Each year, teachers recommend books for all grade levels for CTA’s California Reads, which promotes literacy in the classroom and beyond. Many selections touch on timely societal issues. Below are several of the 2020-21 books; for the full list, go to cta.org/californiareads.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You (grades 9-12), by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi, is a remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped From the Beginning, by Kendi. It takes readers on a race journey from America’s beginning to now, and shows them why we feel how we feel and why the poison of racism lingers. It proves that while racist ideas are easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited. An educator’s guide is available.
All Are Welcome (pre-K, kindergarten), by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman, is a picture book about a school where all children have a place and are loved and appreciated — and where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions.
When a black snake threatens to destroy Earth and poison her people’s water, a young girl takes a stand. We Are Water Protectors (grades 1-2), by Carole Lindstrom and illustrated by Michaela Goade, is inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America.
Efrén Divided (grades 3-5), by Ernesto Cisneros, a teacher and Santa Ana Educators Association member, tells the tale of 12-year-old, American-born Efrén Nava, whose undocumented parents work hard to raise him and younger siblings Max, who has special needs, and Mía. One day Efrén’s mother is deported to Tijuana. His father takes on two jobs while Efrén must care for and try to reunite his family.
The U.S. may have put the first man on the moon, but the Soviet space program put the first woman in space. Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier (grades 6-8), a graphic novel by Jim Ottaviani and illustrated by Maris Wicks, shows how it took years for America to catch up, get past entrenched sexism, and let NASA’s first female astronauts make history of their own.
Be sure to check out NEA’s Read Across America website (readacrossamerica.org), which now offers a monthly calendar of suggested books related to current and awareness events.