What We’re Reading

The Teaching Tolerance staff reviews the latest in culturally aware literature and resources, offering the best picks for professional development and teachers of all grades. 

Ellens Broom book cover

Ellen’s Broom, written by Kelly Starling Lyons and illustrated by Daniel Minter, is about an African-American family who live together as free people in post-slavery Virginia. Ellen’s parents can finally be legally recognized as husband and wife, and the broom that once served as their only symbol of marriage takes on new meaning.

elementary school

A joyful look at a rarely taught aspect of American slavery.
—Monita Bell


Indivisible book cover

What better way to convey the passion that drives social change than through poetry? Indivisible: Poems for Social Justice, edited by Gail Bush and Randy Meyer, leads readers line by line along a journey from social commentary to personal experience.


high school

If you love protest songs, you’ll love these poems.
—Alice Pettway


The House on Dirty Third Street book cover

When Delia’s mom explains their new house is “perfect because we can afford it,” all the little girl can see is that it’s old and run-down. The House on Dirty-Third Street, written by Jo S. Kittinger and illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez, tells the story of how a house becomes a home and how community is built when folks who need a hand come together with folks who can lend one.

elementary school

“A story about finding hope in starting over.”
—Emily Chiariello


Reign of Error book cover

In Reign of Error: The Hoax of the Privatization Movement and the Danger to America’s Public Schools, Diane Ravitch provides the reasoning and data educators need to push back against the market-based reforms that threaten our system of public education and offers a set of solutions that make sense.

professional development

“You’ll want these facts at your fingertips.”
—Maureen Costello



A Different Mirror book cover

A Different Mirror for Young People: A History of Multicultural America, Rebecca Stefoff’s recent adaptation of Ronald Takaki’s 1993 classic, holds true to the original’s exploration of the many racial and ethnic groups often omitted from the American story. This new version provides a more complete reflection on American identity aimed specifically at young readers.

middle and high school

“Page after page of ‘I can’t believe I never knew this!’”
—Adrienne van der Valk



Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty book cover

In Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty: Strategies for Erasing the Opportunity Gap, Paul C. Gorski debunks the view that poverty is a phenomenon driven by problematic cultural traits and illustrates the systemic inequality in opportunity that is actually at fault. He also offers strategies for breaking through opportunity barriers to reach students living in poverty.

professional development

“A crucial departure from the standard ‘culture of poverty’ rhetoric.”
—Steffany Moyer



Scars book cover

Cheryl Rainfield’s novel Scars addresses a number of tough issues teenagers face—from family tension to self-mutilation. The plot brings home the importance of having someone to talk to and reminds us that educators can offer those listening ears.

middle and high school

“A glimpse into the lives of teens tackling tough issues.”
—Annah Lauren Kelley


Finding Joy book cover

Sonia Nieto’s Finding Joy in Teaching Students of Diverse Backgrounds: Culturally Responsive and Socially Just Practices in U.S. Classrooms shows that thriving in the teaching profession is necessary and possible. The voices of real teachers and an acute look at U.S. public education and teacher-training programs help the reader realistically examine the teaching profession.

professional development

“Celebrates the amazing work talented teachers do every day.”
—Sara Wicht


Say Something book cover

Peggy Moss’s Say Something, illustrated by Lea Lyon, is about a girl who goes to school and sees kids getting bullied every day. Although she feels for them, she never says anything. It is only when the bullying happens to her that she learns the importance of speaking up.

elementary school

“Perfect eye-opener for little kids.”
—Michele Lee



I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl! by Betty K. Bynum, illustrated by Claire Armstrong Parod



A Girl Called Problem by Katie Quirk



The Speech: The Story Behind Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream by Gary Younge



Youth Held at the Border: Immigration, Education, and the Politics of Inclusion by Lisa (Leigh) Patel

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