Highlighting Stories of Characters with Varying Abilities

By guest blogger Meg Ackemann

Growing up, I was rarely exposed to stories featuring characters whose lives were very different from my own. I recall only a few stories that featured characters with exceptionalities. Those that did focused mostly on the exceptionality of the character and how they overcame obstacles in their lives, rather than their everyday joy and humanity. As a future educator, I have a responsibility to find and make available more inclusive stories including books featuring characters with exceptionalities so my students can become more knowledgeable, understanding, and equity-oriented citizens. This collection highlights stories of characters with varying abilities.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

This graphic novel is about a young girl who is coming to terms with being deaf and eventually embraces a positive outlook on life. As a child, Cece becomes sick with Meningitis causing her to lose her hearing ability. Afterward, she struggled to develop true friendships. She ultimately finds that she can use her hearing loss as a superpower rather than a disability. Cece becomes confident and stands up for herself. At the end of the story, she and her peers realize that she is more like them than different.

Growing up with hearing loss, there were no characters in books or in TV shows that I could relate to. In spring 2021, I participated in an El Deafo book club with a group of elementary students who live with hearing loss. The students related to Cece, and they admired the strong, kind, and funny main character. This story inspired these young children to be more confident as well. El Deafo highlights the hearing loss community and demonstrates how Cece, as well as other individuals with hearing loss, are really not much different than those who have full hearing.

Freddie and the Fairy by Julia Donaldson

This book is about a young boy named Freddie and his encounters with a fairy who is hard of hearing. The fairy promises to grant Freddie some wishes but is unable to fulfill those wishes because she has difficulty hearing what Freddie is asking. She would almost get the request right but would substitute key letters in words, such as hearing ‘cat’ instead of ‘bat’. Freddie’s frustration with the fairy increases throughout the story until a magical Queen Fairy appears and shares three rules that people must follow when speaking to others so they can be understood:

1. Do not mumble.

2.Do not turn your head away.

3. Do not cover your mouth.

These rules are helpful for young speakers and could be applied to any situation.

This book introduces young children to new ideas and offers concrete suggestions to have their voices heard and help them communicate more effectively with people with hearing loss.

As a child, I frequently did not hear things properly and tended to have experiences like those of the fairy. It was frustrating for me when I would ask my peers to repeat themselves and they would just yell what they had said again rather than enunciating so that I could understand. This book would have been a comfort to me and a guide for my friends.

Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari

This book is about Zara, a young girl who uses a wheelchair and has a service animal named Moose. Zara and Moose love to spend time together. But when Zara goes to school, Moose cannot handle being away from her, so he follows her. But dogs are not allowed at school and Moose gets sent home. Moose misses Zara so much that he makes his way to school again and again and is sent home each time. Although Zara is in a wheelchair and has a service animal, she is not defined by this exceptionality.

Tune it Out by Jamie Sumner

Lu, a young girl with a sensory processing disorder (SPD) lives with her mother in the back of a truck. Because of their nomadic life, Lu has missed almost a year of school. Lu’s mother is a waitress and Lu earns tips singing at open mic nights. When the police and social services discover how they are living, Lu is taken from her mother and forced to live with her aunt and uncle. She is enrolled in a new school and makes new friends. As she comes to terms with all the abrupt changes in her life, Lu learns how to accommodate her needs. Readers discover how Lu combats discomfort with loud sounds and physical touch. The author highlights Lu’s incredible ability to sing in such detail that you wish you could hear it yourself.

Right Now, I am Fine by Daniela Owen and written by Gülce Baycik

This book features a child coping with the anxiety of living through the COVID pandemic and all of the uncertainty they face. The author offers breathing techniques and alternative behaviors for children to avoid sitting with worry. It does not diminish the feelings a child may face, but reminds the child that the problems are often out of their control and they are okay in that exact moment. Readers are reminded that anxiety is a normal feeling but does not need to be a constant state of being.

I grew up as a very anxious person and I never knew how to deal with my anxieties. Being exposed to coping mechanisms and breathing strategies would have been very helpful.

Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson

Emmanuel’s Dream is a true story about a young boy in who was born in Ghana with a physical disability. He was unable to use one of his legs which left him unable to walk. With encouragement and assistance from his mother, he surprised everyone. At that time people did not have much respect or hope for people who were considered disabled, but Emmanuel persisted. He ended up breaking many stereotypes and becoming a role model for many people, including those with disabilities.

