Staff Picks

What We're Reading

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

Teaching for Black Lives book cover

Black students’ minds and bodies are under attack…” begins Rethinking Schools’ Teaching for Black Lives. Editors Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian and Wayne Au have organized a thoughtful and dynamic work that explores how educators have reframed their thinking and teaching about black experiences in the United States—in ways that humanize black lives. In an education system that marginalizes black experiences in both subtle and harsh ways, Teaching for Black Lives provides educators with a tool to teach students about the extraordinary journey of black Americans and help them affirm and reaffirm their own identities.

professional development

“An essential work for educators dedicated to challenging white supremacy and anti-blackness.” —Gabriel A. Smith

Her Right Foot book cover.

Her Right Foot takes the all-too-familiar icon that teachers everywhere use to teach 19th-century immigration and shows she’s got a timely—and timeless—message. While most of us picture the crown, the torch or the book when we think of Lady Liberty, Dave Eggers focuses on her right foot, which, he notes, is caught in mid-stride. She’s always moving because “liberty and freedom from oppression are not things you get … by standing around like some kind of statue.” Speaking directly to the reader, Eggers starts out with playful humor that leads to the heartfelt understanding that the statue stands for what we should always aspire to: action, humanity and openness.

elementary school

“A quirky, humorous and moving book.” —Maureen Costello

Hurricane Child book cover.

Twelve-year-old Caroline Murphy’s beloved mother left over a year ago and mysteriously never returned. While determined to find her somewhere on St. Thomas of the U.S. Virgin Islands, Caroline is beset by clinging spirits and relentless bullies, all the while trying to sort out her growing feelings for Kalinda, the new student from Barbados. Readers will find that Kheryn Callender’s Hurricane Child is bookended by dangerous storms, but that Caroline’s greatest challenges and discoveries about her family and herself lie in between.

middle school

“A skillful and vivid snapshot of the rocky and confusing times of adolescence.” —Colin Campbell

Girls Write Now book cover.

Each author featured in Girls Write Now: Two Decades of True Stories From Young Female Voices writes with astounding awareness of the people around her, but many are still beginning to understand themselves. The writers explore these dynamics through writing about their experiences with assimilation, feminism, bullying and more. Sprinkled throughout the book are quotes by authors like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Roxane Gay, whose powerful impact on the young writers is evident in their stories. 

Note: Educators are encouraged to preview stories and prepare students to encounter sensitive topics and explicit language.

high school

“It will move your students to believe in the beauty and strength of their own stories.” —Anya Malley

Ghosts in the Schoolyard book cover.

In 2013, Chicago Public Schools announced the closure of 54 schools. As author Eve L. Ewing notes, “90 percent of [those] schools were majority black, and 71 percent had mostly black teachers—a big deal in a country where 84 percent of public school teachers are white.” In Ghosts in the Schoolyard: Racism and School Closings on Chicago’s South Side, Ewing documents the accretion of racist policies that led to four such closings in Bronzeville and records the dedication and activism of a community where “the value of a school is directly related to its nurture and support of lasting human relationships.”

professional development

“Clearly illustrates how necessary schools and communities are to each other—and the hole that’s left behind when schools are closed.” —Julia Delacroix

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices book cover.

There are more good people / than not. / They will win. / We will win / if we believe / and don’t get tired of believing.” These lines from Tameka Fryer Brown’s “Where Are the Good People?” illustrate the central theme of We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices. Motivated by the hateful rhetoric of the 2016 election, editors Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson have collected short nonfiction pieces, poems and art by some of today’s most inspiring artists of color, including Jacqueline Woodson, Kwame Alexander and many more.

elementary school

“These pieces will remind children—and adults!—to love and believe in themselves and each other.” —Monita K. Bell

You Don't Know Everything, Jilly P! book cover.

In You Don’t Know Everything, Jilly P!, author Alex Gino examines what it truly means to be an ally through the experiences of 12-year-old Jillian Pirillo, who is white and hearing. Through an online friendship with a deaf, black student who uses ASL, and by seeing the effects of her family’s inability to address racism, Jillian learns she must support other people without centering herself. This cleverly spun tale will encourage young readers to communicate more thoughtfully with people of all identities and abilities.

middle school

“A story that intersects privilege, racism and Deaf culture to deliver a lesson in allyship.” —Coshandra Dillard

Just Mercy book cover.

In this young adult adaptation of Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice, Bryan Stevenson weaves together his personal experience as a public interest lawyer with a historical analysis of mass incarceration that allows young readers to understand complex legal procedures and recognize how the unjust nature of the criminal justice system implicates us all. Without minimizing the gravity of mass incarceration, this work gently guides young readers to understand how “an absence of compassion can corrupt the decency of a community.”

high school

“An illustration of our country’s historical fascination with extreme punishment and a reminder that we all have a right to justice and deserve mercy.” —Stef Bernal-Martinez

Disrupting Poverty book cover.

Professional Development

Disrupting Poverty: Five Powerful Classroom Practices

By Kathleen M. Budge and William H. Parrett

Heartland book cover.

High School

Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth

By Sarah Smarsh

Hello, Universe book cover.

Middle School

Hello, Universe

By Erin Entrada Kelly, illustrated by Isabel Roxas

I Dissent book cover.


I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark

By Debbie Levy, illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley