Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Open Books, Open Minds

This post consists of a book list from a Donors Choose project I had funded in 2018-2019. I was creating an author study and realized how lacking my classroom library was in diverse materials after 13 years of teaching. Sure, I had some books we used during Black History Month and Women's History Month, a couple of copies of diaries from Anne Frank and Zlata's Diary, as well as some whitewashed versions of Thanksgiving and Native American group profiles. But so many segments were not adequately represented, including many that my coworkers and students (past and present) could relate to - Jews, Muslims, female scientists, Hispanics, visible and invisible disabilities, divorced and / or nontraditional families, imprisoned family members, immigrants, and even just fictional characters from different cultures, among other categories. 

You'll likely notice that many of these books are about characters with Asian Heritage as the project had matching funds for projects where books targeted students own cultural backgrounds. In my current school, many students are Asian American or Asian. My main emphasis was to make everyone find at least one book or character they could relate to or learn from. Below, find the project description and book list with summaries right from their Amazon listings. This was my first project solely focusing on this goal as 1) I was teaching some students whose native language wasn't English and 2) their reading levels were below fourth grade level. These are a great starting point, but if you have older students or are looking for books with authors and characters of different races, scroll to the link at the bottom of this post for books at a more challenging level or with more mature topics and with other backgrounds. Keep your eye out for other books by the same author and other books in these series.

Below, find part of the project description as well as book lists and links with summaries from their Amazon listings.

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Students will get to read books about characters from their cultures and others within our classroom. Reading books with diverse characters will motivate my students to read as they will be able to make connections with the characters and other students in our class.

These books will help students understand different aspects of their lives so that we can create a more inclusive, caring classroom.

Students will be able to understand social and cultural norms that may differ from theirs. This will help further our dialogue of multiculturalism and acceptance of all people. Children are learning to be productive members of a global classroom and society!

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Always Anjali

Anjali and her friends are excited to get matching personalized license plates for their bikes. But Anjali can't find her name. To make matters worse, she gets bullied for her "different" name, and is so upset she demands to change it. When her parents refuse and she is forced to take matters into her own hands, she winds up learning to celebrate who she is and carry her name with pride and power. A timeless story about appreciating what makes us special and honoring our differences. Always Anjali is the Grand Prize Winner for the 2019 Purple Dragonfly Children's Book Award.

Super Satya Saves the Day

Super Satya is ready to have a super day, including finally conquering the tallest slide in Hoboken. But things take a not-so-super turn when she realizes her superhero cape is stuck at the dry cleaner. Will she be able to face her fears, help her friends, and be the true hero everyone knows she is? Super Satya Saves the Day, introduces Satya, a precocious Indian-American superhero, who is ready to save the day, even if she doesn't always know it right away!

This gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another comes from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo. We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it.

Carmela Full of Wishes

When Carmela wakes up on her birthday, her wish has already come true--she's finally old enough to join her big brother as he does the family errands. Together, they travel through their neighborhood, past the crowded bus stop, the fenced-off repair shop, and the panadería, until they arrive at the Laundromat, where Carmela finds a lone dandelion growing in the pavement. But before she can blow its white fluff away, her brother tells her she has to make a wish. If only she can think of just the right wish to make . . .

Dreamers

Yuyi Morales brought her hopes, her passion, her strength, and her stories with her, when she came to the United States in 1994 with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn't come empty-handed. Dreamers is a celebration of making your home with the things you always carry: your resilience, your dreams, your hopes and history. It's the story of finding your way in a new place, of navigating an unfamiliar world and finding the best parts of it. In dark times, it's a promise that you can make better tomorrows.  

Alma and How She Got Her Name

If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.

A Chinese American girl's Auntie Yang discovers soybeans--a favorite Chinese food--growing in Illinois, and their family starts a soybean picnic tradition that grows into an annual community event.

Yara, My Friend From Syria

This is the first in a series of books that emphasizes on two main goals: The first is to plant good qualities into children’s pure hearts, so they may become like fruitful trees as they grow up. The second is to increase children’s awareness of global affairs, which may seem upsetting at times but are the reality of the world around us.This book is about a Syrian girl's first day of school in Canada. It depicts her mixed emotions, as she is happy to be in school again but sad to be away from home. The way her new classmates treat her is crucial to her experience.

From the clip, clop of the milkman's mule in the early morning to the clacking of her father s abacus at night, a young girl brings us into her home, which is also her parents store. Located in Guatemala City, the store is filled with the colorful textures of cloth, threads, buttons, and things from her parents homeland in China. As people come and go throughout the day, the girl hears several languages Spanish, Chinese, and Mayan. The Mayans buy thread for weaving in colors such as parrot green and mango yellow. The girl s parents talk about their hometown in China, from which they emigrated, fleeing a war, years ago. The girl and her brothers and sisters make up games to play on the rooftop terrace, on the sidewalk, and in the store. After supper the girl dances to celebrate her day.

