Books and Resources for Black History Month

By readingintheborderlands

Black History Month begins in a couple of days and soon teachers will pull out picture books with Black characters and or will teach a unit on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Harriet Tubman. Which is…kind of depressing, actually, because in way too many of these classrooms February is the only time kids regularly see books with Black characters or learn about important Black historical figures. While a few lessons during the month of February is arguably better than nothing, children should be reading books with Black characters and exploring historical events involving Black people all year long.

Teaching Tolerance has a good list of things to think about as you plan Black History Month activities and lessons.

Other resources teachers might explore include:

Lessons and Teaching Ideas that Use Primary Resources

Lessons and Resources from the NEA

And, finally, a booklist. Children need to read books about the Civil Rights movement and about the historical struggles for justice and equality that Black people have engaged in, but children also need to read about regular families and normal kid experiences:

28 Black Picture Books That Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball


Wanted: Willy, Charlie, Oompa Loompa, Veruca etc…

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Lorena Cardenas

I’ve got four golden tickets. What do you get in a classroom that discusses literature? You get students completely engaged in novels. Just like adults, students should have a chance to make ample and relevant connections between themselves and the characters in the story.   In 18 years of teaching, I have observed that there is more student interest when given literature that enables them to make real world connections with the opportunities to share with peers. This enables the students to have a “risk free” learning environment and encourages them to want to share more.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl has been one of my favorite novels to use in my third grade class; I have read it to my students for the past 16 years. There are several activities my students have enjoyed after reading the entire novel.  In these activities classroom talk is a must, and the highest level of Bloom’s taxonomy is implemented (rigor).

Wanted Signs

im1147Students are placed in collaborative groups, usually in groups of three. Students pick a character from the novel (Willy Wonka, Charlie Bucket, Grandpa Joe, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, Mike Teavee, Augustus Gloop, and an adult male or female Oompa Loompa). Before their creation, students gather in literacy groups to discuss and agree on their ideas. Each student must have a role (group facilitator, summarizer, questioner etc…). Students create a “wanted” sign with an illustration of the character. The illustration should be created using textual evidence for the perfect description of their character. The sign must include the reason why the character is wanted, and the reward they would give. They can create a made up phone number to call or a made up website.   When all signs are finished, students may display their work to create a gallery walk. Here the students can evaluate each other’s work with sticky notes.

Four Corners

In this activity, the teacher displays any four characters students select to discuss. The teacher places the names on the corner of the classroom. Students walk to the corner, to the character they can relate to or wish they could be like. Every student must be accountable to share their thoughts. Students use a “talking chip (bingo chip) to express their thoughts. The talking chip is placed in a container that is located in each corner. The teacher facilitates the discussion to probe some higher order thinking.

Take a Stand

im2In the novel Willy Wonka rewards the naughty children with a lifetime supply of chocolate. One side of the classroom will be that they agree with Wonka, and the other side will disagree. Students choose the side they prefer, but must justify why. Again, each student must be accountable for the discussion (talking chips may be used). If some students are undecided, the students stay in the middle of the classroom. It is the job of the others to persuade the undecided students to join their side.


jigsawIn this activity, reading objectives can be addressed. Place students in a “home group,” then give a skill (summary, problem solution, vocabulary words, connections, questioning) to one in each group. Each group, according their skill, will join the “expert group.”  The skill will be completed by the expert groups. Each student must be accountable for sharing their ideas. The teacher should facilitate to ensure that all students participate in completing their skill. When they have addressed their skill by writing their answers, they return to their home group to share the work. The teacher can announce, one at a time, for each skill to present. Timing each presenter helps to keep students engaged and on task. Using the jigsaw protocol will create the students as teachers of the objective instead of the teacher doing all the talking.

Of course, these activities lend themselves through varied types of literature. I used Charlie and the Chocolate Factory because not only is one of my favorite, it is a tale that can stand the test of time.


This semester, students in READ 6310 Children and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By L. Ramos

Incorporating and promoting literacy in and out of school is crucial in motivating and encouraging story time. Implementing a variety of ways to induce literacy in every child may inspire parents and caregivers into story time too. Short activities before, during, or after reading may engage children into the desire to look at and use books for interest and enjoyment. Children’s imagination is a key element in jump starting a love for books. In doing so, literary activities are mere extensions of the reading essentials needed to promote literacy. Here are some useful motivational literary activities:

 Finish It Your Way!    

Read a short story, poem, or nursery rhyme. Ask students about how they would change the ending. Have students write their ending and add their own illustrations to demonstrate their response. Allow them to share their responses. This activity promotes critical thinking.


Puppets. Puppets, Puppets!

Read a short story or play. Use puppets to act out the scenes to engage children kinesthetically, visually, and orally. Puppets are extremely useful in conveying role playing to express feelings and/or scenarios allowing open discussion and interactions among the children and the characters.


In Other Words…

Do a picture walk using a picture book. Create your own story using its pictures. Then allow students to tell or write their own tale about the picture book. It’s also a great way to reinforce grammar and spelling rules.


