Just Read This: #Literacy and #Reading News, May 2020

monthly literacy reading newsletter


No, you didn’t miss the April edition. We didn’t publish one because almost all of the content we were reading had a #Covid19 connection. We had reached a saturation point, and suspect maybe you did, too.

The pandemic is still affecting our daily lives, and while many of us find it difficult to settle into a “new normal,” we are talking about things other than the Coronavirus. Sadly, these are equally pervasive and deadly: racism and social injustice.

The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, has sparked what seems to be a deeper interest in dialogue and change in our country. This month, our newsletter provides and leads you to content that may help you with having some very uncomfortable, hard discussions about race, justice, and equality.

Where Do I Start?

Even among adults, talking about race, justice, and equality is not just hard, it can be very uncomfortable. When we think about talking with our children, we bring those same feelings and hesitancies to the table. So you’ll need a plan … before you talk to the kids.

As both of these resources explain, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Use these guides to help you  adapt the conversations, and potentially actions, to your family’s needs.

A third resource is 15 Classroom Resources for Discussing Racism, Policing, and Protest at Education Week. It is sorted by grade level, and while the title says “classroom” the content is quite adaptable for home use. 

Books Can Help

If we don’t step in to help our children understand their world, others will. ~ Erika Evans

Whenever possible, read books aloud with your child(ren), including novels. Their reactions to what they hear will give you immediate insight. Carve out read-aloud time for reading with tweens and teens, and allow them to do some of the reading. Covid Summer is here. There is time for this. It’s important.

Stories – even fictionalized ones – are an effective way to start hard conversations. First, they create space so readers and listeners can embrace the information without judgement. Second, they can create a starting point that “eases” into the conversation and brings out information necessary for robust discussion. Third, the content is written at age-appropriate levels.

Last but not least, stories can explain realities in areas where we may have no experience and/or lack confidence. Still not sure how to start? It may be helpful to approach the conversation using questions you might ask in a book club. 

Note: This is a list of sample questions. It is not intended to be all-inclusive or a checklist.

  • What was your initial reaction? Did you get into the story right away, or did it take time? 
  • Did your feelings about the book change by the end? If so, how?
  • What made the setting important to the book? Could it have taken place somewhere else?
  • Did the characters change in the story? If so, what prompted that change?
  • Did your opinion of any characters change in the story? What caused you to change your opinion?
  • Who was your favorite / least favorite character? Why? 
  • Were there any characters you could relate to? What was it that helped you feel connected to them?
  • Did you like or dislike the ending? Why?
  • Did the ending fit with the way the story progressed?
  • Was the ending what you expected? If not, what were you hoping would happen?
  • Were there any “loose ends” or unresolved parts of the story?
  • What did you learn from the book? Was there new information / ideas that you took away from the story?
  • Did the story change your opinion or perspective? 
  • Do you feel different now than before you read the book?
  • What information / ideas were new to you (i.e., what did you learn from the book)?
  • Were there things in the story that confused you or didn’t make sense?

As mentioned above, this is a collection of open-ended questions to start conversations. Many are more appropriate for novels, but some will also apply to picture books. Your child’s answers will help guide you on where they are and what they do/don’t understand. 

See Also: Using Books to Spark Difficult Discussions by Erika Evans, Sonlight blog

Let’s Read

Book Lists are the staple of summer reading. This year, let’s make that reading meaningful.

Picture Book Lists

100 Picture Books Including Black People and Communities and Why You Need Them by Jillian Heise, Heise Reads & Recommends

31 Picture Books – Black Lives Matter – Let’s Get Reading by Juliet Clare Bell, Picture Book Den 

31 Children’s Books Starring Black Characters Your Kids Will Love – Ashley Jones, Romper – NEW

24 Books that Teach About Social Justice by Tara Smith, We Are Teachers

10 Picture Books with Main Characters of Color by Benji Martin, Tales of an Elementary School Librarian

Justice for George Floyd: Resources for Conversations with Children by Jill, Orange Marmalade [Picture Books on Social Justice and Trauma]

Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge: Race, Equity, Anti-Racism, and Inclusion by Alyson Beecher, Kid Lit Frenzy

Picture Books by Authors and Illustrators of Colour by Book Trust Represents (UK)

Middle Grade

Anti-Racist Books for Kids Ages 8 -12 by Melissa Taylor at Imagination Soup (includes Nonfiction)

Black Lives Matter Book List for Kids and Teens by Bianca Schulze, The Children’s Book Review

Middle Grade Books by Authors and Illustrators of Colour by BookTrust Represents (UK)

Young Adult

16 Books with Black Characters Written by Black Authors by Laura Arnold, Literacious

18 YA Books to Diversify Your Kids’ Bookshelves and Teach Them to Become Better Allies by Alessia Santoro, POPSUGAR – NEW

Three Books to Read with your Kid about Racism and Police Brutality in America

Young Adult Books by Authors and Illustrators of Colour by BookTrust Represents (UK)

If you know of a well-crafted list, please add it in the comments. As we find exceptional, unique lists, we will add them here.