A Different Little Doggy by Heather Whittaker

This is a story about Taz, a dog with disabilities. As the story progresses, Taz points out how her friends are all different, but happy. The book ends on a positive note that emphasizes that although they are all different, they are still happy and accepting of others.

A Different Little Doggy by [Heather Whittaker, Scott Alberts]

Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor

This beautifully illustrated book begins with the author, Supreme Court Judge Sonia Sotomayor sharing about her own experiences with being diagnosed with Diabetes as a child. The affirming story celebrates the many abilities and differences we have as human beings and features children with asthma, physical disability, hearing and vision impairment, dyslexia, autism, stuttering, Tourette’s syndrome, ADHD, nut allergies, and Down syndrome.

Float by Pixar

This is a short film about a father and his son who has special abilities. Although the father is fascinated by how his son is able to float, he is also embarrassed and hides his son from the world. He keeps him hidden in their home and will only take him outside if he is physically held down by rocks. One day they go to a park and the son escapes from his rocks and starts floating around the park. The father freaks out and yells at the son “Why can’t you be normal?” In that moment the father realized he was wrong, and that he should love his son for exactly who he is and appreciate every part of him and his abilities.

Cababa, K. (Producer), & Rubio, B. (Director). (2019). Float. Pixar Animation Studios.

Meg Ackermann is studying to become a teacher at Furman University. She will graduate in 2022 and plans to pursue a Masters in Special Education.

Supporting Multilingual Children as Growing Readers in More Than One Language

By guest blogger Valentina Gonzalez

My childhood home was not filled with bookshelves lined with books. I didn’t have a stack of books to read in my bedroom. Nor do I remember sitting on mama’s or tata’s (Serbian for dad) lap as we turned the pages of a book. 

But what I do remember is cuddling up next to my tata before bedtime and listening anxiously as he told stories he remembered or even ones he made up. As an immigrant family from the former Yugoslavia, we brought little with us when we came to America. Books were heavy and did not make the journey. Storytelling, however, was a cherished time in our home. My favorite story was Hansel and Gretel. 

My first formal introduction to English was as a kindergartener. I loved school. I soaked it up like a sponge and admired my teacher as if she were a queen. My favorite part of the day was when she read aloud to us. I loved watching as she melodically formed the words and gracefully turned pages. 

One magical day as she read, I realized that the story she was reading to us in English was the bedtime story my dad told me at home in Serbian. It was Hansel and Gretel! The two people I adored more than anyone else knew the story I loved most and in two languages! I was in disbelief. Until that day, it always seemed to me that my homelife and language were completely separate from my school life and language and never the two shall meet. But that day they met! And it was magical. 

I have mixed emotions about this memory. It makes me sad because it was one of the only times that I felt as if a little part of my homelife and culture were allowed into the classroom. For years after that experience I struggled to connect with books. I rarely found myself in literature or read about my lived experiences. As an educator, this reminds me that children should not have to shed their identity, their language, literacy, and who they are at home when they come to school. On the other hand, the memory makes me happy because it reminds me that we can create great places in our classrooms that open students’ hearts and minds and builds joy for reading. We can help children feel seen, heard, and valued. We can embrace cultures and identities. We have the power to make an enormous impact on readers in our classrooms every day. 

By the year 2025 it’s estimated that 1 in 4 students in the United States will be classified as English learners (ELs). That number is remarkable. ELs, or multilinguals (a more asset-based term) are the fastest growing population of students in our nation. And they bring many valuable attributes, lived experiences, and qualities that can be leveraged in our classrooms. 

One of the greatest strengths we each have is our identities as unique humans (see Reading to Make a Difference CHAPTER 1 Discovering Our Own Identities). So how can we support multilingual children in our classrooms as readers?

As a teacher, I worked in a campus that served multilinguals that spoke over 20 different languages. Of course I could not speak all of them. But there were things I could do even though I did not serve in a bilingual program. The following are three practical suggestions for supporting multilingual readers in any classroom. 