Speak Right Up!

A microphone is a great way to allow the child to express himself/herself using oral language. The student may assume the role of a character in a story or respond to literary questions using the microphone.   They can also be placed in the reading center for motivational/expressive read alouds.


Snack Attack!

Bring a snack to class like cookies, crackers, or cereal, etc. Give each student a piece of a snack. Have each student describe the color, smell, appearance, texture, and taste. Students may write a descriptive paragraph to promote descriptive writing. A T-Chart or Venn Diagram can also be created to differentiate snacks too.


My Space

Create a reading area with pillows, a small chair, a rocker, a small sofa, a tent, bean bags, etc. This allows children to be comfortable and read with their peers making it fun, engaging, and motivational for all!


Face Book

Ask students to draw each family member’s face and/or their friends. Each face is to be drawn and colored on an individual paper.  When done, they will write a story using each member or friend as a character. Great for a multicultural activity!


Online Reading Games

Exposing children to online reading games broadens literacy further by making it exciting and interesting. By combining reading and fun, it will engage students by motivating him/her towards story time. Online reading games reinforces phonemic awareness, spelling, punctuation, blending, sentence structures, and much more!

With these ideas in mind, story time can be engaging, interesting, and motivating for all children of different learning styles. By promoting different literary activities, children can become happy, fluent readers. They can all be embedded within the school setting and at home allowing children to have access to a variety of literary elements.

This semester, students in READ 6310 were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Eliaber Jimenez

In reference to the issue of multicultural or multiethnic literature in the classroom, some teachers may think what is the actually the point of having those type of books in the classroom? A good answer would be that children should be aware that there are other cultures around the world and those cultures not only differ in customs, but also they speak a different language. Having multicultural literature in the classroom is the best way to educate children from the classroom and make them think that there are other things outside of the classroom walls.

Even for teachers, learning about other cultures seems very exciting. Traditions from other countries are interesting are exciting for children of all ages. One good example of this would be the American Indian cultures; they are interesting and teach us about the things they do, the respect, and the religion they follow, and also about the meaning of the figures they have, what they represent and when do they worship those figures. I just imagine our students learning and visualizing those ancient cultures just by reading a book. In order for students to acquire knowledge of another culture, they should be exposed to read books from all over the world. The teacher must have ample views and comprehension about different cultures so she could be able to explain if children have questions.

One very important aspect on children’s books are the illustrations, they are the ones that grab the attention especially for young children. When reading literature from a different culture using another language, even if they are not familiar with the language used in the story, just by looking at the pictures they will understand the meaning of the reading and will have a better understanding of the story theme. However sometimes some type of literature is not easy understood by young children, based on the fact that it is not easy for them to read between the lines or make inferences about the facts on the story, but for adults some situations and events are more familiar to them and illustrations in the story make it pretty much easy and exciting to read.

In my opinion I would recommend that each classroom shoud have multicultural literature to educate our children and to help them open their eyes to a new horizon.

Romeo and Juliet versus Edward and Bella: Where is adolescent literature heading?

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Maritza A. Ramos

In the past few years, I have noticed a steady decline in a past time that I enjoyed greatly as a young adult – reading. Additionally, I have observed the growing trend of a particular type of reading material that has made its way to bookstores and libraries across the nation (and the world). These new books are fairly similar, containing a powerful female character that is singularly different and being sought after by a brooding captivating male presence. The pair is usually surrounded by mutual acquaintances or family in hopes of either uniting or separating the star-crossed lovers.

As an educator, I am pleased that young readers are choosing to read a chapter book over a magazine or picture book provided that the literature selection provides some room for discussion. Is there a preceding storyline that breathed life to this tale? Are the characters in this story line comparable to characters of classical literature past? Ultimately, some form of a connection is made from text to reader and vice versa be it negative or positive, but most recent modern story lines have been influenced by cinematic interpretation.

twilight-booksThe term ‘star-crossed’ has been applied to describe couples in recent literature which always seems to provoke the sudden urge to smirk or laugh outright in certain company.   Most recently there has been the uproar sensation Twilight series by Stephanie Meyers, which tells the tale of the outsider Bella Swan who captures the attention of the mysterious Edward Cullen. By modern standards and as a female, I can see how this story plays out as enticing and romantic, but I prefer to remember classical romances, written in times when wording was important and not rants narrated by an emotional teenager. What is the underlying draw to this book series? To be quite honest, I had not heard about the book series or the author until I was made aware of a movie to be starring a popular young man and woman. The cinematic counterparts increased the interest in this series now that Edward and Bella had faces that were appealing by Hollywood conventional standards.

2936William Shakespeare’s, Romeo and Juliet is what I associate with the term star-crossed lovers. While the masses prefer Twilight, I have to admit I prefer the effort that is made to read this work and see a different face put to the characters. Romeo and Juliet was a tragic love story and told the tale of two young lovers who were forbidden to mingle due to a deep family feud resulting in a secret marriage and tragic deaths. The youth of today might prefer happy endings to tragic ones, but Shakespeare’s words have withstood the test of time and continue to be studied, dissected, and analyzed. Where will the Twilight series be in a few centuries?

