The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article about the Common Core’s
Appendix B and multicultural literature. The authors, Jane Gangi, associate professor at Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY and Nancy Benfer, 4th grade teacher at Bishop Dunn Memorial School, point out that, “of the 171 texts recommended for elementary children in Appendix B of the Common Core, there are only 18 by authors of color, and few books reflect the lives of children of color and the poor.”
Children need books that show them a mirror—reflect their own identity and experience—and a window—that let them see into others’ experiences (metaphor from Rudine Sims Bishop, professor emerita of The Ohio State University). Teachers are using Appendix B as a starting point to find texts so the more guidance we can provide on which texts will reach, inspire, and engage students of color (close to 50% of American students) and children who are poor (22% of students), as well as providing students who are White and middle or upper class with an understanding of other experiences, the better.
Gangi and Benfer, with The Collaborative for Equity in Literacy Learning, have compiled lists of multicultural titles that could be incorporated into the Appendix for readers in grades K-5. The lists have yet to be incorporated into the Common Core. (Stay tuned to Teaching Tolerance for the updated list.)
After reading Gangi and Benfer’s article, I wondered about the Appendix B list for middle school. So, I took a look and found more diversity in the stories (5 out of 10 represented a multicultural perspective, including Laurence Yep’s Dragonwings, Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, and Sandra Cisneros’ Eleven). The poetry list also included different perspectives (5 out of 12 poems were written by diverse poets) including Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, and Gary Soto. Among the informational texts, 3 out of 23 titles featured a multicultural focus.
Still, the range of diversity presented was limited, and teachers and students would benefit from an increased range of diverse texts. Middle school students are ready to tackle current events and real world topics, so reading books that represent diversity in all its forms (racial, ethnic, geographic, ability, etc) is imperative.
I searched for books that represent quality literature for middle schoolers and that address key elements of diversity. While finding a range of characters and topics was easy, honing in on more specific aspects of diversity was more challenging. Here is a (hardly exhaustive) list of 15 books that add a range of diversity that starts to reflect today’s experience to Appendix B:
Racial and Ethnic Diversity
Hush by Jacqueline Woodson
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
The Skin I’m In by Sharon Flake
Monster by Walter Dean Myers
Mexican Whiteboy by Matt De La Pena
Diversity of Ability
Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper
Wonder by R. J. Palacio
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
Diversity of Geography, Region, and Nationality
The Breadwinner Series by Deborah Ellis
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier
Diversity of Sexuality
Absolutely Positively Not by David LaRochelle
Am I Blue? Coming Out of the Silence by Maria Dan Bauer
Out of the Pocket by Bill Koningsburg
Diversity of Socio-Economic Status
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Kira Kira by Ann Jaramillo
This list is, of course, by no means complete. What other books would you add?