  1. Partner with parents, families, and caregivers. Parents are often a child’s first teacher and know their children best. They can provide us with valuable information about students’ lives, passions, strengths, etc. We can use this information to connect them with books they will love. Partnering will also help us to create a team for literacy and reading growth. On the other hand, we also have a lot to offer to parents, families, and caregivers. Through a partnership, we can:  
    • share with them reading strategies, 
    • provide books and resources, and 
    • help through literacy related challenges. 
  1. Ensure that the books offered on shelves represent the students in the classroom. Rudine Sims Bishop calls this mirrors (1990). Recent studies on published children’s literature have shown that a great proportion of books offer main characters who are white and books featuring people of color are not only limited but often misrepresented or stereotyped. When I first learned about these studies, I didn’t think my own library shelves were out of proportion, but I was shocked when I took an audit. That audit prompted me to take action. Each time my district offered funds that I could use for books, I applied that money towards books that my students could connect with. It was important to me that the books were not solely for the ESL classroom. The goal was for the books to be in every classroom, accessible as read alouds and for students to enjoy on their own as independent reading. This is just a sampling of the books we purchased: 
Little Dreamers by Vashti Harrison

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Carmela Full of Wishes by Matt De La Peña

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña

The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho

Shaking Things Up by Susan Hood

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

This is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe

Milo Imagines the World by Matt De La Peña

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

Just Ask by Sonia SotoMayor

  1. Team up with the campus library media specialist. Work together to build more inclusive multilingual book offerings to the campus library. The librarian I worked with used Follett Titlewave. We pulled up the top languages spoken on our campus and we began ordering the most popular books in multiple languages. Students that can read in multiple languages have unique linguistic capital. We can embrace and support biliterate children and their linguistic identities through providing books in the languages they read. They are future global leaders! 

When literacy (in all languages) is seen from an asset perspective, nurtured, and valued, all stakeholders benefit. I learned along the way to allow myself the autonomy to be flexible in teaching and learning and to let students lead. Centering instructional practices and all that I do around them changed how we learned, how much we learned, and how much joy we all had in learning. 

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Valentina Gonzalez, coauthor of Reading & Writing with English Learners: A Framework for K-5, is a former teacher who has served 20+ years in education in her own classroom, as a district facilitator for English learners, a professional development specialist for ELs and as an educational consultant. Her work’s primary focuses have been on literacy, culture, and language. Valentina delivers professional development and coaches teachers on sheltered instruction strategies. She works with teachers of ELs to support language and literacy instruction. 

Celebrating Juneteenth

All across the United States, people celebrate our country’s independence on the fourth of July. Yet, signing the Declaration of Independence in 1776 did not make everyone free and independent. In fact, it was legal to enslave people for another 86 years until President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862. Even then slavery did not end in the U.S. until June 19, 1865 when slaves in Texas were finally freed, almost 100 years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. 

Juneteenth, just like July 4th, should be celebrated by all. Recently, congress passed a bill making Juneteenth a federal holiday. This day commemorates the end of slavery and freedom for African Americans in the United States. 

Although slavery was abolished on June 19, 1865, racism did not end. We do not live in a post-racist society as is evident by the ongoing oppression and systemic racism against African Americans in this country. With the killings of George Floyd in Minnesota, Breonna Taylor in Kentucky, and Amaud Arbery in Georgia our country has seen increased awareness and tensions. While marching in protests and posting on social media is a good start, it is not enough. There is much more work to be done. We must understand the long history of oppression and the rich contributions of African Americans to our country. 

To get started, we recommend these children’s books and further reading about Juneteenth and African American history and heritage:

Juneteenth for Mazie (Fiction Picture Books): Cooper, Floyd, Cooper, Floyd:  9781479558209: Amazon.com: BooksJuneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper

Mazie learns about Juneteenth from her father who encourages her to remember and celebrate. 

See the source imageAll is Different Now: Juneteenth, The First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson 

Written in free verse poetry, this book tells the story of a family in Texas who upon learning about their freedom go and celebrate with the community. 

 Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the U.S. by Patricia & Fredrick McKissack

DAYS OF JUBILEE chronicles emancipation beginning with slaves who were freed for their service during the Revolutionary War, to those who were freed by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. 

Free at Last!: Stories and Songs of Emancipation by Doreen Rappaport

True stories and traditional songs shed light on a lesser known era in African-American history — the crucial decades between Emancipation and the start of the Civil Rights movement.

