In the Know

California Reads: Teacher-Recommended Books

True story: In 2013, two teens were riding the bus home from school in Oakland. While Sasha, who appeared male but was wearing a skirt, slept, Richard lit the skirt on fire. It left severe burns on Sasha, a white, agender private school kid. Richard, 16 and an African American public school student, was charged as an adult with two hate crimes. The 57 Bus, by Dashka Slater (grades 9-12), explores the very different lives of these teens and our assumptions about gender identity, adolescent crime and penal racism. Its themes of tolerance and forgiveness will resonate with students.

“I am Black. I am Unique.” Through photos and poetic text, Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children, by Sandra L. Pinkney and Myles C. Pinkney (pre-K, kindergarten), conveys pride in a distinctive, diverse heritage. It is a book of affirmation for African American children, celebrating varied skin tones, hair texture and eye color.

In Lola, a book in Spanish by Pulitzer Prize winner Junot Díaz and illustrated by Leo Espinosa (grades 3-5), children in Lola’s school come from faraway places. When the teacher asks students to draw pictures of these places, Lola is at a loss — she doesn’t remember the island she left as a baby. With help from family and friends’ memories, her imagination lets her journey back to the island. She comes to understand her grandmother’s words: “Don’t remember a place, it doesn’t mean that it’s not part of you.”

CTA’s California Reads offers teacher-recommended books for students at all grade levels. Find them at cta.org/californiareads. #californiareads

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