The Visual Appeal of Multicultural Books

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By M. Salinas

As a little girl I was raised in the Rio Grande Valley, in the city of Edinburg. When I was in preschool I was taught how to read and from then I was able to advance into my second language, English. At the beginning of my elementary years, even with trouble speaking fluent English, I would pick up English books with interesting front covers. I know everyone says don’t judge a book by its cover, yet I did that throughout my school years. I’m a visual person and always have been. Even though some the books weren’t as good as I expected them to be and didn’t relate to me; I read through them. This helped me eventually gain general knowledge through literacy. The problem about it is that the books I would pick up were books about the life I wished I had and not relevant to my own. This could cause a lot of disappointment in a child’s life as they grow older and limit their understanding of self-identity, especially if they are from different cultures. Books about different cultures can influence students to be able to really understand who they are and the diversity the world is made up of.

The necessity of multicultural books being present in the classroom should be a teacher’s obligation. Everyone is different, no two people think alike, even if raised in the same environment. Having a multicultural library can help motivate children to read about their own culture or simply another one that they are interested about.

These books should be presented to children starting in an early childhood education program. The problem is that most of these books don’t have interesting or captivating front covers or illustrations for young children. Coming back to the visual stimulating book covers I chose when I was younger, even though they had no relation to me or my life, the colors in the books intrigued me enough to want to pick them up and finish them. I strongly believe if a book isn’t being read a lot, it’s more than likely the cover and illustrations that need some kind of update. Instead of picking up books that could be able to be meaningful to a Latino student, the student more than likely is picking up a book with some stereotypical superhero that only speaks English. Adding more color, bolder objects, or simply something that brings curiosity to the child’s mind would be a great way to update these books. I believe many multicultural books stereotypes could be destroyed, and like this everyone will eventually be treated equally and children will be able to gain perspectives of scenarios they’ve never encountered.

Learning to Read with Authentic Books…I Wish!

This semester, students in READ 6310 Children’s and Adolescent Literature were asked to contribute a post to this blog.

By Ana Rodriguez

My mother taught me how to read in Spanish before I went into kindergarten. I felt so accomplished that I was one of a few students that already knew how to read. But my bubble was quickly busted when I was bombarded with learning the English language with nursery rhymes and the traditional folktales in the classroom. When I would hear the nursery rhymes, all I would hear were words; they had no meaning to me. I remember thinking, “Quién es la ‘little red hen?” “Quién es ‘Goldilocks?” The fact that I could already read in Spanish helped me understand and transfer my knowledge quickly to the learning of English. My mother would tell me all those folktales in Spanish, so the transferring process was easy for me.

El libro magicoI learned to read in Spanish with the book, ‘El libro mágico’ that is still in circulation today. I was privileged to be read to as a child. My mother was always pushing me to learn to read because she wanted me to be prepared before I went in to school. I felt great until I started school. There I was read to in a language I did not understand with books I could not relate to. I remember being lost until I started making the connections between my language (Spanish) and the language of school (English). Even then, they were still just words to me. When I would listen to my teacher reading nursery rhymes or the folktales in English, it was as if I would go into a fantasy world; not the real world I lived in. I remember going through kindergarten and not practicing my Spanish at all.


garza book 1In first grade I was given a Spanish book to take home to read and do homework from. I was really excited because I was doing something I was good at and it was relevant to me. That excitement was short-lived because a few weeks into school my teacher took me out of the bilingual group and put me with the all-English group. I was devastated because they had taken something that was dear to my heart; they had taken away my language! I was now in silent mode. I understood what the teacher was saying when she read to us or when she gave instructions, but I could not read or speak in English at all. I remember being in a small group where a teacher aide focused on teaching us sight words and decoding with short phonic stories. I caught on pretty quickly because I remember learning to read in English before I went into second grade. But again, I could only read the words in English, but I made no connection to the stories in my reading book. By second grade I was a fluent reader, but I still did not speak to my friends or teacher in English, I spoke to everyone only in Spanish. When I was asked to read by my teacher I would, but if I was asked to speak in front of class or answer a question I would stay silent. I was not confident enough to speak in English in front of others. I was afraid of saying things wrong. Needless to say I eventually got over my fear and spoke and read in English fluently before leaving the second grade.


anzaldua book 2As an educator I was introduced to culturally relevant literature that would have made a great difference in my experience learning the English language. Authors like Xavier Garza and Gloria Anzaldúa have written great bilingual books that would have made reading real for me as a child. I am trying to make reading real to my students by integrating authentic literature like this in during our reading time.

I urge and recommend to parents that want their children learning only in English when their child’s first language is Spanish, to think about it twice. Please do not take away a part of your child’s identity. You want to give your child another resource (the English language) to succeed, not take one away. Needless to say, I thank my mother for teaching me to read in my native language and setting a very good foundation that eventually helped me learn a second language. ¡Gracias Mamá, Te Amo!