See the source imageDave the Potter by Laban Carrick Hill

Set in South Carolina in the 1800s, this book tells the story of a slave who was an artist, poet, and potter who conveyed messages of peace and hope in his work.

See the source image

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine

This book tells the story of Henry Brown, who literally mails himself in a box to escape slavery and obtain freedom in Philadelphia. 

Note: Upon closer examination of the book Henry’s Freedom Box, we wish to point out some problematic language suggesting Henry’s master was good to him and his family. And thus recommend the book, Box: Henry Brown Mails Himself to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford as an alternate text.

Henry Brown’s story of how he sent himself in a box from slavery to freedom is told through stanzas of six lines (to represent the box). Historical records and an introductory excerpt from Henry’s own writing as well as a time line, notes from the author and illustrator, and a bibliography are included.

The Undefeated by Kwame AlexanderSee the source image

This beautiful poem is a tribute to the resilience of black life and history in the U.S. The back matter provides powerful historical context and information about many inspiring African Americans. 

See the source image

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson 

Told through the perspective of a 100 year old African American woman, this book tells the rich history and contributions of African Americans through the dark history in the U.S. Beginning with the birth of the nation, the story of African Americans is told chronologically through the Civil Rights Movement. 

See the source imageThis Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell 

This book helps the reader explore issues around race including the history behind it and ways to be an anti-racist through the exploration of social identities, privilege and the power to speak up and take action for social justice.

See the source image


Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X Kendi

This powerful middle grades and young adult book explores the history of racism in the United States. 

Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You

This chapter book version of Ibram X. Kendi’s and Jason Reynolds’s book offers an essential introduction to the history of racism and antiracism in America. 

 

Further reading: 

An Educator’s Guide to “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You”

How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books and Resources That Can Help 

Why All Americans Should Celebrate Juneteenth 

7 Black LGBTQ leaders in honor of Juneteenth and Pride month 

Juneteenth: Our Other Independence Day (Smithsonian) 

So You Want to Learn about Juneteenth?

 

*updated: June 17, 2021

Culturally Nourishing Stories: Centering Food Like Love

By guest blogger Nawal Qarooni Casiano

In my family, love looks like an intricately cooked meal. Love looks like stew left to simmer on low, all day, so the turmeric and onions caramelize into a rich sauce. Love looks like bowl after bowl served atop long-grain basmati rice, with crispy tahdig from the bottom of the pot. 

We overfeed. Like Bilal in Aisha Saeed’s gorgeous picture book about a little boy introducing his friends to daal, we must have patience to cook our Persian stews. 

Noushe-jan, my mother says. 

Noushe-jan, my Ameh says. 

Noushe-jan, I tell my children. 

The aroma of fesenjan in the house means we’ve ground walnuts to a pulp and combined it with pomegranate molasses so it’s the perfect melange of sweet and sour. Persian stews are like fine wines; the longer they sit and simmer, the more delicious they become. 

As educators, one way to share of ourselves and our students’ unique identities is by bringing alive stories of food: nourishing, layered, textured. Food is commensurate with love, in many cultures, but more than that, identity stories often rely on memories of food. When teachers and students  storytell about food rituals in school spaces,  we more readily build community, connectedness and understanding. We are able to cultivate empathy and compassion for all cultures and people. 

As educators, every decision to include a story is an omission elsewhere. Writer Arundhati Roy once said, “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless.’ There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop’s scholarship names the need for students to see themselves in texts (mirrors) while also learning about others (windows). When we consider both of these ideas, it becomes clear how critical text selection truly is. 

The framework in Reading to Make a Difference provides lenses through which educators can select texts, ensure students make connections, reflect deeply, take action and co-construct next steps for future behaviors and understandings. 

Below are several picture books that center culturally nourishing stories – ones that celebrate inclusivity and depict familial love. I included picture books, poetry, songs and video – purposefully multimodal – so students can interact with culturally nourishing stories in a variety of ways. 

In Amy Wu and the Perfect Bao, by Kat Zhang, a little girl learns to love her bao-making skills. They’re not easy to make and they’re initially imperfect, but they’re delicious in any iteration, and readers quickly notice the familial closeness and special, comforting connections that arise as a result of crafting bao together. You can share the video for making bao with students too. 


In the classroom, teachers might try using the following questions from Reading to Make a Difference to support student connections to text. 

