Recommendations by Grade Level and Date Published
We all know that reading is the foundation of learning and needs to be highlighted year-round 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. Teachers and librarians are literacy experts, so it seems only natural that teachers recommend books for reading. The California Reads Committee offers teacher-approved quarterly book recommendations for multiple age groups.
Each season, the California Reads Committee offers teacher-approved quarterly book recommendations for multiple age groups. Click on the menu above to review recommendations for Pre K/TK/K, Grades 1-2, Grades 3-5, Grades 6-8, and Grades 9-12
Have an idea for a Book Recommendation?
California Reads 2020-21 Recommendations:
FEDERICO AND ALL HIS FAMILIES
By Mili Hernández, Illustrator: Gómez
Roof to roof, Federico the cat visits all his families everyday: Tadeo and his grandparents, Anna and her two Moms; Virginia, with her Mom and Dad, Paula and her two Dads… All of them different, all of them loved by Federico. Unconditionally.
This little jewel is perfect to show the smallest of the house that love can be found in any family. By author and compromised activist for diversity Mili Hernández and illustrator Gómez.
Publish Date: June 9th, 2020
All Are Welcome
By Alexandra Penfold, Illustrator: Suzanne Kaufman
A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yamulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.
Publish Date: July 10th, 2018
BE WHO YOU ARE
By Todd ParrBe
who you are!
Be proud of where you’re from.
Be a different color. Speak your language.
Wear everything you need to be you.
Who better than Todd Parr to remind kids that their unique traits are what make them so special? With his signature silly and accessible style, Parr encourages readers to embrace all their unique qualities.
Publish Date: October 25th, 2016
IN MY HEART: A Book of Feelings
By Jo Witek, Illustrator: Christine Roussey
Happiness, sadness, bravery, anger, shyness . . . our hearts can feel so many feelings! Some make us feel as light as a balloon, others as heavy as an elephant. In My Heart explores a full range of emotions, describing how they feel physically, inside. With language that is lyrical but also direct, toddlers will be empowered by this new vocabulary and able to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions. With whimsical illustrations and an irresistible die-cut heart that extends through each spread, this unique feeling book is gorgeously packaged.
Publish Date: October 14th, 2014
MARIO and the Hole in the Sky: HOW A CHEMIST SAVED OUR PLANET
By Elizabeth Rusch, Illustrator: Teresa Martinez
The true story of how a scientist saved the planet from environmental disaster.
Mexican American Mario Molina is a modern-day hero who helped solve the ozone crisis of the 1980s. Growing up in Mexico City, Mario was a curious boy who studied hidden worlds through a microscope. As a young man in California, he discovered that CFCs, used in millions of refrigerators and spray cans, were tearing a hole in the earth’s protective ozone layer. Mario knew the world had to be warned–and quickly. Today Mario is a Nobel laureate and a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His inspiring story gives hope in the fight against global warming.
Publish Date: April 3rd, 2018
WE ARE Water PROTECTORS
By Carole Lindstrom, Illustrator: Michaela Goade
Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption–a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.
Water is the first medicine.
It affects and connects us all . . .
When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
Takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.
Publish Date: March 17th, 2020
By Matthew A. Cherry, Illustrator: Vashti Harrison
When mommy is away, it’s up to daddy to do his daughter’s hair in this ode to self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters from former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry and New York Times bestseller Vashti Harrison.
Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it is beautiful. When mommy does Zuri’s hair, she feels like a superhero. But when mommy is away, it is up to daddy to step in! And even though daddy has a lot to learn, he LOVES his Zuri. And he will do anything to make her—and her hair—happy.
Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair—and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.
Publish Date: May 2nd, 2019
THE PROUDEST BLUE: A Story of Hijab and Family
By Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali, Illustrator: Hatem Aly
A powerful, vibrantly illustrated story about the first day of school–and two sisters on one’s first day of hijab–by Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad.
With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand-new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.
Paired with Hatem Aly’s beautiful, whimsical art, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and Morris Award finalist S.K. Ali bring readers an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, and of being proud of who you are.
Publish Date: September 10th, 2019
By Ernesto Cisneros
Efrén Nava’s Amá is his Superwoman – or Soperwoman, named after the delicious Mexican sopes his mother often prepares. Both Amá and Apá work hard all day to provide for the family, making sure Efrén and his younger siblings Max and Mía feel safe and loved.
But Efrén worries about his parents; although he’s American-born, his parents are undocumented. His worst nightmare comes true one day when Amá doesn’t return from work and is deported across the border to Tijuana, México.
Now more than ever, Efrén must channel his inner Soperboy to help take care of and try to reunite his family.
