What's Your Favorite Culturally Responsive Book?

January 28, 2021

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Recently we asked our education community to name their favorite culturally responsive books. We want to share these books with you so that all of our students can see themselves reflected in the literature we choose. It is so very important that students read stories and see characters that share the same; race, social class, gender, language, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, and ability as them. And, that the storylines and characters are recognized and regarded as assets in text. It is our goal to create an educational environment that fosters: students who experience academic success, who are socio-politically conscious and socio-culturally responsive, and who have a critical lens through which they challenge inequitable systems of access, power, and privilege.

Educators Favorite Culturally Responsive Books

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds (Grades K-4)
Her teacher smiled. "Just make a mark and see where it takes you."
 
Art class is over, but Vashti is sitting glued to her chair in front of a blank piece of paper. The words of her teacher are a gentle invitation to express herself. But Vashti can’t draw - she’s no artist. To prove her point, Vashti jabs at a blank sheet of paper to make an unremarkable and angry mark. "There!" she says. That one little dot marks the beginning of Vashti’s journey of surprise and self-discovery.
 
Go Dance! by Cinnamon Spear (Grades 1-3)
Spencer and his family are members of the Northern Cheyenne tribe. Spencer is excited to dance at the Chief"s powwow, but then he has second thoughts. Will he find the courage to go dance? 
 
Maria Tallchief: A Woman Of Two Worlds by Cinnamon Spear (Grades 2-4)
Maria Tallchief was born on the Osage Indian Reservation and grew up to become a prima ballerina and one of the most important ballerinas in the United States. In stunning words and pictures, this book takes readers on her journey.
 
The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by Kate DiCamillo (Grades 3-5)
Once, in a house on Egypt Street, there lived a china rabbit named Edward Tulane. The rabbit was very pleased with himself, and for good reason: he was owned by a girl named Abilene, who adored him completely. And then, one day, he was lost.
 
Salt in my Shoes by Michael Jordan (Grades 3-5)
Young Michael feared he'd never be tall enough to play the game that would eventually make him famous. To lift his spirits, his mother told him that salt in his shoes would help him grow. This heartwarming picture book teaches hard work and determination are much more important than size in becoming a champion.
 
Wishtree by Katherine Applegate (Grades 4-6)
Red is the neighborhood "wishtree"—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red's branches. Along with her crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red's hollows, this "wishtree" watches over the neighborhood. You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in.
 
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy (Grades 9-12) 
Equal parts powerful family saga, forbidden love story, and piercing political drama. The seven-year-old twins Estha and Rahel see their world shaken irrevocably by the arrival of their beautiful young cousin, Sophie. It is an event that will lead to an illicit liaison and tragedies accidental and intentional, exposing “big things [that] lurk unsaid” in a country drifting dangerously toward unrest.
 
A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (Grades 10-12)
A play that portrays divergent dreams and conflicts within three generations of the Younger’s, an African-American family living on the South Side of Chicago in the 1950s.
 
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry (Grades 11-12)
With a compassionate realism and narrative sweep that recall the work of Charles Dickens, this magnificent novel captures all the cruelty and corruption, dignity and heroism, of India. The time is 1975. The place is an unnamed city by the sea. The government has just declared a State of Emergency, in whose upheavals four strangers–a spirited widow, a young student uprooted from his idyllic hill station, and two tailors who have fled the caste violence of their native village–will be thrust together, forced to share one cramped apartment and an uncertain future.
 
The Island by Aldous Huxley (Grades 11-12)
Aldous Huxley transports us to the remote Pacific island of Pala, where an ideal society has flourished for 120 years. Inevitably, this island of bliss attracts the envy and enmity of the surrounding world. A conspiracy is underway to take over Pala, and events are set in motion when an agent of the conspirators, a newspaperman named Faranby, is shipwrecked there. What Faranby doesn't expect is how his time with the people of Pala will revolutionize all his values to his amazement and give him hope.
 
Here are two links that provide a state by state breakdown of local bookstores owned by people of color - many have online stores.
 

Please share in the comments your favorite culturally responsive book so that we can continue  building our libraries.

Jumpstart to Early Reading

Equity-Focused Initiatives for K-12 students and families

It's All About the Plan: A MindSet Shift Towards Unfinished Learning


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