When students have an opportunity to explore landscapes, neighborhoods, and dwellings unlike their own, how can I help them make connections to their own environment? 

When students meet characters that have experiences or family structures different from their own, how can I draw connections so that these don’t seem so different? 

When students read about new cultural ways of being and lifestyles, how will I connect these to what is familiar to them? 

Bilal Cooks Daal by Aisha Saeed is about a little boy who shares with his friends the long process of making lentil stew, from selecting the ingredients to patiently playing outside while the flavors merge together. He worries briefly about his friends not liking it but those worries quickly give way to the final touches, adding naan, fresh ginger and cilantro to serve. This is a beautiful book about friendship, community, and celebrating new experiences. 

Questions to support connection from Reading to Make a Difference:

When students meet characters that face challenges and obstacles different from their own, how will I help them build on what they already know?

When students are exposed to language and speech patterns that differ from their own, how will I help them find value in all language? 


I fell in love with Leila in Saffron by Rukhsanna Guidroz because of its enchanting descriptions of life in colors, smells and textures (“I see the color of lentils, bright and orange; pomegranates, juicy and rosy; cucumber skin, dark and green; and threads of saffron, gold and copper.”) The protagonist is Pakistani and her journey to know herself is deeply connected to the cultural wisdom of her grandmother. She uses all of her senses to absorb her family so powerfully, it feels like readers are witnessing the weaving of a gorgeous tapestry. 

Teachers and students can enjoy these stories across many days, stacking layering texts to facilitate conversation about varied cultures and nourishing traditions.

From Reading to Make a Difference, classroom teachers might specifically think about the question ‘How will students make connections across texts to build their understanding of the issue?’ 

Each of these picture books include recipes in the back, and often, nonfiction facts about the cultural background it came from. Teachers might ask students to write their own family food traditions, or create their own Flipgrid videos naming the steps of a special recipe. Students might draw pictures of their food stories or even record their family in the kitchen step-by-step. Happy food-related reading! 

For a more comprehensive resource list of food stories click here.

Nawal Qarooni Casiano is an award-winning journalist and educator with experience in New York City and Chicago schools. Nawal was a classroom teacher, curriculum developer and literacy coach before launching NQC Literacy in 2014. She and her team design professional learning experiences in dozens of schools and education spaces. She is the proud daughter of Iranian immigrants and the mother of four young multiethnic, multilingual kids, which very much shapes the way she understands learning. You can find her at the park with her four kids in Chicago’s Logan Square, at NQCLiteracy.com or on Twitter @NQCLiteracy

Teaching Civil Disobedience in the Midst of Nationwide Insurrection

Guest blog post by Tatiana Oliveira, 4th grade virtual teacher in Greenville, SC

On January 6th, 2021, America and the rest of the world watched in horror as white supremacists stormed Capitol Hill in Washington, DC to protest the results of the 2020 election. Almost immediately, the question arose for educators across the country: How do we approach this with students?

In my virtual fourth grade classroom, we held a candid and honest conversation about the events of the previous day. One student asked why Black Lives Matter protestors were treated so differently from these protestors. Other students shared their observations about how people with black or brown skin are treated in the United States. 

Students recognized that the violence was wrong, and that it has no place in our democracy. But the question remained: How do we reconcile these protestors with peaceful protestors such as those during the Civil Rights Movement or the Women’s Liberation Movement? 

To illustrate this distinction, we engaged in several activities over the next few days, including:

  • Read alouds of books that depicted examples of peaceful protests, such as Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins by Carole Boston Weatherford, The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, and Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue. 
  • Responding to and asking questions about the violence we had just witnessed. For example, one student wrote a letter to President Biden asking for him to initiate police reform and hold police officers accountable, while another student recorded a Flipgrid video explaining his mixed feelings about the Inauguration. 
  • When learning about the Constitution the following week, we read I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer to better understand our right to peacefully protest under the First Amendment.

It is important to show students the power of nonviolent resistance beyond standalone read alouds during Black History Month or Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The Capitol Hill riot cannot be the reference point for students when they think about protesting for meaningful change. As educators, we must teach them the fundamentality of peaceful protests to our democracy, and the role they have played in cultivating reform in American history. 

There is a significant contrast between the events of January 6th and protests of the past in the manner of, and the reasons for, protesting. As educators we must teach this intentionally and explicitly. Books are one of the most powerful platforms for having these difficult conversations at all grade levels.