Publish Date: March 31st, 2020
INDIAN NO MORE
By Charlene Willing McManis and Traci Sorell
Regina Petit’s family has always been Umpqua and living on the Grand Ronde reservation is all ten-year-old Regina has ever known. Her biggest worry is that Sasquatch may exist out in the forest. But when the federal government signs a bill into law that says Regina’s tribe no longer exists, Regina becomes “Indian no more” overnight–even though she was given a number by the Bureau of Indian Affairs that counted her as Indian, even though she lives with her tribe and practices tribal customs, and even though her ancestors were Indian for countless generations.
With no good jobs available in Oregon, Regina’s father signs the family up for the Indian Relocation program and moves them to Los Angeles. Regina finds a whole new world in her neighborhood on 58th Place. She’s never met kids of other races, and they’ve never met a real Indian. For the first time in her life, Regina comes face to face with the viciousness of racism, personally and toward her new friends.
Meanwhile, her father believes that if he works hard, their family will be treated just like white Americans. But it’s not that easy. It’s 1957 during the Civil Rights Era. The family struggles without their tribal community and land. At least Regina has her grandmother, Chich, and her stories. At least they are all together.
In this moving middle-grade novel drawing upon Umpqua author Charlene Willing McManis’s own tribal history, Regina must find out: Who is Regina Petit? Is she Indian? Is she American? And will she and her family ever be okay?
Publish Date: September 24th, 2019
SHAKING THINGS UP: 14 YOUNG WOMEN WHO CHANGED THE WORLD
By Susan Hood
“Well-behaved women seldom make history.” —Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian
Fresh, accessible, and inspiring, Shaking Things Up introduces fourteen revolutionary young women—each paired with a noteworthy female artist—to the next generation of activists, trailblazers, and rabble-rousers. From the award-winning author of Ada’s Violin, Susan Hood, this is a poetic and visual picture book that celebrates persistent women throughout history.
Among the powerful pairings: Caldecott Medalist Sophie Blackall takes on heroic World War II spies Eileen and Jacqueline Nearne; Selina Alko is matched with the brave Malala Yousafzai; New York Times bestselling illustrator Emily Winfield Martin is paired with the inventor of the controversial one-piece bathing suit, Annette Kellerman; and Shadra Strickland introduces America’s first known female firefighter, Molly Williams.
While women make up over half of the U.S. population, they face discrimination, have less representation in government and other fields, and struggle every day for their human rights. It is more important now than ever to raise a generation of girls who, in the face of adversity, persevere. This book was written, illustrated, edited, and designed by women.
Includes a foreword by a prominent female activist, an author’s note, a timeline, and additional resources.
This book features: Selina Alko, Sophie Blackall, Lisa Brown, Hadley Hooper, Emily Winfield Martin, Oge Mora, Julie Morstad, Sara Palacios, LeUyen Pham, Erin Robinson, Isabel Roxas, Shadra Strickland, and Melissa Sweet.
Publish Date: January 23rd, 2018
THE TEACHERS MARCH! : How Selma’s Teachers Changed History
By Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, Illustrator: Charly Palmer
Demonstrating the power of protest and standing up for a just cause, here is an exciting tribute to the educators who participated in the 1965 Selma Teachers’ March, featuring evocative illustrations and eyewitness testimonies.
Reverend F.D. Reese was a leader of the Voting Rights Movement in Selma, Alabama. As a teacher and principal, he recognized that his colleagues were viewed with great respect in the city. Could he convince them to risk their jobs–and perhaps their lives–by organizing a teachers-only march to the county courthouse to demand their right to vote? On January 22, 1965, the black teachers left their classrooms and did just that, with Reverend Reese leading the way. Noted nonfiction authors Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace conducted the last interviews with Reverend Reese before his death in 2018 and interviewed several teachers and their family members to tell this important story.
Publish Date: September 29th, 2020
ASTRONAUTS: Women on the Final Frontier
By Jim Ottaviani, Illustrator: Maris Wicks
In the graphic novel Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier, Jim Ottaviani and illustrator Maris Wicks capture the great humor and incredible drive of Mary Cleave, Valentina Tereshkova, and the first women in space.
The U.S. may have put the first man on the moon, but it was the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space. It took years to catch up, but soon NASA’s first female astronauts were racing past milestones of their own. The trail-blazing women of Group 9, NASA’s first mixed gender class, had the challenging task of convincing the powers that be that a woman’s place is in space, but they discovered that NASA had plenty to learn about how to make space travel possible for everyone.
Publish Date: February 4th, 2020
BLACK BROTHER, BLACK BROTHER
By Jewell Parker Rhodes
From award-winning and bestselling author, Jewell Parker Rhodes comes a powerful coming-of-age story about two brothers, one who presents as white, the other as black, and the complex ways in which they are forced to navigate the world, all while training for a fencing competition.
