The Proudest Blue

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We are living in a time when people may be quick to judge and find fear in anything that may seem “different.” 

But we, as educators, can’t help students resolve those feelings without having the courage to hold honest conversations with them about those thoughts.

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Research shows that picture books have the power to help readers make meaning of the world around them, deepen understanding, and foster empathy.



Luckily, Ibtihaj Muhammad and S.K. Ali just published The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family, which can serve as a vehicle to get those conversations going.  The book explicitly tackles other people’s discomfort with hijab and ends with a message of pride and hope. It’s a great read aloud for students of all ages.

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Authors: Ibtihaj Muhammad; S.K. Ali

Illustrator: Hatem Aly

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila 😊


Choosing Diverse Books

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Ready to take a deeper dive? Let’s go!⁠⁠

Now that you’ve gathered demographic data on your students and completed a diverse books audit, you are now ready to select books to add to your library. This process is likely to take several months. ⁠⁠

When I worked on increasing the diversity of curricular books 20+ years ago, I was fortunate enough to work with a great team of teachers who were willing to form a committee and review books with me. ⁠⁠We came up with distinct criteria (more info below) and agreed to meet after school once a month.

Dividing up the reading in this way made it more manageable and enabled us to review a higher volume of books than if we were doing it alone. (This was pre-social media, so it’s a lot easier now to find diverse titles.)⁠⁠


Remember that simply adding books that include people of color is not enough; we have to choose books purposefully.

Questions such as these from Teaching Tolerance are critical to keep in mind:

⁠⁠🗣 What VOICES does this text include in terms of race, ethnicity, gender, class, age, ability, religion, place, immigration status or LGBTQ+ identity? ⁠⁠

🤳🏿Does this text MIRROR the identities and experiences of my students? ⁠⁠

📝How well does the author KNOW the group s/he is representing?⁠⁠

❌Does the content PERPETUATE or RELY on stereotypes, generalizations or misrepresentations? ⁠⁠⁠


There are a number of online resources that help you evaluate diverse texts. You may want to start with this comprehensive checklist by Teaching Tolerance.

If you want to share the names of specific diverse books that you added to your library or curricula, leave a comment below! ⁠⁠⁠

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila 😊

Diversity Book Audit

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Last week, we highlighted the need to increase diverse books in our school/class libraries or curricula, and examined the demographics of the population that you serve. 📊

So what’s next?

A book audit.

😯 I know that sounds intimidating…but basically, a book audit is when you take an inventory of your books in light of specific characteristics, such as the ethnicity of the protagonist.

You could use this helpful tally sheet from @sfpsmom (bit.ly/DiverseLibraryInventory) or create your own in Google Sheets or Excel. Including the titles of the books is optional. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, just do the tally marks. The point is to identify whose voices are being represented through the books.


After you’ve gone through your school/class library and/or curricula, total up each column.

Now, sit with your data.

👉🏽 What patterns emerged? 

🗣 Whose voices are the loudest? Quietest?

🤔 How does this data compare with the demographics noted last week?

⭕️ What gaps need to be filled?


These are hard questions. Feelings may arise that may not feel too good. Remember that diversifying your library/curricula is important work. We know better. Now we have to do better.

Next week, we will explore some notable nuances to consider when examining diverse books. Hope to see you then! ❤️💛💙💚🧡

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila 😊

Beverly, Right Here

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How many of us - at some point in our lives - have thought that things would be better if we could just start over somewhere else? That things would be better once we got THERE…like, it didn’t matter where THERE was…as long as it wasn’t here?⁠⁠

Kate DiCamillo’s newest middle-grade fiction book, Beverly, Right Here, tackles this notion through the eyes of a 14-year-old who desperately wants to survive. Who has seen too much. Who has lived through so much heartbreak that she just wants to run, run, run away. ⁠⁠

Running is the easy part. Staying takes courage.⁠⁠

Beverly, Right Here is the final (😫) book in a trio of stories involving the Three Rancheros: Beverly Tapinski, Raymie Nightingale, and Louisiana Elefante. ⁠⁠

As always, Kate DiCamillo has crafted a story in a way that only she can. When I first started reading, my heart felt tight. Closed off. Then, slowly, my heart loosened up as the story went on. It wasn’t until I read the last line of the book that I realized that this feeling mirrored Beverly’s own transformation. ⁠⁠Kate DiCamillo sure knows how to use a slow simmer to fully develop a character. ⁠⁠

Beverly, Right Here will be a great addition to any home, school, or classroom library.⁠⁠

Suggested Grade Level: 5th⁠⁠

Author: Kate DiCamillo⁠

Cover Illustration: Amy Bates

Publisher: Candlewick Press⁠

Release Date: September 24, 2019⁠⁠

I received this book from the publisher @candlewickpress⁠and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.⁠⁠

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila 😊

How Deep Is Our Commitment?

{Infographic showing the results of a diverse books survey}

{Infographic showing the results of a diverse books survey}

As this data shows, there is a clear need for increasing the number of diverse books in schools in order to accurately reflect the population served. 

But where to start?


1) GOOGLE. 

👨🏻‍💻Go online and search the demographics of your school. If you can’t find that information, look for the district’s demographics. If you’re at a public or charter school, student demographic data is public information. You should be able to find it fairly easily.


2) NOTE. 

✍🏿Write down the data. 

example.: Here’s the racial/ethnicity information for NYC as of 9/2019:

    • 40.5% Latinx

    • 26.0% Black

    • 16.1% Asian

    • 15.0% White


3) REFLECT. 

💭 What does this data tell me?

💭 Is this data in line with my perceptions?

💭 What, if anything, surprises me about this data?


4) SCAN. 

👀 Take a moment to mentally scan your school/classroom library and/or the books that you teach. Don’t do anything more than scan. The point is to just begin thinking about the discrepancies that may exist between #2 and #4. 


🔜 Next week, we will venture into the second half of the auditing process and discuss tallying up the books in your school/classroom.

❤️💛💙💚🧡

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila 😊

We Need Diverse Books

{Image of a wooden bookstore sign that reads “BOOKS”}

{Image of a wooden bookstore sign that reads “BOOKS”}

As a new school year approaches, many teachers are getting their classrooms student-ready. Interactive notebooks, sharpened pencils, and germ-free desks (ha!) eagerly await the day when they will become an integral part of student life.⁠

But what about the books? 📚⁠

Powerful initiatives like @WeNeedDiverseBooks encourage educators to regularly place a broad spectrum of texts in students’ hands. Expert Dr. Gloria Ladson-Billings posits that diverse books serve as both mirrors and windows to the world. Students who see themselves reflected in literature gain a sense of validation that their voices matter. That THEY matter. Concurrently, diverse books provide a glimpse into the lives of people who may be different from the reader in some way. From there, empathy grows. 💓⁠

I first started taking a deep dive into diversifying curricula and my class library about twenty years ago. Back then, there weren’t as many published books featuring people of color in non-stereotypical roles. Today, books like The King of Kindergarten, Front Desk, and The Hate U Give are available for student immersion in ways that make my heart swell. 🥰⁠

Over the next few weeks, I am going to share some of the lessons that I learned (and continue to learn!) about integrating diverse books in the classroom. ⁠

Won’t you join me? ❤️⁠

Yours in Literacy,

Sheila 😊