American Born Chinese

Jin Wang starts at a new school where he's the only Chinese-American student. When a boy from Taiwan joins his class, Jin doesn't want to be associated with an FOB like him. Jin just wants to be an all-American boy, because he's in love with an all-American girl. Danny is an all-American boy: great at basketball, popular with the girls. But his obnoxious Chinese cousin Chin-Kee's annual visit is such a disaster that it ruins Danny's reputation at school, leaving him with no choice but to transfer somewhere he can start all over again. The Monkey King has lived for thousands of years and mastered the arts of kung fu and the heavenly disciplines. He's ready to join the ranks of the immortal gods in heaven. But there's no place in heaven for a monkey. Each of these characters cannot help himself alone, but how can they possibly help each other? They're going to have to find a way―if they want fix the disasters their lives have become.

Nim and the War Effort

"It's the last day of the newspaper drive and Nim, a Chinese-American girl in San Francisco during World War II, is determined to win. Her nearest rival has cheated. Undaunted, she leaves Chinatown and walks up Nob Hill after school, determined to find more scrap newspaper. Nim's sweet seriousness and ingenuity are captured in the text and in the luminous, grave illustrations." --The New York Times Book Review

Amal Unbound

Twelve-year-old Amal's dream of becoming a teacher one day is dashed in an instant when she accidentally insults a member of her Pakistani village's ruling family. As punishment for her behavior, she is forced to leave her heartbroken family behind and go work at their estate. Amal is distraught but has faced setbacks before. So she summons her courage and begins navigating the complex rules of life as a servant, with all its attendant jealousies and pecking-order woes. Most troubling, though, is Amal's increasing awareness of the deadly measures the Khan family will go to in order to stay in control. It's clear that their hold over her village will never loosen as long as everyone is too afraid to challenge them--so if Amal is to have any chance of ensuring her loved ones' safety and winning back her freedom, she must find a way to work with the other servants to make it happen.

When the Sea Turned to Silver

Pinmei's gentle, loving grandmother always has the most exciting tales for her granddaughter and the other villagers. However, the peace is shattered one night when soldiers of the Emperor arrive and kidnap the storyteller. Everyone knows that the Emperor wants something called the Luminous Stone That Lights the Night. Determined to have her grandmother returned, Pinmei embarks on a journey to find the Luminous Stone alongside her friend Yishan, a mysterious boy who seems to have his own secrets to hide. Together, the two must face obstacles usually found only in legends to find the Luminous Stone and save Pinmei's grandmother--before it's too late.

Starry River of the Sky

The moon is missing from the remote Village of Clear Sky, but only a young boy named Rendi seems to notice! Rendi has run away from home and is now working as a chore boy at the village inn. He can't help but notice the village's peculiar inhabitants and their problems. But one day, a mysterious lady arrives at the Inn with the gift of storytelling, and slowly transforms the villagers and Rendi himself. As she tells more stories and the days pass in the Village of Clear Sky, Rendi begins to realize that perhaps it is his own story that holds the answers to all those questions.

Save Me a Seat

Joe and Ravi might be from very different places, but they're both stuck in the same place: SCHOOL. Joe's lived in the same town all his life, and was doing just fine until his best friends moved away and left him on his own. Ravi's family just moved to America from India, and he's finding it pretty hard to figure out where he fits in. Joe and Ravi don't think they have anything in common -- but soon enough they have a common enemy (the biggest bully in their class) and a common mission: to take control of their lives over the course of a single crazy week.

The Year of the Dog

When Pacy's mom tells her that this is a good year for friends, family, and "finding herself," Pacy begins searching right away. As the year goes on, she struggles to find her talent, deals with disappointment, makes a new best friend, and discovers just why the Year of the Dog is a lucky one for her after all.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Hiking, Camping, and Other Natural Disasters

Alvin, an Asian American second grader who's afraid of everything, is back, and his worst fear has come true: he has to go camping. What will he do exposed in the wilderness with bears and darkness and . . . pit toilets? Luckily, he’s got his night-vision goggles and water purifying tablets and super-duper heavy-duty flashlight to keep him safe. And he’s got his dad, too.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Birthday Parties, Science Projects, and Other Man-made Catastrophes

Alvin Ho, an Asian American second grader, is afraid of everything. For example, what could possibly be so scary about a birthday party? Let Alvin explain:
• You might be dressed for bowling . . . but everyone else is dressed for swimming.
• You could get mistaken for the piñata.
• You could eat too much cake.
• You could throw up.
So when Alvin receives an invitation to a party—a girl’s party—how will he ever survive?

