Category Archives: Book Lists by Topic

Lists of recommended books categorized by subject matter.

Reading Biographies to Reflect on Core Principles and Create Belonging

Katie CunninghamGuest blogger Katie Cunningham is an Assistant Professor at Manhattanville College. Her teaching and scholarship centers around children’s literature, critical literacy, guest bloggerandsupporting 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. 

Spring is here and with that spring fever for many students who will be graduating from a significant milestone and moving on to the next stage of their lives. Graduating students will hear speeches that urge them to seize the day, to work hard, to stand out amongst the crowd, and to answer the question “Who will you be?”. The Common Core State Standards are written with this day in mind. While the standards are designed to raise the level of education that any child receives regardless of socioeconomic status, race, gender, and language, the standards alone do not put children on the path to college and a career. We cannot overlook that some students see themselves from a very early age as “card carrying members” in college settings while others feel displaced. Before we can ask our students “Who will you be?”, we need to wonder “Who do our students believe they can be?”

Katie Cunningham quoteThe last few springs I’ve hosted seventy-five fifth graders to the college campus where I’m an Assistant Professor. These fifth graders attend a school where 93% are of Latino descent, 85% have reduced or free lunch, and almost 40% have limited English proficiency.  For many of them this experience is their first time on a college campus and the vast majority will be the first generation in their families to attend college. The trip is only five miles by school bus, yet our campus is a world away for many students. The trip is designed to give fifth graders the sense that they are card-carrying members. That they belong here. That they are on the road to college as a pathway to a career.

As educators and parents, we know that college and career-readiness cannot simply be reduced to a series of skills-based standards. Rather, it’s a complex topic with social, cultural and political considerations that go far beyond the classroom. I believe we can enact curriculum that centers the standards in engaging and joyful ways, but what can we do to rewrite history for many of our students who face obstacles inside and outside our classrooms everyday? We can bring them to college campuses and support them to see themselves as members of intellectual communities. We can also support students beyond single events to routinely consider what guides us and what has guided people before us to reach their dreams. Harvard Professor Ronald Ferguson established five core principles I believe our schools must teach long before and alongside any reading, writing, or math lessons:

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Holocaust Picture Books: An Annotated List

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day and, as Marcia Vaughan noted in her guest post last week, books guest bloggercan be a good way to introduce young students to a very difficult topic. Today, with permission, we’re cross-posting educator Keith Schoch’s excellent annotated list of recommended picture books about the Holocaust, originally posted on March 3, 2013 at Teach With Picture Books:

Picture books included in the above annotated book list:

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Compiling Rigorous Thematic Text Sets: Books About Immigration

Jaclyn DeForgeJaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching first and second grade in the South Bronx, and went on to become a literacy coach and earn her Masters of Science in Teaching. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators.  This is the third in a series of posts on thematic text sets.

One aspect of the Common Core that I get asked questions about all the time is thematic text sets. What are they? How do you know which books to use? What types of texts should you be pairing together?

Fear not! I’ve compiled some examples of text sets that cover one topic and span multiple genres and reading levels. Some of the titles you may already have in your classroom library, and others I think you’ll enjoy discovering. In my last two posts, I compiled books about the moon and books about Kenya. Today we look at books about immigration:

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“What does this book have to do with me?” Why Mirror and Window Books Are Important for All Readers

guest bloggerKatie CunninghamGuest 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. 

When we lived in Brooklyn, I knew my sons were growing up in a diverse community. They understood that people have different skin colors. That people speak different languages. That people eat different foods. That people believe different things. That we all share a common humanity. That life is full of complexity.

Now we live in the woods and appreciate the quiet of country living but this is far from a diverse community. For my boys, there is greater diversity in the pages of a book than on the streets of their town. Multicultural children’s literature is a doorway into greater understanding that their cultural background is not the only cultural background. That their way of speaking is not the only way of speaking. That their point of view is not shared by everyone.

When we open a book and start to read a story, we use our imaginations to walk through whatever world the author has created. Children’s literature is full of stories about boys and girls that look like my children. Rudine Sims Bishop uses the terms mirror books and window books to describe how we both see ourselves and see others when we read literature. The characters my sons encounter are often mirrors and they find their life experiences reflected in the books they read. Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but do they have enough access to high-quality stories that represent other cultural backgrounds in a positive way?

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Turning to Story after the Sandy Hook Shooting

guest bloggerKatie CunninghamGuest 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. 

As we unravel the tragic events that took place in Newtown, CT, I am reminded of the dedication Jan Spivey Gilchrest wrote in When The Horses Ride By: Children in the Time of War:

For the beautiful, powerful and courageous children of the world, you are far more than dolls and toy trucks. You are real people only smaller. Know that we are here to love you, listen to you, respect you and protect you.

Gilchrest’s words remind us as educators, parents, and writers that there is great beauty and strength in the children who fill our lives. As the process of healing begins, stories can remind us of just how beautiful, powerful, and courageous children are. Stories can celebrate the simple acts of care people bestow on one another. Stories can, in turn, inspire acts of kindness.

Every semester I ask my students to consider how they will use children’s literature to help their own young students understand traumatic events. Rather than turning to texts that offer generic historical accounts, I find my students selecting stories that center the human spirit. The Classroom Bookshelf has generated a wonderful book list for supporting children with grief and loss. It’s a resource to turn to in the days and weeks ahead as we come together to grieve and to take action. As we move forward as a nation, we will also need books that celebrate children and the power of love and remind us to give thanks. The following books are stories that I continue to come back to as I work alongside teachers. Consider how these and other stories can provide comfort and build a community of care in your classroom. Let’s continue to recognize what’s most important in our classrooms—the children, their stories, and stories that inspire them.

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Diverse Dystopias: A Book List

In honor of the upcoming release of our new YA anthology, Diverse Energies, we thought we’d put together a list of dystopias with diversity. For the purposes of this list, our definition of diversity is: 1.) A book with a main character of color (not just secondary characters), or 2.) A book written by an author of color. Of course, all types of diversity are worth celebrating, so if you know of other diverse dystopias (with, for example, LGBT diversity) please share them in the comments as well.

Note: I have not personally read all of these books, but have tried to confirm the inclusion of diverse main characters whenever possible. However, mistakes are bound to be made, so if you’ve read something and don’t think it belongs on this list, please let us know. Likewise if we’ve missed something that should be here.

If you’re a visual learner, the whole thing is on Pinterest:

Diverse Dystopias book list

And now, onward:

Above World, by Jenn Reese: (middle grade) In this dystopia, overcrowding has led humans to adapt so that they can live under the ocean or on mountains.

The Boy at the End of the World, by Greg van Eekhout: (middle grade) In this dystopia, the last boy on earth teams up with an overprotective broken robot to survive.

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What Are Your Top 3 Beach Reads?

In celebration of July 4th and all of summer’s fun activities, I asked a few Lee & Low authors and staff members what their favorite beach reads are. I’m sure it was difficult to pick just three, but here’s what they came up with:

Don Tate, author of It Jes’ Happened, says: “Reading here has been slow lately. But here’s what’s tops on my summer reading list, books written by friends and critique partners in my local writing community.”

  1. Laugh With The Moon by Shana Burg
  2. Chronal Engine by Greg Leitich Smith
  3. Think Big by Liz Garton Scanlon

 Jaclyn DeForge, our Resident Literacy Expert, explains why she made her choices:During the summer, despite my best intentions, I seldom actually make it to the beach, so here are my favorite travel-centric reads that help me imagine I’m on vacation.”

  1. A Sense of Direction:  Pilgrimage for the Restless and the Hopeful by Gideon Lewis-Krauss
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