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Celebrate Diversity Month with Books that Encourage Conversations

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April is Celebrate Diversity Month and also an excellent time to discover new reads that foster empathy, increases awareness and encourages authentic conversations.

Celebrate Diversity Month, started in 2004 to recognize and honor the diversity surrounding us all. By celebrating differences and similarities during this month, organizers hope that people will get a deeper understanding of each other. Two of the best ways to cultivate understanding and introduce new ideas and cultures is with books. This week I’d like to focus on some of the new picture, middle reader and YA books that do a great job of raising awareness and making those critical conversations happen. Enjoy!


Picture Books

Before She was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome:

Before she was Harriet

We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses, she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.

Where Will I Live? by Rosemary McCarney

This year Multicultural Children’s Book Day has focused our classroom kit is focused on Empathy pertaining to refugees and immigrants. What does it mean to be a refugee, where do you live, eat, sleep? Do you go to school or have friends? Is your family all together? Or have you been separated? The book,  Where Will I Live?, perfectly captures what life is like for many child refugees.

Many of the questions above are answered in this powerful diverse picture book for kids that is written by UN Ambassador, Rosemary McCarney. McCarney offers a glimpse into what life is like for child refugees. This timely book tells the story of the hundreds of thousands of refugees around the world who are on the move.

Every child needs a home. They need somewhere safe where they can be happy, eat their meals with their family, play with their toys, and go to sleep at night feeling unafraid.

But many children all over the world have had to leave their homes because they are no longer safe. Because of war and conflict, they and their families have become refugees. For them, life is hard and full of questions. In spite of everything, they find time to laugh, play, and make friends. And most importantly, they have hope that somewhere, someone will welcome them to a new home. Read my full review of this book here.

Momma, Did You Hear the News? by Sanya Whittaker Gragg MSW

This debut book, “Momma, Did You Hear the News?”, is centered around ten-year-old old Avery who is in a panic over the shooting of another unarmed black man. His parents decide it is time to have “The Talk”. They teach him and his brother a catchy and easy way to remember what to do if approached by an officer, while also emphasizing that all policemen are not bad.
A to the L to the I-V-E… come home ALIVE…that is the KEY! Momma, Did You Hear the News? is the first of the Memorizethe5 series, with Book#2 on Bullying coming in March2018!


Middle Reader Books

The Ostrich and Other Lost Things by Beth Hautala

The Ostrich and Other Lost Things

Eleven-year-old Olivia Grant has a knack for finding lost things. But there’s one thing she can’t seem to find: her brother Jacob’s toy ostrich. And this isn’t just any toy; Jacob is autistic, and Olivia is certain that when he lost his ostrich, his autism got significantly worse. With Their parents focused on helping Jacob, Olivia has had to give up a lot. So, when a local community theater announces auditions for a children’s production of her favorite show, Peter Pan, Olivia jumps at the chance to claim something for herself. But nothing goes as planned, on stage or off, and when a real, live, ostrich escapes from the nearby zoo and causes even more trouble than Jacob’s missing toy, things turn to chaos.

Olivia knows that if she can just find Jacob’s ostrich, everything will return to normal. But what does normal really mean? And is everything lost meant to be found? A poignant and heartwarming story about the complexities and nuances of siblinghood, and the power—and struggles—of unconditional love.

Hidden Women: The African-American Mathematicians of NASA Who Helped America Win the Space Race by Rebecca Rissman

This wonderful book from Capstone Publishing (for ages 9-12) tells the gripping story of four female African-American mathematicians who literally made it possible to launch US rockets–and astronauts–into space. Tells the thrilling tale of how each woman contributed, the struggles and resistance each experienced, and the amazing results.

Piecing Me TogetherA timely and powerful story about a teen girl from a poor neighborhood striving for success, from acclaimed author Renée Watson.

Piecing Me Together
Jade believes she must get out of her neighborhood if she’s ever going to succeed. Her mother says she has to take every opportunity. She has. She accepted a scholarship to a mostly-white private school and even Saturday morning test prep opportunities. But some opportunities feel more demeaning than helpful. Like an invitation to join Women to Women, a mentorship program for “at-risk” girls. Except really, it’s for black girls. From “bad” neighborhoods.But Jade doesn’t need support. And just because her mentor is black doesn’t mean she understands Jade. And maybe there are some things Jade could show these successful women about the real world and finding ways to make a real difference. Friendships, race, privilege, identity—this compelling and thoughtful story explores the issues young women face.

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas


Another fantastic brand new release! Fitting in has become even more difficult for brainy loner Zomorod Yousefzadeh. Her family has just moved again, this time to Newport Beach, California, and she is determined to fit in, even changing her name to all-American Cindy.It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even puka shell necklaces, pool parties, and flying fish can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home. It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel is a moving yet lighthearted middle-grade novel from the author of best-selling Funny in Farsi.

YA Books

Like Vanessa by Tami Charles (Charlesbridge Publishing)

Like Vanessa

In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with a mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty.

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.


Voces Sin Fronteras

During the summer of 2017, Shout Mouse Press held a month-long workshop with LAYC’s Latino Youth Leadership Council (LYLC), a passionate group of young people dedicated to social justice in their community. The workshop, led by a team of teaching artists with experience devising and illustrating comic books, will result in a graphic memoir collection by Latinx youth that inspires, motivates, and educates its readers, and that changes the narrative about America’s immigrants. Pre-order your copy from this non-profit organization here.

This project is timely, ambitious, and a much-needed addition to current national discussions about who we are as a country.

Diverse Book MOnth


Something To Do

Teaching Special Thinkers has a beautiful craft that most any age group can do and all you really need is a pack of a bunch of little hands to trace and some multicultural construction paper.

Celebrate Diversity Month

The Respect & Dignity Campaign has some wonderful ideas on everyone can facilitate your own Celebrate Diversity Day.

As we enter April, I’d like everyone to take some time to Celebrate Diversity Month. Take the time to INVOLVE yourself and others in learning about cultures and religions that are not part of your daily life. Involve your children, family, friends and neighbors; so that we may all gain a better understanding of our global family. Talk about, show examples of and become involved in celebrating diversity today and every day. There are endless possibilities of how you can do this, but here are a few examples if you need a bit of inspiration:

1. Invite friends and family over for a pot luck meal where participants bring in dishes that represent their ethnicity or their favorite ethnic foods.
2. Create a craft with your children that represents different cultures.
3. Plan an event that brings together different ethnic groups to celebrate.
4. Bring together different religious groups to learn about each other or pray for world peace together.
5. Explore different cultures through art forms, poetry, music, crafts, traditional costumes, language, etc. Have an art show featuring local, diverse artists, or a poetry reading, or a concert.
6. Rent movies that deal with diverse topics.
7. Have a display or flag ceremony of different nations’ flags.
8. Read about a religion you have heard of but don’t know much, if anything, about.

Celebrate Diversity Month