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?


👨🏻‍💻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


💭 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 😊

Count on Me by Miguel Tanco

I love, loVE, LOVE this book! There are so many wonderful things about Count on Me, written and illustrated by Miguel Tanco: the images, storyline, message…everything! It’s been awhile since I’ve read a picture book that seems to have it all. 

Count on Me is a story about a young girl who lives with a family of people who know their calling; her mom is a scientist, her dad is a painter, and her brother is a musician.  Through subsequent pages, readers begin to see the girl’s passion take shape. It’s math. Math is all around and the girl just can’t get enough. Even though her peers don’t fully understand her passion, it’s ok. Because she knows that everyone has his/her own way of seeing the world, and hers is through the lens of fractals, polygons, and the like.

Count on Me is a great read aloud for grades 2-3 and will be published on June 11, 2019.

Author/Illustrator: Miguel Tanco

Publisher: Penguin Random House/Tundra Books

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

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier

I recently came across this modern twist on The Little Red Hen and instantly fell in love with it.

Brenda Maier’s version tells the story of Ruby, a plucky little girl who designs an awesome fort (She Shed?) much to the dismay of her three older brothers who were always “too busy” to help her out. I love this version not only because it shows that girls can be engineers, but also because it emphasizes the grit needed to engage with the design process from start to finish.

The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier would be a perfect read aloud for 2nd and 3rd graders, especially during a STEM/STEAM unit of study.

If you’re looking for materials to support a book study for this title, click here to go to my TpT page!

Yours in Literacy,


Izzy Gizmo to the Rescue!

There's been a movement in our society to recognize more women in the sciences. Luckily, this much-needed recognition has also migrated into the world of children's literature. One book, Izzy Gizmo to the Rescue, aims to do just that.

Izzy Gizmo is a creative inventor who likes to solve problems using a combination of everyday items.


Just like any other inventor, Izzy gets frustrated when her designs malfunction. Luckily, her grandpa encourages her to try again, echoing Thomas Edison's famous quote: “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” 


One day, she comes across an injured crow and has to go through various iterations of an invention to help the crow fly again.

This is a fabulous book to reinforce STEM, females in science, and the importance of perseverance. 

If you're interested, you can find my Izzy Gizmo to the Rescue BOOK STUDY here.

Yours in Literacy,


Izzy Gizmo
By Pip Jones

Another One About Islandborn!

I just can't seem to quit Islandborn, the fantastic picture book written by a local NJ hero, Junot Diaz. Even though I've already created an Interactive Read Aloud for the text, I just had to go back and tackle it some more.

This time, I decided to approach Islandborn through a Close Reading lens. Using Frey and Fisher's practical approach to Close Reading, I developed 3 days of lesson plans to dive deeper into the text.

Screen Shot 2018-04-05 at 3.48.43 PM.png

♦ Day 1 – What Does the Text Say?
General Understanding
Key Ideas and Details

♦ Day 2 – How Does the Text Work?
Author’s Craft

♦ Day 3 - What Does the Text Mean?
Author’s Purpose


Creating this Close Reading Unit was an amazing experience. 

It's incredible how many layers of meaning are embedded within the text and illustrations of this gorgeous picture book. I am in awe of Junot Diaz's craft; each reading produces a deeper sense of understanding that surpasses the previous one. For instance, after reading the book multiple times, I began to understand that Junot Diaz uses parentheses at various points to add more details about a character. (Nelson was a frequent target!) This is similar to what Mr. Diaz does in Oscar Wao, where footnotes could be found throughout the book.

What's more, combining Junot Diaz's words with Leo Espinosa's vivid illustrations elevated the meaning beyond my greatest expectations. These two geniuses make a fantastic team. I cannot wait to see what they create next. (I heard another book featuring Lola is in the works!)

Yours in Literacy,


By Junot Díaz
Text-Dependent Questions, Grades K-5: Pathways to Close and Critical Reading (Corwin Literacy)
By Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, Heather L. Anderson, Marisol Thayre

An Interactive Read Aloud with Islandborn by Junot Diaz

Yesterday, I fell in love. 

Islandborn, a new picture book by the fantastic Junot Diaz, tells the story of Lola, a young girl who was born on an Island that she cannot remember. After being assigned a class project where she has to draw a picture of her "first country," Lola feels a great disconnect from the Island she emigrated from. To address this, Lola sets off to interview her family and neighbors, who recall extraordinary memories (both good and bad) of the Island. After gathering all of these memories for her sketchbook, she soon realizes that "just because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it's not in you."


Gorgeous message, right?!

After devouring the book, I immediately set off to create an Interactive Read Aloud for Islandborn. It's a story that just BEGS to be read aloud to young ears.  I decided to focus on the theme of belonging and began noting pages that support this theme. After coming up with some good read aloud stopping points, I transferred them to Sticky Notes.

I love using sticky notes on pages designated as stopping points in an Interactive Read Aloud. It helps me stay accountable and on target for where to stop, especially with a book like Islandborn, which has so many wonderful teaching points. I know that this particular Interactive Read Aloud is focused on theme, so I have to be careful not to go off the read aloud rails!




After we finish the story, I have students write a response to reading centered upon the teaching point (theme). This allows me to formatively assess whether or not students understood the teaching point.

I hope you pick up Islandborn. I guarantee it will warm your (and your students') hearts!

Yours in Literacy,


Want More?

  • Pick up this Interactive Read Aloud resource at my TpT store
  • An interview with Junot Diaz about Islandborn
By Junot Díaz