to a party. It is a wonderful conversation starter about traditions in families being different and special.
A Song of Frutas by Margarita Engle is a joyous celebration of a young boy who visits his Abuelo and helps him sell fruit in the streets. They sing, dance, and enjoy their time together as a family.
Chik Chak, Shabbat by Mara Rockliff is the story of Goldie Simcha who graciously opens her doors and feeds all of her neighbors. One week she does not open her doors and her neighbors begin to worry. Find out how they come together to save Shabbat.
Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao by Kat Zhang follows Amy, a funny and smart girl determined to make the perfect bao just like her family. She keeps getting it wrong, but with a little determination she believes she can do it!
It is also important to showcase the joy of all children. Books should be an opportunity for all children to be the prince or princess, the hero, etc. Here are some of our favorites that do just that:
Eyes that Kiss the Corners by Joanna Ho is a gorgeous picture book that empowers children to love themselves. It is an incredible tale of self-acceptance and admiration of for where you come from.
I am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes is exactly what you would think from reading the title. It is a powerful story of a young Black boy who is proud of every bit of who he is.
The Year we Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson is a beautiful book that showcases the power of confidence and self-love.
Because I See You, I See Me by Tiffaney Whyte is a beautiful reminder that when children see teachers who are a reflection of them, they are empowered. A brand new book and a must have!
Ali and the Sea Stars by Ali Stroker is a picture book based on her life. Ali is a disabled Broadway star and this book is a joyous celebration of her life.
I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott is a poetic picture book inspired by the author’s experience with stuttering. His father once brought him to a river and explained to him that his voice is like a river. This enabled Jordan to feel as if his words were strong and powerful.
Under my Hijab by Hena Khan is truly a celebratory text for all Muslim women and girls who wear hijabs and the many ways in which they do. It is also a wonderful introduction to hijabs for all readers.
And finally, what better way to learn about American families, than by reading stories about them. Here are just a few of our favorites:
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry is a powerful story about the bond between a little girl and her dad who helps her find the perfect hair style.
The Kindest Red; A Story of Hijab and Friendship by Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali is the sequel to The Proudest Blue. This story seeks to spread true kindness through the power of friendship and family.
Mama’s Sari’s by Pooja Makhijani is a story about a little girl who wants to dress up in her mom’s clothes. She tries throughout the book to convince her mom to get her a sari for her seventh birthday.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales is a nonfiction book about the authors journey from Mexico to the US with her son. This is a beautiful story of strength, resilience, and family. It is a reminder that we are all dreamers.
Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman is a story of Heather who loves the number 2; especially because she has two mommies! When asked to share a portrait of her family at school, she learns about all the different and wonderful family dynamics of her classmates.
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is an endearing story of a young child who LOVES mermaids. Julian’s abuela notices this and helps him dress up and together they attend a mermaid festival. It is one we have read in our house hundreds of times!
Tia Fortuna’s New Home: A Jewish Cuban Journey by Ruth Behar is a beautiful story of family as a young girl helps her Tia move away from her beloved apartment and into assisted living.
Abuela by Arthur Dorros is a fun story of a little girl who imagines flying all over New York City with her abuela. As she flies from place to place, she is told about memories from her abuelas past.
We hope you love all these books! Are there any that we missed? Let us know!
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