Donte wishes he were invisible. As one of the few black boys at Middlefield Prep, he feels as if he is constantly swimming in whiteness. Most of the students don’t look like him. They don’t like him either. Dubbed the “Black Brother,” Donte’s teachers and classmates make it clear they wish he were more like his lighter skinned brother, Trey. Quiet, obedient.
When an incident with “King” Alan leads to Donte’s arrest and suspension, he knows the only way to get even is to beat the king of the school at his own game: fencing. With the help of a former Olympic fencer, Donte embarks on a journey to carve out a spot-on Middlefield Prep’s fencing team and maybe learn something about himself along the way.
Publish Date: March 3rd, 2020
By Paul Fleischman, Illustrator: Judy Pedersen
A Vietnamese girl plants six lima beans in a Cleveland vacant lot. Looking down on the immigrant-filled neighborhood, a Romanian woman watches suspiciously. A school janitor gets involved, then a Guatemalan family. Then muscle-bound Curtis, trying to win back Lateesha. Pregnant Maricela. Amir from India. A sense of community sprouts and spreads.
Newbery-winning author Paul Fleischman uses thirteen speakers to bring to life a community garden’s founding and first year. The book’s short length, diverse cast, and suitability for adults as well as children have led it to be used in countless one-book reads in schools and in cities across the country.
Seedfolks has been drawn upon to teach tolerance, read in ESL classes, promoted by urban gardeners, and performed in schools and on stages from South Africa to Broadway.
Publish Date: 1997
BÉISBOL en ABRIL y otros cuentos
By Stephanie Diaz and Gary Soto
In this unique collection of short stories, the small events of daily life reveal big themeslove and friendship, youth and growing up, success and failure. Calling on his own experiences of growing up in California’s Central Valley, poet Gary Soto brings to life the joys and pains of young people everywhere. The smart, tough, vulnerable kids in these stories are Latino, but their dreams and desires belong to all of us.
En esta excepcional coleccin de cuentos, los pequeos acontecimientos de la vida diaria revalan grandes temas: el mor y la amistad, la juventud y el crecimiento, el xito y el fracaso. Partiendo su propia experiencia de haber crecido en California, el poeta chicano Gary Soto recrea las alegras y tristezas de los jvenes de todas partes. Los listos, duros y vulnerables chinos de estos cuentos son latinos, pero sus sueos y deseos son los mismos de todo el mundo.
Publish Date: 1990
WATCH US RISE
By Renee Watson and Ellen Hagan
Jasmine and Chelsea are sick of the way women are treated even at their progressive NYC high school, so they decide to start a Women’s Rights Club. They post everything online—poems, essays, videos of Chelsea performing her poetry, and Jasmine’s response to the racial macroaggressions she experiences—and soon they go viral. But with such positive support, the club is also targeted by online trolls. When things escalate, the principal shuts the club down. Jasmine and Chelsea will risk everything for their voices—and those of other young women—to be heard.
Publish Date: February 12th, 2019
WE ARE NOT FROM HERE
By Jenny Torres Sanchez
A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border.
Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have no false illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Though their families–both biological and found–create a warm community for them, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the three teens know they have no choice but to run: for the border, for the hope of freedom, and for their very lives.
Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico with their eyes on the U.S. border, they follow the route of La Bestia, a system of trains that promise the hope of freedom–if they are lucky enough to survive the harrowing journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and the desperation that courses through their very veins, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know that there’s no turning back, dangerous though the road ahead might be.
In this powerful story inspired by real–and current–events, the plight at our southern border is brought to painful, poignant life.
Publish Date: May 19th, 2020
THE BEAST PLAYER
By Nahoko Uehashi and Cathy Hirano
In epic YA fantasy about a girl with a special power to communicate with magical beasts and the warring kingdom only she can save.
Elin’s family has an important responsibility: caring for the fearsome water serpents that form the core of their kingdom’s army. So, when some of the beasts mysteriously die, Elin’s mother is sentenced to death as punishment. With her last breath she manages to send her daughter to safety.
Alone, far from home, Elin soon discovers that she can talk to both the terrifying water serpents and the majestic flying beasts that guard her queen. This skill gives her great powers, but it also involves her in deadly plots that could cost her life. Can she save herself and prevent her beloved beasts from being used as tools of war? Or is there no way of escaping the terrible battles to come?
Publish Date: 2006
STAMPED: RACISM, ANTIRACISM, AND YOU
By Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
This is NOT a history book.
This is a book about the here and now.
A book to help us better understand why we are where we are.
A book about race.
The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi’s National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.
Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives.
Publish Date: March 10th, 2020