Jill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.
As the holidays charge forth, many teachers reach for their tried-and-true holiday read-aloud bin. It can be very tricky to select just the right text for the holidays. November and December are wonderful months to expose our children to as many cultures as possible and share how different families celebrate holidays in their homes. I encourage teachers, librarians, and literacy advocates to use this time of year not only to explore rituals, traditions, and core values, but also to recognize and celebrate the different kinds of families our children have.
Like many of our literacy partners, we are always looking for fresh stories that demonstrate the core values of the season: empathy, respect, gratitude, service, honesty, community, self-reflection, and responsibility. What better way to teach these abstract concepts than with books that reflect our students’ experiences at home and relationships?
Oh the weather outside is frightful, but a middle school sense of humor is so delightful! When the temperature is freezing, what better way to spend your time than by reading a hilarious book? We’ve put together a list of middle grade humor books (all of which feature diverse main characters), so get ready to have your funny bone tickled!
Note: In general, middle grade books are appropriate for kids ages 8-12. If any of these books fall outside that range, we’ve tried to note that below.
For you visual learners, we’ve also pinned these titles on Pinterest:
These books have been recommended in various places – we haven’t (yet) read them all ourselves. If you have other recommended humorous middle grade titles that feature characters of color or are written by authors of color, let us know in the comments! For more on middle grade humor, check out Cat Girl’s Day Off author Kimberly Pauley’s guest post she wrote on How to Write Humor for Young Readers.
Let the giggles and laughs commence!
Alvin Ho: Allergic to Babies, Burglars, and Other Bumps in the Night by Lenore Look, ill. by LeUyen Pham: Alvin Ho is an Asian American second grader who is afraid of everything—elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. But at home he’s a very loud superhero named Firecracker Man, a brother to Calvin and Anibelly, and a gentleman-in-training, so he can be just like his dad.
Halloween, thought to have originated with the ancient Celtic festival Samhain, is just around the corner! Whether you’re planning to spend the holiday pumpkin carving, trick-or-treating, or just relaxing with a cup of steaming hot apple cider, we have six diverse books full of thrills and chills to add to your Halloween festivities!
1. Ghosts for Breakfast by Stanley Todd Terasaki, illustrated by Shelly Shinjo
In this humorous story set in the 1920s, a Japanese American boy and his father investigate their neighbors’ report of ghosts in a nearby farmer’s field.
Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 to October 15, a period chosen because it bookends the independence days of five Central American nations (Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Costa Rica, Sept. 15), Mexico (Sept. 16) and Chile (Sept. 18), as well as Columbus Day/Dia de la Raza (Oct. 14 this year in the United States). In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve rounded up five great books that celebrate Latino culture and history.
1. Gracias~Thanks by Pat Mora, illustrated by John Parra
Today is Women’s Equality Day and we’d like to thank the women of the past, present, and future for their contributions to women’s rights and gender equality.
Women’s Equality Day was created to commemorate the the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote, but it also highlights women’s continued efforts toward full equality in America.
This Sunday is Friendship Day, and what better way to celebrate than with books that celebrate friends of all ages and ethnicities!
Friendship Day was originally created by Hallmark in 1919 and people were supposed to celebrate their friendship by sending each other cards. It was officially recognized by the UN in 2011. According to the Friendship Day Declaration, the purpose is to “observe this day in an appropriate manner, in accordance with the culture and other appropriate circumstances or customs of their local, national and regional communities, including through education and public awareness-raising activities.”
Fall is just a few months away and while we aren’t looking forward to the cooler weather, we’re excited to introduce our new fall releases. Take a look – there’s sure to be something for every book lover you know!
King for A Day
King for a Day takes us to Basant, the springtime kite-flying festival in Lahore, Pakistan. Watch as Malik guides his kite into leaps and swirls, slashing strings to capture the other kites in the sky to become king for a day. Written by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Christiane Krömer.
Parrots Over Puerto Rico
In light of the recent verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, many parents are wondering, “What should I tell my children?” For parents looking for a place to start, we’ve created a list of five great books for young readers. Books can serve as an opening into serious discussion on race and social justice issues, build confidence and instill pride in young African American readers, and counter negative messages that children may be absorbing from other media outlets.
Ranging from lighthearted stories to titles that deal with serious topics, including loss, inner city issues, and race relations, these books will instill confidence in young readers, build their self-worth, and inspire them to overcome whatever obstacles they may face.
1. Black All Around by Patricia Hubbell, illustrated by Don Tate
Summer is in full swing and that means lots of exciting trips to be planned! We’ve pinned a list of picture books about travel on our new Pinterest board, so you can travel the world without spending money or suffering from jetlag!
Guest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, and supporting teachers to make their classrooms joyful and purposeful. Katie has presented at numerous national conferences and is the editor of The Language and Literacy Spectrum, New York Reading Association’s literacy journal.
We know love when we see it. The best mornings I have as a parent are when I see love between my sons. Moments like when my one-and-a-half year old spontaneously hugs my four year old, and he hugs him back. The best mornings I had as a teacher were when I saw love between my students. When a second grader high-fives a classmate for taking a risk with a math problem or when a student sits by someone at lunch who looks alone. As a parent and an educator, I am always on the look out for stories that center love in ways that enable young children to immediately but deeply understand what love is.