6 Books that ALL kids should read

It’s hard to listen and watch what’s happening all over the country, but we need to. We need to be listening and watching in order to bring much needed change.

Change where black mothers and fathers should not live in fear for the children. Change where black people aren’t racially profiled at every turn. Change where non-black people become allies, not bystanders.

I have a 5 and 3 year old and I just started having those hard conversations with them. Just the other day in the Panera drive-thru, they heard the radio and I had to reexplain to them what was talked about so they would understand. That poor high school girl had no idea what to do when she handed me our food and found me weeping in the driver’s seat… #keepingitreal

When we got home, I took a hard look at the books on our shelves and noticed how “un-diverse” they were. I preach about how books need to be “windows and mirrors” for the students in my school, but I was ashamed to see that the books in my home were just “mirrors”. I immediately hopped on Amazon and ordered some new pictures books to add to our collection, and then because I’m even too impatient for two-day shipping, I placed a curbside pickup order from our local library for that afternoon.

In case you’re looking for some new books to add to your collection, here are some that I ordered and will now become regulars in our daily reading time. Click on the book to go straight to Amazon, where you can purchase the book.

#blacklivesmatter

Featuring eighteen women creators, ranging from writers to inventors, artists to scientists, this board book adaptation of Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World introduces trailblazing women like Mary Blair, an American modernist painter who had a major influence on how color was used in early animated films, environmental activist Wangari Maathai, and architect Zaha Hadid.

A beautiful picture book for sharing and marking special occasions such as graduation, inspired by the life of the first African American woman to travel in space, Mae Jemison. An Amazon Best Book of the Month!

A great classroom and bedtime read-aloud, Mae Among the Stars is the perfect book for young readers who have big dreams and even bigger hearts.

A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North.

In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world.

Margot Lee Shetterly and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award winner Laura Freeman bring the incredibly inspiring true story of four black women who helped NASA launch men into space to picture book readers!

This volume focuses on Harriet Tubman’s brave heroism as part of the movement to abolish slavery. As one of the key players in the Underground Railroad, she helped enslaved African Americans escape and find freedom.

How a Hashtag Made a Better Teacher

Reading has always been a part of who I am. I remember many of my nights as a kid: snuggled up in bed reading the Baby-sitters Club series and the Boxcar Children series. I devoured each book as I just needed to know what happened next for each of the foursomes! As I grew up, my attention turned to the Sweet Valley High books. I felt a connection with Elizabeth and Jessica, like the books were written just for me! 

As an adult, slowly, other things started to take priority and my reading was put on the back burner. My love for books and reading was still there, but now I was living vicariously through others who would read and tell me about it. 

“Oh yeah, that one sounds great! I’ll add it to my list.” I would say. It made it to the ever-growing list in my mind, where it would sit, never being read. 

Over winter break last year, I optimistically brought home two books from our school library and I was determined to start small and read those two books over break! To my surprise, once I started, I just had to finish reading them as soon as I could. The day that I finished my second book, it just so happened to be New Year’s Eve. In true NYE fashion, I made a resolution that evening: I would spend 2019 reading as many books as I could. I also decided to share my journey with others as a way to not only hold myself accountable, but simply for the pleasure of sharing great books with others. I created the hashtag #booktalks2019 and the rest is history. 

Since then, every time I finish a book, I tweet out a picture of the cover with a short book talk and/or my thoughts about it, and use my new hashtag. I’m fortunate enough to work in a district that really utilizes Twitter, so I knew that this would be a natural way to share some great books that teachers could use in their own rooms. 

After finishing those two books over break, I finally felt my joy of reading come back to me after a long hiatus. I was hooked; I continued to seek out a variety of middle grade novels to read and share. I wanted everyone around me to be as excited about reading again as I was. I talked about the books I was reading to anyone who would listen to me! As an instructional coach, my main role is to be in classrooms supporting our teachers. Being in the classroom is continually my favorite part of my job. But now, reading so many middle grade novels has opened up the way that I can connect with students on a whole different level. 

Being able to recommend specific books to students based on what their interests and being able to share with them why they will like it, is such an amazing feeling. I’m telling you… there is absolutely no better feeling for an educator, when a student stops you in the hallway because he just has to thank you for recommending a book for him because he loves it so much! The same student who just the year before would never even think about picking up a book. 


After having enough of those amazing moments happen, I’ve made it my own personal mission to expose ALL students in my building to a diverse selection of books. Books should be windows and mirrors for our students; they should be able to see themselves in the characters but should also show them different ways of living. Since January 1st, I’ve currently read and shared 59 middle grade novels with students and staff in our building and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. I truly believe that the more we expose books to students, they will eventually find their book “soulmate” that will leave them hooked: just like Baby-Sitters Club did for me.

It’s finally here…

Hi all!!

Creating a literacy blog has been something I have been thinking about doing for a long time now. A place where I can share my own thoughts, ideas, opinions, and more without fear of being judged. A safe place in this little corner of the blogging world.

Welcome to Windy City Literacy!!

Now, I’m am definitely NOT an expert at blogging, so please bear with me as I learn how to get my blog running smoothly….and looking pretty. I promise, I will figure it out, it’ll just take some time.

As an instructional coach, my focus is primarily on supporting the teachers in our building, but I’ve learned a lot about myself as an educator over the past few years and I’m excited to share that with all of you.

Be sure to check back often for book recommendations (for adults and kids), teaching ideas that can easily be implemented in the classroom, organization tips, hot topics in the literacy world, and much more.

I’m looking forward to getting to know each and every one of you; I know there’s millions of blogs out there and I’m just thankful that you have chosen to stop by mine!

So….grab a cup of coffee (iced for me!) and settle in!

Liz