STAFF PICKS

What We're Reading

Teaching Tolerance loves to read! Check out a few of our favorite books for diverse readers and educators.

Cover of "Song for a Whale," written by Lynne Kelly

Written by sign language interpreter Lynne Kelly, Song for a Whale introduces Iris, a mechanically inclined girl who, as the only deaf student at her school, fixes radios because she understands feeling like no one is listening. When she learns about a whale who sings at a frequency that makes it difficult to communicate, she devises a plan to help him feel less alone. Her journey underscores the importance of empathetic communication, community and representation for readers young and old alike.

middle school

"For any student who has felt lonely or unheard, this book will sing, and sign, to them." —Cory Collins

Cover of "It's Trevor Noah: Born A Crime," adapted for young readers.

The host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah, began his life with his most criminal act: his birth. As the son of a black Xhosa mother and a white Swiss father, Noah’s existence violated the harsh segregation laws of apartheid South Africa. It’s Trevor Noah: Born a Crime (Adapted for Young Readers) uses humor and honesty to contrast personal vignettes of Noah’s childhood with the history of injustice in his country.

middle school

“As educational as it is powerful.” —Belle Briatico

Cover of "Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom," written by educator Matthew R. Kay.

In Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom, educator Matthew R. Kay provides a guide to creating a dialogic classroom in which students can have difficult conversations about race. Kay describes his teaching strategies and provides examples of his successes—and failures—facilitating discussions about topics such as cultural appropriation and the n-word, always trying to nudge his students past offering up facile proclamations and toward wrestling with what he calls the “hard problems.”

professional development

"A reminder to educators to not sidestep or oversimplify conversations about race, but to engage students in them as scholars with voices and experiences that are just as important as those of the adult in the classroom." —Ericka Smith

Cover of Henry is Kind: A Story of Mindfulness," written by Linda Ryden and illustrated by Shearry Malone.

When it’s time for Henry’s class to turn in their kindness projects, he’s got nothing! But why? Turns out he doesn’t think he’s done anything kind in the past week, but his classmates show him he couldn’t be more wrong. In Henry is Kind: A Story of Mindfulness, written by Linda Ryden and illustrated by Shearry Malone, students not only get a sweet introduction to mindfulness but also a great reminder of the power of kindness.

elementary school

"This book can help us all remember to 'slow down and pay attention to our bodies, hearts and minds.'" —Monita K. Bell

Cover of "American Street," written by Ibi Zoboi.

In author Ibi Zoboi’s debut, she presents a devastating, yet beautiful, young adult novel that combines mysticism and realism. American Street tells the story of teenage Haitian immigrant Fabiola Toussaint’s quest to reunite with her mother, who is detained by immigration officials.  Be aware that Fabiola’s story also includes frequent use of the n-word. Her haphazard journey, which includes the help of spiritual guides, leads readers through raw and emotional experiences that illuminate failed systems, violence, the elusive American dream and the tenderness of love.

high school

"This story will send students on an important exploration of identity, assimilation, history and the diversity of cultural and religious norms." —Coshandra Dillard

Cover of "This Place: 150 Years Retold."

It’s hard to fathom packing 150 years of Indigenous Canadian history into 10 stories spread across fewer than 300 pages. This Place: 150 Years Retold is a collection of tales in comic book style. However, this is more than a graphic novel—it’s an extraordinary history text (with a dash of speculative fiction) that animates obscured narratives and will enchant and educate all ages.

professional development

"These beautiful pieces of sequential art are powerful, exciting, timeless and compelling." —Kate Shuster

Cover of "Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968," by Alice Faye Duncan and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie

The day before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was in Memphis lending peaceful support to 1,300 black men from the Memphis Department of Public Works. The Sanitation Strike of 1968 was born from a combination of extremely low wages, dangerous working conditions and the tragic deaths of two black sanitation workers caused by malfunctioning equipment. Poetry, prose and artwork knit together the story of Memphis, Martin, and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan and illustrator R. Gregory Christie.

elementary school

"A sadly beautiful story of the last days of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his ongoing, peaceful work to battle injustice." —Angela Hartman, Teaching Tolerance Advisory Board member

Cover of "The Poet X," written by Elizabeth Acevedo.

The Poet X tells the story of a young woman coming to terms with her identity and place in the world amid the backdrop of a vibrant Harlem neighborhood. X’s (short for Xiomara) journey of self-discovery and self-love leads her to discover her own personal liberation through the art of slam poetry. This National Book Award-winning debut novel from Elizabeth Acevedo is a unique and skillful blend of short poems and novel writing resembling Xiomara’s diary of poetry and inner reflections on the struggles she confronts daily. X comes to terms with homophobia, misogyny, street harassment, religion and abuse among other timely topics. Acevedo uses very accessible language that students use themselves and presents struggles they might face within their own personal journeys and school communities. Educators and students alike will find tremendous value in this book.

high school

"A gripping journey of self-love and liberation through the eyes of a young Afro-Latina slam poet navigating complex spaces determined to silence her." —Gabriel Smith

Professional Development

Cover of "White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America," written by Margaret A. Hagerman

White Kids: Growing Up with Privilege in a Racially Divided America

By Margaret A. Hagerman

High School

Cover of "The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime," written by Dashka Slater.

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives

By Dashka Slater

middle School

Cover of "Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History," written by Blair Imani.

Modern HERstory: Stories of Women and Nonbinary People Rewriting History

By Blair Imani

elementary School

Cover of "Mary Wears What She Wants," written by Keith Negley.

Mary Wears What She Wants

By Keith Negley