Creating a diverse classroom library is essential to fostering a classroom environment where all students feel represented. A diverse classroom library will have a range of fiction and nonfiction books with characters that reflect a variety of backgrounds and experiences. By providing your students with a diverse classroom library you are helping to create a group of students that display empathy and feel respected.
Here is a list of some nonfiction and fiction books that I recommend to help create a more diverse classroom library. If you are struggling to find books to add to your classroom library I suggest speaking to your building’s ENL teachers. There are also many websites devoted to helping you find diverse reading material.
Nonfiction for K-5:
- Nothing but Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson by Sue Stauffacher. This literary nonfiction picture book tells the true story of the world-famous tennis player Althea Gibson. Althea Gibson has to overcome many challenges in order to achieve her dreams.
- Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown. Another literary nonfiction picture book, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone, tells the true story of the talented trombone player Melba Doretta Liston. Melba Doretta Liston was a world-renowned trombone player, composer, and music arranger. She persisted in her career as a jazz musician despite challenges brought on by her race and gender.
- I Am….. by Brad Meltzer. This series of nonfiction biographies is a great way to add diversity to your classroom library. Brad Meltzer has written a biography on Rosa Parks, Helen Keller, Jacki Robinson, Anne Frank, Sonia Sotomayor, and many more influential people.
Fiction for K-5:
- The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. A new student from Korea is afraid that her American peers will make fun of her Korean name. The main character debates renaming herself with an American name. This book teaches the value of our names. This is a great book to read with your class at the beginning of the year. You can do a name origin project as a get to know you activity after reading this book.
- Hair Love by Mattew A. Cherry. This sweet picture book, based on the short film by Sony Pictures Animation, depicts the relationship between a young girl and her father. This book honors the relationship between fathers and daughters and celebrates natural beauty.
- Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor. This picture book encourages children to ask when they don’t understand something about someone who is different than they are. The characters in this book are blind and deaf. They use wheelchairs or an inhaler. They also have diabetes and dyslexia. Sonia Sotomayor explains that these traits make these kids special.
These are just a few examples of books you can use to create a diverse classroom library. I encourage you to find texts that speak to young people in meaningful ways and that are relevant to them. Creating a diverse library is a continuous process so stick with it. There are so many powerful and engaging books out there waiting to find a home in your classroom.
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