As you already know, my kids are book-aholics. Serious book-aholics. The kind that would put us in debt, if not for e-book lending from the library. We’ve been striving to ensure the books they read reflect the diversity around them and especially include African-American kids in central roles, so I am going to reap the benefits of their book-love and share a few of our current finds.
I would like to say this book-sharing will be a regular thing, except every time I say that I end up totally slacking. So we shall see!
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester (grades 1-5; 32 pages)
I would love to give copies of this book for every school in our community! It isn’t “perfectly” written (the part that asks what life would be like if we all went around without our hair or skin got a little weird to me), but it is a great springboard for conversation about race. And while the book doesn’t really get into systemic racism or the more complex aspects of race, it is a wonderful starting point. My favorite part is the way that Mr. Lester talks about each person being a story: “Do I look at you and think I know your story when I don’t even know your name? Or, do I look at you and wonder…” I love that. I enjoyed reading this book to the boys and we’ve referred back to it several times. This is a must-have for your family library!
The Hero Two Doors Down by Sharon Robinson (grades 3-7; 208 pages)
My third-grader loves to read and he loves sports, so lately it seems every book he picks up involves athletics in some way. A friend lent him “The Hero Two Doors Down” and he couldn’t put it down. In his words:
I liked that this book was about baseball and I like Jackie Robinson because he was a good baseball player and he was the first Black baseball player ever to play in the Major Leagues. This book told the story about this boy named Stephen who was a fan of Jackie Robinson and one day he heard a Black family was moving in and it happened to be Jackie Robinson’s family. It’s a story about his relationship between him and Jackie Robinson’s family. It would be really cool if a professional baseball player moved to our neighborhood.
What makes this story especially interesting is that it is written by Robinson’s daughter and based on a true story about the friendship that developed between Robinson and an 8-year-old boy when Robinson moved into an all-Jewish neighborhood in 1948.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Garcia-Williams (grades 4-7; 304 pages)
I wanted to “pre-read” this book before handing it off to my third-grader, so I read it myself while traveling for work. There is no wonder that this book has earned a slew of awards! “One Crazy Summer” is well-written and interweaves history with the story of a three African-American sisters in the late sixties. The girls head to Oakland for the summer to meet a mom they barely remember and find themselves in the midst of the Black Panthers movement. The book touches on tough issues – sibling relationships, divorce, race – in sensitive and subtle ways that honor their complexity. I enjoyed the novel so much that I immediately ordered the sequel, “P.S., Be Eleven,” and read that too!
What diverse children’s books are your family enjoying?
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