Read Woke Across America

Let’s show our children a world where everyone does not look, worship, or think the same—and that in spite of our differences, we’re more alike than different. Let’s join together on March 1 and Read Woke Across America! 

In 2018, greater awareness of racist caricatures in Dr. Seuss’s work prompted a move to diversify Read Across America Day, typically scheduled on or near Dr. Seuss’s birthday, March 2. My response: Why not create a Read Woke picture book list for Read Across America? You’re never too young to learn more about other people’s cultures, struggles, and dreams.

So many picture books have powerful messages about immigration, racism, and other social justice issues. From English Language Learners to high school students and those with learning disabilities, all can benefit from picture books.

Read Woke Across America Week starts March 1, 2021, in honor of Zero Discrimination Day. 

Let’s show out children a world where everyone does not look the same, worship the same, or even think the same—and that this is the beauty of the world. Let’s teach them that in spite of our differences, we’re more alike than different, and learning brings us closer together. Let’s join together and Read WOKE Across America!

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes. illus. by Gordon C. James. Nancy Paulsen. Sept. 2020.
PreS-Gr 3–“I am every good thing that makes the world go round. You know—like gravity, or the glow of moonbeams over a field of brand -new snow.” These lines scream Black joy! Barnes shares the beauty of power of being a Black boy. Each page features a masterpiece of watercolor art that lift the storyline to new heights.

READ: New Study on Racism and Dr. Seuss

Alma y Como Obtuvo Su Nombre by Juana Martinez-Neal. illus. by author. Candlewick. 2018.
PreS-Gr 2–Alma tells her dad her name is too long and doesn’t fit in, which sparks a lesson into the history of her name. Through each story of each relative that Alma is named for, she learns that she comes from a legacy of spiritual, compassionate, and talented people—and has a connection to each of them. Alma’s lesson will inspire students to embrace their names in a world that sometimes judges us harshly by them. A fine choice to share on the first day of classes for all grade levels. This book is also available in English.

What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns by Katherine Locke. illus, by Anne Passchier. Little, Brown. May 2021.
PreS-Gr 3–Awesome, insightful, powerful, necessary, relevant, and woke. When Ari’s uncle visits, Ari can’t wait to show them around their neighborhood. Like their uncle,  Ari needs to find their words. The opening features rich drawings of different people with their pronouns above their heads, a great visual presentation for kiddos. The variety of adjectives used throughout Ari’s journey to find their words will delight Language Arts teachers and can serve as a teaching text.

Hair Twins by Raakhee Mirchandani. illus. by Holly Hatam. Little, Brown. May 2021.
PreS-Gr 3–Hair cheers for hair twins! This is morning hair routine of a Sikh father and daughter. As the girl compares combing her waves to a river and playing the harp, the story provides a window into the lives of Sikhs and their traditions. If you loved Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, you’ll love this.

My Very Favorite Book in the Whole Wide World by Malcolm Mitchell. illus. by Michael Robertson. Orchard. 2020.
PreS-Gr 3–“What is your favorite book?" When Henley’s teacher asks that question and tells students to bring a book in to share, Henley worries. See, Henley, who is Black, doesn’t have a good relationship with reading. It’s is hard for him, and he’d rather do almost anything else. Will Henley find a book to share? You’ll have to read to find out.

Eyes That Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho. illus. by Dung Ho. HarperCollins. 2021.
K-Gr 3–Ho weaves the history and legacy of family love as the protagonist, a girl of Asian descent, connects with her Amah, Mama, and little sister while talking about the shape of her eyes, which “glow like warm tea.” The vibrant colors keep little readers captivated in this story about self-acceptance and love. This book is to Asian girls what Hair Love was for Black girls.

Yo Soy Muslim: A Father’s Letter to His Daughter by Mark Gonzales. illus. by Mehrdokht Amini. S. & S/Salaam Reads. 2017.
K-Gr 3–A father’s letter to his daughter celebrating the beauty and diversity of the Muslim faith. He encourages her to remember the richness of her culture and say “Yo soy Muslim” when people ask where she’s from—and don’t smile. A great way to show young readers the history, beauty, and complexity of the Muslim community.

3,585 Miles to be an American Girl by Nury Castillo Crawford. illus. by Demitrius Motion Bollock. 1010. 2018.
K-Gr 3–This beautifully illustrated bilingual book shares the story of Sofia, who is from Peru. Moving to the United States presents many challenges for Sofia, but with the love of her family and resourcefulness of her teachers, she finds that she is proud to be an American girl.

My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete. illus. by Shane W. Evans. Scholastic. 2010.
Gr 1-5–According to the Center for Disease Control, African-American children may be diagnosed with Autism as much as 18 to 24 months later than many other kids. Ryan’s twin brother has been diagnosed with autism, and Ryan shares that although they’re very much alike, they are also very different. His perspective helps the reader grasp the journey of living with someone with autism and learning that love is expressed in different ways. It also provides information to help students become more tolerant. Ryan conveys an important lesson about how we label people: “Charlie has autism, but autism doesn’t have Charlie!”

Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and Gwen Strauss. illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda. 2010.
Gr 1-5–Although Ruth’s story is fiction, it’s based on historical record. I didn’t learn about the Green Book until I was an adult, and was astonished that there was an entire network of businesses and places that provided a safe haven for Black people traveling by car. Because of Jim Crow laws, many businesses would not serve Blacks. Follow Ruth and her family as they travel from Chicago to Alabama and finally learn about the Green Book.

Unspeakable: The Tulsa Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford. illus. by Floyd Cooper. Carolrhoda. Feb. 2021.
Gr 3-6–Something unspeakable occurred on May 31 and June 1, 1921, in Tulsa, OK. A mob of white citizens of Tulsa attacked the homes and business of Black Tulsans. Over 300 African Americans were killed. If you haven’t heard of this, you’re not alone. This part of our history has been largely withheld from our lessons. This book helps introduce this horrific part of our history to young readers. Skillful illustrations engage emotions and demand the reader’s attention.


More picture book suggestions:

Let's Dance! by Valerie Bolling. illus. by Maine Diaz. Boyds Mills. 2020.

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles. illus. by Bryan Collier. Orchard. 2020.

Milo Imagines the World by Matt de la Peña. illus. by Christian Robinson. Penguin. 2021.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom. illus. by Michaela Goade. Roaring Brook. 2020

Julián at the Wedding by Jessica Love. Candlewick. 2020.

Ella McKeen, Kickball Queen by Beth Mills. Carolrhoda. 2019.

Juneteenth by Drew Nelson and Vaunda Micheaux Nelson. illus. by Mark Schroder. First Avenue. 2006.

The Most Beautiful Thing by Kao Kalia Yang. illus. by  Khoa Le. Carolrhoda. 2020.

Saving American Beach: The Biography of African American Environmentalist MaVynee Betsch by Heidi Tyline King. illus. by Ekua Holmes. Putnam. April 2021.

There's a Rang-Tan in My Bedroom by James Sellick and Frann Preston-Gannon. Crocodile.  2021.


 Cicely Lewis (Twitter: @cicelythegreat) welcomes suggestions.
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Linda Sermons

Thanks for sharing your list of books. I will pull these to share during the month of March.

Posted : Feb 26, 2021 04:08

Abby Johnson

Thank you for sharing this wonderful list!

Posted : Feb 23, 2021 08:10



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