Building Inclusive Learning With Brave and Brilliant Books

Originally Published in the 2021 School Supply Supplement


Freedom with all the oxygen and hope it gives us, alongside our health and
safety, is there anything more precious to us? As a third culture kid back in the 1970’s, the school I attended was a frequent target of bomb threats from a group seeking their
freedom. While my young mind couldn’t yet comprehend everything that was going on, these experiences were serious steps in awakening my realization that not everyone
on Earth was or is free. And I began to wonder more about whether the freedom I was given and experienced was promoting the freedom and safety of other people near and far from me and my family. Growing students’ thinking and understanding about freedom, inclusion, justice and equity energize so much of my work as an educator. From our professional learning collaborations and conversations over the last years, I know this is true for you, too.

But knowing how to engage students in these vital and edifying lessons is often daunting and humbling, too. Where do we start? What do we say? What does inclusive curriculum sound like and look like? How can we invite our students’ voices and experiences into our curriculum development and lesson planning? As I have shared in many pieces over the
years, books are constantly my answer to so many of my own teaching challenges and decisions. Through great books and brave stories, we can talk with students about subjects which cultivate and expand inclusion and strengthen our collective resolve to work for freedom for all people. With my kindred ISS colleagues and as a non-profit serving international schools around the world in every time zone and region, a vast part of our antiracism work and resourcing support focuses on putting books into students’ hands to grow their hearts as well as their heads. On the following pages, find a collection of some of the books and literary resources we recommend to help your students gain and grow their antiracism lenses.

Talking to Students about Race and Racism

The Day You Begin
By Jacqueline Woodson

By Yuyi Morales

Gordon Parks: How the photographer captured black and white America
By Carole Boston Weatherford

Harlem’s Little Blackbird
By Renee Watson

How to Be an Antiracist
By Ibram X. Kendi

I Am Not a Number
By Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer

The Legendary Miss Lena Horne
By Carole Boston Weatherford

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X
By Ilyasah Shabazz

My Hair is a Garden
By Cozbi A. Cabrera

Preaching to the Chickens: The Story of John Lewis
By Jabari Asim

Ruth and the Green Book
By Calvin Alexander Ramsey

Schomburg: The man who built a library
By Carole Boston Weatherford

The School is Not White! A true story of the civil rights movement
By Doreen Rappaport

Separate Is Never Equal
By Sylvia Mendez

The Skin You Live In
By Michael Tyler

Something Happened in Our Town: A child’s story about racial injustice
By Marianne Celano, Mariette Collins, and Ann Hazzard

A Sweet Smell of Roses
By Angela Johnson

The Undefeated
By Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

By Art Coulson

Voice of Freedom Fannie Lou Hamer: Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
By Carole Boston Weatherford

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged
By Jody Nyasha Warner and Richard Rudnicki

We are Grateful, Otsaliheliga
By Traci Sorrel

When We Were Alone
By David Robertson

The Word Collector
By Peter H. Reynolds

Teaching for Black Lives
Edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne
Au (anthology to choose select pieces to share with students and colleagues)

Picture Books

Let’s Talk About Race
By Julius Lester

The Color of Us
By Karen Katz

Am I a Color Too?
By Heidi Cole & Nancy Vog

Is There a Human Race?
By Jamie Lee Curti

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family
By Ibtihaj

My People
By Langston Hughes and Charles R. Smith Jr.

Keep Climbing, Girls
By Beah Richard

One Green Apple
By Eve Buntin

How Much? Visiting Markets Around the World
By Ted Lewi

I Am Too Absolutely Small for School
By Lauren Chil

The Dot and Ish
By Peter Reynold

Wild About Books
By Judy Sierra, illustrations by Marc Brow

The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq
By Jeanette Winte

My Librarian Is a Camel
By Margriet Ruur

Knock on Wood: Poems about Superstitions
By Janet S. Won

In The Leaves
By Huy Voun Lee

Historical Fictions and Biographies

Leonardo: Beautiful Dreamer
By Robert Byrd

Hallelujah Handel
By Edouglas Cowling, illustrated By Jason Walker

Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson
Changed America
By Sharon Robinson

John’s Secret Dreams By Doreen
Rappaport, illustrated
By Bryan Collier illustrated By Bryan Collier

By Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Show Way
By Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated By Hudson Talbott


The Worry Web Site
By Jacqueline Wilson

The Cheat
By Amy Goldman Koss

Lunch Money and The Last Holiday Concert
By Andrew Clements

King and the Dragonflies
By Kacen Callendar

Story Time
By Edward Bloor

Sahara Special
By Esme Raji Codell

The Teacher’s Funeral: A Comedy in Three Parts
By Richard Peck

Granny Torrelli Makes Soup
By Sharon Creech

Becoming Naomi León
By Pam Muñoz Ryan

Here Today
By Ann Martin

Bindi Babes and Bollywood Babes
By Narinder Dhami

Al Capone Does My Shirts
By Gennifer Choldenko (Newbery Honor 2004)

Jackie’s Wild Seattle and Leaving Protection
By Will Hobbs

Brian’s Hunt
By Gary Paulsen

How Angel Peterson Got His Name
By Gary Paulsen

Chasing Vermeer
By Blue Balliett

By Celia Rees

The Outcasts of 19 Schuyler Place
By E. L. Konigsburg

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy
By Gary Schmidt (Newbery Honor 2004)

By David Ives

The Misadventures of Maude March
By Audrey Couloumbis

Project Mulberry
By Linda Sue Park

By Sharon Creech

Peter and the Starcatchers
By Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

By Charlie Higson

Small Steps
By Louis Sachar

Each Little Bird That Sings
By Deborah Wiles

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
By Kate DiCamillo

Untold Tales

Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist
By Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrations By James

A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis
Wheatley, Slave Poet
By Kathryn Lasky

If the Walls Could Talk
By Jane O’Connor, illustrated By Gary Hovland

The Darling Nellie Bly: America’s Star
By Bonnie Christensen

The Man Who Walked Between the
By Mordicai Gerstein

Luba, The Angel of Bergen-Belsen, told to
Michelle McCann
By Luba Tryszynska-Frederick

Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan
By Mary Williams

Tsunami: Helping Each Other
By Ann Morris and Heidi Larson

Owen and Mzee
By Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff and Paula Kabuke

The Milestone Project, photographs
By Richard Steckel and Michele Stecke


Wonderful Words
By Lee Bennett Hopkins

In the Land of Words
By Eloise Greenfield

Ordinary Things: Poems from a Walk in
Early Spring
By Ralph Fletcher

A Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young
By Ralph Fletcher

Least Things: Poems About Small Natures
By Jane Yolen

By Sara Holbrook

By Sharon Creech

By Jacqueline Woodson (Coretta Scott King Honor)

A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to
Poetic Forms selected
By Paul Janeczko

Fold Me a Poem
By Kristine O’Connell George, illustrated by Lauren Stringer