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We all know that reading is the foundation of learning and needs to be highlighted more than just once a year to make a lasting impression. A study from the National Institute for Literacy found that a person who is not at least a modestly-skilled reader by the end of third grade is quite unlikely to graduate from high school. Therefore, the Read Across America committee has expanded our current day of reading celebration to a yearlong promotion of reading for all ages. Rather than just one day and just one book, "California Reads" will offer teacher-approved quarterly book recommendations for multiple age groups, including adults. 

Teachers and librarians are literacy experts, therefore it only seems natural to be reinventing Read Across America for California this way. The possibilities are endless for how teachers can use California Reads in their classrooms and their communities.

Recommendations for Winter 2015-2016

  Pre K / TK / K
I Am Mixed by Garcelle Beauvais and Sebastian A. Jones, Illustrated by James C. Webster

Jay and Nia are the children of two worlds, and as they will discover, they can enjoy the best of both. From Mommy's jazz beats to Daddy's classical piano, we will dance with the twins through a book that explores what it is to be of mixed ancestry, proving that a child is more than the sum of their parents.

  Grades 1-2
What Do You Do With an Idea What Do You Do With an Idea? By Kobi Yamada, Illustrated by Mae Besom

This is the story of one brilliant idea and the child who helps to bring it into the world. As the child's confidence grows, so does the idea itself. And then, one day, something amazing happens.

This is a story for anyone, at any age, who’s ever had an idea that seemed a little too big, too odd, too difficult. It’s a story to inspire you to welcome that idea, to give it some space to grow, and to see what happens next. Because your idea isn’t going anywhere. In fact, it's just getting started.

  Grades 3-5
Love Twelve Miles Long Love Twelve Miles Long by Glenda Armand, Illustrated by Colin Bootman

It’s late at night, and Frederick’s mother has traveled twelve miles to visit him. When Frederick asks Mama how she can walk so far, Mama recounts her journey mile by mile. Every step of the way is special, as it brings them closer together; and Mama passes the time by remembering, listening, praying, singing, and more. Set on a plantation in 1820s Maryland, this story based on the life of young Frederick Douglass shows the power of his mother’s love. The faith she has in her son puts him on a path to escape enslavement and to become a champion of human rights, an influential writer and speaker, and an unforgettable leader. Expressive, candlelit paintings illuminate the bond between parent and child in this heartfelt story. Love Twelve Miles Long will resonate with children of all backgrounds who cherish the tender moments they share with those they love.

  Grades 6-8
One Crazy Summer One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia

In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them.

Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She's had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. When they arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with her, Cecile is nothing like they imagined. While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

This moving, funny novel won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the Coretta Scott King Award and was a National Book Award Finalist.

Readers who enjoy Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham will find much to love in One Crazy Summer. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern's story continues in P.S. Be Eleven. Supports the Common Core State Standards

  Grades 9-12
In the Time of the Butterflies In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leonidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas―“The Butterflies.”

In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters―Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé―speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from hair ribbons and secret crushes to gunrunning and prison torture, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human cost of political oppression.

Recommendations for FALL 2015 

  Pre K / TK / K
I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, Illustrated by David Catrow

High on energy and imagination, this ode to self-esteem encourages kids to appreciate everything about themselves--inside and out. Messy hair? Beaver breath? So what! Here's a little girl who knows what really matters.

At once silly and serious, Karen Beaumont's joyous rhyming text and David Catrow's wild illustrations unite in a book that is sassy, soulful--and straight from the heart.

  Grades 1-2
My Name is Yoon My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

Getting to feel at home in a new country

Yoon's name means "shining wisdom," and when she writes it in Korean, it looks happy, like dancing figures. But her father tells her that she must learn to write it in English. In English, all the lines and circles stand alone, which is just how Yoon feels in the United States. Yoon isn't sure that she wants to be YOON. At her new school, she tries out different names--maybe CAT or BIRD. Maybe CUPCAKE!

Helen Recorvits's spare and inspiring story about a little girl finding her place in a new country is given luminous pictures filled with surprising vistas and dreamscapes by Gabi Swiatkowska.

  Grades 3-5
Brave Girl Brave Girl by Michelle Markel, Illustrated by Melissa Sweet

From acclaimed author Michelle Markel and Caldecott Honor artist Melissa Sweet comes this true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history. This picture book biography includes a bibliography and an author's note on the garment industry. It follows the plight of immigrants in America in the early 1900s, tackling topics like activism and the U.S. garment industry, with hand stitching and fabric incorporated throughout the art.

When Clara arrived in America, she couldn't speak English. She didn't know that young women had to go to work, that they traded an education for long hours of labor, that she was expected to grow up fast.

But that didn't stop Clara. She went to night school, spent hours studying English, and helped support her family by sewing in a shirtwaist factory. Clara never quit, and she never accepted that girls should be treated poorly and paid little. Fed up with the mistreatment of her fellow laborers, Clara led the largest walkout of women workers the country had seen.

From her short time in America, Clara learned that everyone deserved a fair chance. That you had to stand together and fight for what you wanted. And, most importantly, that you could do anything you put your mind to. Supports the Common Core State Standards.

  Grades 6-8
Batman Science Series Batman Science Series by Tammy Enz and Agnieszka Biskup

When it comes to fighting crime, technology is Batman’s greatest weapon. From his gadget-packed Utility Belt to his high-tech Batmobile, the Dark Knight tackles Gotham’s criminal underworld. But does any of his gear have a basis in reality? Or is it merely the stuff of fiction? Batman Science uncovers the real-world connections to Batman’s tech and much of it will surprise you!

  Grades 9-12
The Beginning of Everything The Beginning of Everything by Robyn Schneider

Robyn Schneider's The Beginning of Everything is a witty and heart-wrenching teen novel that will appeal to fans of books by John Green and Ned Vizzini, novels such as The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and classics like The Great Gatsby and The Catcher in the Rye.

Varsity tennis captain, Ezra Faulkner, was supposed to be homecoming king, but that was before—before his girlfriend cheated on him, before a car accident shattered his leg, and before he fell in love with unpredictable new girl Cassidy Thorpe.

As Kirkus Reviews said in a starred review, "Schneider takes familiar stereotypes and infuses them with plenty of depth. Here are teens who could easily trade barbs and double entendres with the characters that fill John Green's novels."

Funny, smart, and including everything from flash mobs to blanket forts to a poodle who just might be the reincarnation of Jay Gatsby, The Beginning of Everything is a refreshing contemporary twist on the classic coming-of-age novel—a heart-wrenching story about how difficult it is to play the part that people expect, and how new beginnings can stem from abrupt and tragic endings.

Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

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