Texts about Peaceful Protests

Elementary

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson

This biography tells the story of nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks, who was enraged at the segregation laws in 1960s Alabama. The youngest known person to be arrested for protesting in the Civil Rights Movement, Audrey helps lead the cause of “filling the jails,” and makes her mark as a young pioneer of desegregation.


Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

A common misconception is that Rosa Parks’s peaceful protest was a spur of the moment, impulsive decision, because she was tired from work and did not want to get up from her bus seat. This text takes the reader through the background of that protest, and to the greater Montgomery Bus Boycott that took place as a result. Through its powerful illustrations and in-depth look at Parks’s life in the context of the Civil Rights Movement, readers will understand just how significant a role she played in the fight for racial justice.


Brave Girl: Clara and the Shirtwaist Makers’ Strike of 1909 by Michelle Markel

It is difficult to imagine a world in which children are forced to work rather than go to school, and are even employed over their parents. But that’s just what happened with Clara Lemlich, an immigrant from Ukraine in the early 1900s, who worked in a shirtwaist factory as a young child. Tired of not being fairly compensated or treated justly, Clara helps organize a massive walkout with her fellow female employees, resulting in changes to their salaries, working conditions, and treatment.


Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Winner of the Jane Addams Award and Pura Belpré Award, this picture book tells the often overlooked story of Sylvia Mendez who, despite being an American citizen, was prohibited from enrolling in her local elementary school in the early 1940s and was instead forced to enroll in the nearby Mexican school. Her family, confused and frustrated by the laws of segregation, launches a full petition and lawsuit to desegregate California schools. As one of the major court rulings leading up to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case in 1954, the Mendez family’s fight helped integrate California schools and showed the power of a community rallying around a common cause.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Based on a remarkable true story, a gorilla named Ivan lives at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade with his friends, an elephant named Stella and a stray dog named Bob. Ivan longs for a day when he can be free among his family. When a baby elephant named Ruby joins their group, Ivan realizes he must fight to help get her out of captivity. He does this the best way he knows how: through his art. The signs he makes, along with his drawings, draw attention to the mistreatment of the animals at the mall, and help free Ruby and Ivan.

Middle & Secondary

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

Shay is a twelve-year-old girl who avoids trouble at all costs. But as a junior high schooler now, Shay has started to notice some new dynamics – with her family and with her friends. Her older sister, Hana, is active in Black Lives Matter, but many of Shay’s classmates don’t understand that movement. Shay is caught between wanting to fight for people who look like her, and wanting to just fit in at school and stay out of trouble. As she begins to learn more about the meaning of Black Lives Matter, Shay realizes that not all trouble is bad, and sometimes you have to break a few rules to see real change.


Internment by Samira Ahmed

Set in the near-future, the American President has passed several laws restricting the rights of Muslim Americans, and forcing them to live in an internment camp. Layla, a seventeen-year-old, along with her parents, are three of the citizens forced into this camp. Determined to break out, Layla forms an alliance with others in the camp and begins a revolution against the camp’s Director and the guards. 


Land of the Cranes by Aida Salazar

Betita’s father loves telling her stories about her family’s journey to the United States from Mexico, and Betita loves using picture poems to illustrate her family’s plight. But after her father is deported back to Mexico, and Betita and her mother are taken into custody at an ICE detention center, she loses her passion for creating picture poems. She realizes, however, that her poetry is her greatest weapon in the fight against injustice, and uses it to draw attention to the inhumane treatment she receives in the detention center.


Additional Recommended Texts/Resources:

Enough! 20 Protestors Who Changed America by Emily Easton

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull

My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Christine King Farris

Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights by Rob Sanders

Wishtree by Katherine Applegate

Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Elizabeth Acevedo, Mahogany L. Browne, and Olivia Gatwood

March: Books 1, 2, 3 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Greta’s Story: The Schoolgirl Who Went on Strike to Save the Planet by Valentina Camerini

Hector: A Boy, A Protest, and the Photograph that Changed Apartheid by Adrienne Wright

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice by Bryan Stevenson

From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks

Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros

Tatiana Oliveira is a 4th grade virtual teacher in Greenville, SC. Follow her on Twitter @tmoliveira17.