I’m not sure if we can universally agree on this, but one of the best feelings for a librarian (if not THE best feeling) is finding that perfect book for someone. As a school librarian, I’m always chasing this feeling for my students…but I’m also chasing it for the classroom teachers in my school. A teacher will ask me, “Hey Laura, I’m teaching a unit on neighborhoods – do you have any books you’d recommend for me to share with my class?” Or they’ll ask if I can share the books myself during Library class to support the work they’re doing throughout the day. It never fails to make my heart race excitedly when I know I’ve found the best title to suit a lesson.
That happened recently when a class in my school was doing an “All About Me” unit, which included discussion around hair and skin. This class was using various makeup foundations to mix colors and match their skin and the skin of their classmates (if you haven’t tried this, I recommend it. The students loved matching the various skin colors. But be forewarned, it was shockingly messy!). When looking for book recommendations, I immediately tapped some of my “usuals,” like Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller and The Colors of Us by Karen Katz, satisfied with my work. But then! But then! I went to my favorite local bookstore, Books of Wonder in New York City and discovered Brown: The Many Shades of Love by Nancy Johnson James, illustrated by Constance Moore. It was PERFECT! The teachers were ecstatic – they also declared it “perfect” for the lesson – and I heard applause in my head and angels rejoicing! I kid, of course. But it did feel great.
It got me thinking about books that fit in this “All About Me” category of lesson plans in schools, as well as books featuring Black and Brown children and multiple identities. I recently had a kindergarten class in my school doing a unit around hair – different types of hair, how hair makes us feel, hair care, etc. I suggested Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James, Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison, and multiple other titles. The teacher created a lesson around comparing and contrasting Hair Love with Crown. How did the various characters feel about their hair? How do you think their hair will turn out in the end? What do you notice that is the same about the characters’ hair? What do you notice that’s different? It was such a rich discussion, and I just felt really excited about the literature becoming increasingly available to support learning in the classroom around our identities, diversity, and inclusion.
Here are some other recent titles that I love using around this work (including the ones mentioned above):
- All Because You Matter by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier (Orchard, 2020)
- Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, illustrated by Ekua Holmes (Roaring Brook, 2020)
- Brown: The Many Shades of Love by Nancy Johnson James, illustrated by Constance Moore (Abrams, 2020)
- Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James (Agate Bolden, 2017)
- Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller (Little, Brown, 2018)
- Hair Love by Matthew Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison (Penguin Random House, 2019)
- I am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James (Nancy Paulsen, 2020)
- We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade (Roaring Brook, 2020)
- Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez, illustrated by Jaime Kim (HarperCollins, 2019)
- Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (Innovation Press, 2020)
Posted on behalf of ALSC’s School-Age Programs and Services Committee by Laura Lutz, Corlears School in New York City.
This post addresses the following ALSC Core Competencies: II. Reference and User Services IV. Collection Knowledge and Management V. Outreach and Advocacy