This blog post is part of Build Your Stack,® a new initiative focused exclusively on helping teachers build their book knowledge and their classroom libraries. It was written by NCTE member Jennipher Frazier.
Throughout my career as an educator, I must say that I have evolved in my thinking about literature. I reflect back to my earlier classroom libraries and the books that I would purchase for teaching and engagement purposes. Even though the books I chose were classical books and books that were considered to be a “must have” for any elementary classroom, they were not as diverse as they should have been.
As I have evolved, I’m now aware that I was not allowing all students in my classroom to see their own beauty in the literature that was present each day. This is one reason why I was so passionate about having the African American Read-In (AARI) as a school-wide celebration. Although diverse literature is always important to have in classrooms, a lot of times it is missing. Setting aside a day to honor African American literature through the Read-In assures that all students see the beauty of African Americans.
To meet this goal, my book search is very intentional. I look for literature to share with students that is a true representation of the students with whom I have the honor of spending time. This focus on selecting books is not only what I look for when choosing read-alouds or mentor texts, but also how I select books for the African American Read-In.
When making AARI book selections I am looking for:
- Books that are written for pre-kindergarten to fifth grade students
- Books that represent contributions of African Americans
- Books that are written to celebrate African American culture and community
- Books that showcase characters’ strength during challenges
Through my book selection this year, I chose two books that I had not read before and added them to my “must-have” list.
Mae Among the Stars, written by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington, is the story of young Dr. Mae Jemison, who had the desire to follow her dreams. This is a great book to add to your classrooms to encourage discussions about how to be what you want to be even when others doubt that you can. It also touches on the power of words and how they can positively or negatively affect someone’s life.
Our Children Can Soar: A Celebration of Rosa, Barack, and the Pioneers of Change by Michelle Cook, is an amazing book chronicling contributions by pioneers of the Civil Rights movement. It is a book that uses simple, but strong words to illustrate the hard work of those who accomplished much, and the artwork is contributed by a variety of award-winning illustrators.
These were just two great books that I discovered this year and shared during our school’s African American Read-In. I’ll keep looking for books that truly represent my students, and I hope you will too!
Have an idea for a Build Your Stack blog post? We’re now accepting submissions from NCTE members! Learn more and submit a post today.
Jennipher Frazier is a wife, mother, and educator who knows the importance of all children being represented in their classroom environment. She is a Reading Coach for an elementary school and taught in special education and early childhood classrooms for ten years before becoming a coach. She strives to give students experiences that will allow them to experience literacy in many ways.