Blog, Bookish Life, Social Justice

Children’s Book Recommendations to Fill Your Classroom and Home Library

As fall quickly approaches, teachers and parents are preparing for many different learning models, some with students attending school in person and others with full time distance learning from home. No matter how students are learning this fall, all children should have access to quality literature that is both representative of themselves, as well as, the topics that will start important conversations about power, privilege, and bias.

I am a kindergarten teacher who is dedicated to providing my students with books that represent the students in my classroom and books that will start students education around social justice. However, even as a teacher there are always places to improve especially within your classroom library.

I know that there is a lot of uncertainty surrounding schools right now so if you are a teacher or a parent who is building their library, then keep reading for picture book, middle grade, and young adult recommendations from our incredible Feminist Book Club members.

Picture Book Recommendations

1. Through My Eyes

By Ruby Bridges

A picture book written for upper elementary that weaves the historical context of integrating schools with the personal experiences of Ruby Bridges attending the first integrated school in the United States.

Recommended by Carrie P.

2. The Proudest Blue

By Ibtihaj Muhammad

Written by Olympic gold medalist, Ibtihaj Muhammad, about the tradition and care that goes into receiving your first hijab and the importance of the hijab in the Muslim culture.

Recommended by Carrie P.

3. The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh

By Supriya Kelkar

A book that helps educate students about their social and emotional health while providing representation of a young boy and his pride in wearing his turban.

Recommended by Carrie P.

4. Drum Drum Dream Girl

By Margarita Engle

A historical fiction picture book that shares a young girl who breaks the taboo of having female drummers in Cuban culture. This young girl dreams of drumming and bringing music to all.

Recommended by Carrie P.

5. Happy to be Nappy

By bell hooks

Describes the different hairstyles of the African American community written by an own voices author. This book shares Black joy and pride over beautiful hair.

Recommended by Carrie P.

6. What Makes a Baby

By Cory Silverberg

An inclusive picture book for kids from preschool and beyond about the process of conception, gestation, and birth in a way that includes all family members identities.

Recommended by Alissa F.

7. Island Born

By Junot Díaz

A book written by Dominican-American author Junot Díaz who writes about a Dominican girl living in the Bronx who learns about her Island.

Recommended by Natalia S.

8. Alma and How She Got Her Name

By Juana Martinez- Neal

A beautiful book about the stories our names hold and how those with long names may have a special history. Alma is a character who many children can connect to with questioning their name length and realizing the importance that naming can hold.

Recommended by Claudia N.

9. Dreamers

By Yuyi Morales

A nonfiction children’s book that shows the journey author, Yuyi Morales, made with her son when traveling from Mexico to the United States and the solace she found in books when she had trouble adjusting to the new culture.

Recommended by Claudia N.

10. Yo Soy Muslim

By Mark Gonzales

A picture book about finding pride in ones multicultural identities and finding wonder within themselves.

Recommended by Claudia N.

11. Parker Looks Up

By Jessica Curry

Inspired by the story of Parker, a young Black girl who is inspired when she sees the portrait of Michelle Obama in Washington DC’s National Portrait Gallery. When Parker sees a beautiful Black woman in this gallery, she realizes she can do anything.

Recommended by Claudia N.

12. All Are Welcome

By Alexandra Penfold

The perfect book to begin the school year!  All Are Welcome describes the importance of creating a community and showing love for all of those around you. When reading this book make sure to look at the beautiful illustrations and see all of the differing identities represented.

Recommended by Claudia N.

Middle Grade Recommendations:

1. Rick Riordan Presents Imprint

The Rick Riordan Presents Imprint is a small imprint within the Disney-Hyperion publishing company that looks to publish middle grade novels from marginalized cultures and backgrounds. This imprint directly seeks to publish authors who are sharing mythologies from their own culture. This imprint has published a large number of diverse mythologies such as Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe by Carlos Hernandez and Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse.

Recommended by Ashley P. & Lillie G.

2. Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry

By Mildred D. Taylor

A historical fiction middle grade novel that explicitly writes about the inequities Black families face in the south and how these indignities strengthened the community and tested the power of all.

Recommended by Carrie P.

3. Sex is a Funny Word

By Cody Silverberg

A comic book for kids about family, gender identity, sexual orientation, and more. This book looks to educate children about inclusive identities while also opening up a dialogue for children and caregivers.

4. George

By Alex Gino

Fourth-grader Melissa is struggling to be herself to the rest of the world when they can only see her as George. This middle grade novel specifically writes about Melissa and her transition and fight to be who she truly is.

Recommended by Rachel H.

5. Rick

By Alex Gino

When Rick goes to middle school he joins the Rainbow Spectrum Club where he meets, Melissa, who seems to have her life together. Rick wants to know who he is and spends a lot of time learning to trust himself and knowing what is best for himself. This book gives middle grade representation to an asexual character in a world where a lot of identities are difficult to share.

Recommended by Claudia N.

Young Adult Recommendations:

1. The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

When her childhood best friend is murdered by police right before her eyes, Starr must confront the intersection of her two worlds, one where she lives in a poor neighborhood and the other where she attends a private school in the suburbs. As Starr becomes more involved in social justice within her community, she comes face to face with the inequities she and the people she connects with most encounter inequities and bias on a daily basis.

Recommended by Ashley P.

2. Internment

By Samira Ahmed

A book written as a warning to what is coming in the near future where Muslim Americans are forced into internment camps in the United States. Called “urgent,” this book will ask you to examine the complicity that exists in our society.

Recommended by Ashley P.

3. Dear Martin

By Nic Stone

Nic Stone writes a through the eyes of Justyce, a Black teen who is seeking guidance to get through life in a society where his existence is seen as a threat. He turns to the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. but wonders if, after all this time, his teachings still hold up. Dear Martin is a powerhouse of a novel that will leave you thinking long after you finish.

Recommended by Ashley P. & Carrie E.

4. All Boys Aren’t Blue

By George M. Johnson

George M. Johnson writes in an essay format about racism, homophobia, and gender identity in this groundbreaking memoir. George M. Johnson shares how growing up as a Black boy has impacted their view on the world we live in.

Recommended by Claudia N.

5. Black Girl Unlimited

By Echo Brown

CW: Sexual assault, physical abuse

Echo Brown is a wizard from the East Side who shares the intersections of poverty, violence, mental health, racism, and sexism in this autobiographical novel.

Recommended by Hailey

6. This Book is Antiracist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work

By Tiffany Jewell

A book that answers common questions about antiracist work and how privilege appears in our everyday life. This book aims to teach readers more about how to become an antiracist and the work it takes on the individual level to achieve equity, justice, and liberation.

Recommended by Hailey

7. On the Come Up

By Angie Thomas

16 year old rapper, Bri, is trying to find her place in the world while following in her father’s footsteps but along the way she encounters a lot of adversity specifically based on her race and her living situation.

Recommended by Carrie E.

8. Speak

By Laurie Halse Anderson

CW: sexual assault

A book surrounding the character, Melinda, who is bullied by her peers for ruining a high school party due to calling the police. What Melinda does not share with her peers or family is that she was sexually assaulted and that the aftermath is impacting her mental health greatly.

Recommended by Carrie E.

Claudia Neu has a passion for language immersion and intersectional children's literature. When she is not working with children or reading, you can find Claudia cuddling with her cat or trying to keep her houseplants alive. Check out her instagram @claudianeureads for more book recommendations and reviews. Favorite genres: queer literature, contemporary fiction, and young adult.

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