Alvin Ho: Allergic to the Great Wall, the Forbidden Palace, and Other Tourist Attractions

Alvin, an Asian American second grader who’s afraid of everything, is taking his fears to a whole new level—or should we say, continent. On a trip to introduce brand-new baby Ho to relatives in China, Alvin’s anxiety is at fever pitch. First there’s the harrowing 16-hour plane ride; then there’s a whole slew of cultural differences to contend with: eating lunch food for breakfast, kung fu lessons, and acupuncture treatment (yikes!). Not to mention the crowds that make it easy for a small boy to get lost.

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls, School, and Other Scary Things

Alvin, an Asian American second grader, is afraid of everything—elevators, tunnels, girls, and, most of all, school. He’s so afraid of school that, while he’ s there, he never, ever, says a word. 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.

Jasmine Toguchi, Super Sleuth

It's a big weekend for Jasmine Toguchi! She's excited to celebrate Girl's Daya Japanese holiday honoring women and girlswith her sister, mother, and best friend, Linnie. On Friday after school, Linnie comes over to plan their outfits for the Girl's Day celebrations. And Jasmine's neighbor, Mrs. Reese, lets them search through her old clothes for the perfect accessories. But the clothes are in her dark garage, which is kind of scary. And Linnie decides to go home early, which is kind of weird. And Jasmine's big sister, Sophie, doesn't seem to want to join in the Girl's Day fun this year, which is kind of confusing. WHAT is going on? As her big weekend plans start to unravel, Jasmine must use her sleuthing skills to spot the clues around herand within herself. Then maybe, just maybe, she can put everything back in order before Girl's Day is over!


Jasmine Toguchi, Flamingo Keeper

Jasmine's best friend, Linnie, has just gotten a puppy. And now Jasmine wants a pet of her own―a flamingo! So when her grandmother sends Jasmine a daruma doll as a surprise gift, Jasmine colors in one doll eye and wishes for a flamingo to keep. Next, Jasmine tries to convince her parents that she’s responsible enough for a pet. She cleans her room, brushes her teeth, takes out the trash, and, most importantly, researches everything she can about flamingos. But soon it becomes clear that her wish may never come true! Will Jasmine's daruma doll ever get its second eye? Luckily her big sister, Sophie, has a surprise planned that fulfills Jasmine’s wish beyond her wildest dreams.

Jasmine Toguchi, Drummer Girl

It’s talent show time at school, and eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is excited to show her stuff. But as she thinks about her strengths―tree-climbing, mochi making, collage―none of them feel quite right to perform on-stage. Jasmine’s friends already have a talent: Tommy yo-yo’s, Daisy dances, and Linnie plays piano. Plus, Maggie Milsap (aka Miss Perfect) is saying she'll have the best talent. When Jasmine’s mom introduces her to the taiko, a traditional Japanese drum, Jasmine finally finds an activity that feels just right. But will she be good enough at taiko in time to beat Maggie Milsap?

Jasmine Toguchi, Mochi Queen

Eight-year-old Jasmine Toguchi is a flamingo fan, tree climber, and top-notch mess-maker! She's also tired of her big sister, Sophie, always getting to do things first. For once, Jasmine wishes SHE could do something before Sophiesomething special, something different. The New Year approaches, and as the Toguchi family gathers in Los Angeles to celebrate, Jasmine is jealous that her sister gets to help roll mochi balls by hand with the women. Her mom says that Jasmine is still too young to join in, so she hatches a plan to help the men pound the mochi rice instead. Surely her sister has never done THAT before. But pounding mochi is traditionally reserved for boys. And the mochi hammer is heavier than it looks. Can Jasmine build her case and her mochi-making muscles in time for New Year's Day?

Meet Yasmin! 

Meet Yasmin! Yasmin is a spirited second-grader who's always on the lookout for those "aha" moments to help her solve life's little problems. Taking inspiration from her surroundings and her big imagination, she boldly faces any situation, assuming her imagination doesn't get too big, of course! A creative thinker and curious explorer, Yasmin and her multi-generational Pakistani American family will delight and inspire readers.

Yasmin the Explorer

Every explorer needs a map! Baba encourages Yasmin to make one of her own.  But when Yasmin loses sight of Mama at the farmer's market, can her map bring them back together?

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Check out Part 2 of this project!

Read my other posts on diversity and books.

Are you considering joining DonorsChoose? I have had 18 completed Donors Choose projects successfully. Read this post for tips I've learned along the way.

Want to support other classes with their diversity or book projects? See DonorsChoose.



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