Bookworm, Teacher Life

12 Books to Read instead of Dr. Suess for Read Across America Week

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This week is Read Across America Week and today is Read Across America Day! It used to be called Dr. Suess Week but…the man was a racist. He made offensive racist cartoon drawings of black people and other people of color. He was very problematic so much so that they changed the name from Dr. Suess Week to Read Across America week. Here’s the problem: all of the activities and books read during that week, especially in schools, are themed off of his books. So on the surface it looks like they made a huge change and a shift but in reality, they didn’t.

According to National Today: Read Across America Day is more so a reading program, which calls upon everyone to read and engage with children to make reading a more fun and interactive experience. From the time when the building blocks of our character are laid, to adulthood when we seek to escape from the humdrum of daily life in the pages of a book, reading plays an integral role in shaping us into who we are. With the advent of smartphones and tablets, it is more essential than ever to motivate children to read

So what’s a teacher (or parent/guardian) to do? Read different books. Don’t read his books to celebrate the racist guy. Read picture books by BIPOC authors! Celebrate those voices instead of Dr. Suess.

Below will be a list of suggestions. These are books that feature BIPOC characters and a disability:

  • If Dominican Were a Color by Sili Recio. The palette of the Dominican Republic is exuberant and unlimited. Maiz comes up amarillo, the blue-black of dreams washes over sandy shores, and people’s skin can be the shade of cinnamon in cocoa or of mahogany. This exuberantly colorful, softly rhyming picture book is a gentle reminder that a nation’s hues are as wide as nature itself.
  • Eyes That Kiss the Corners by Joanna Ho. A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future. Drawing from the strength of these powerful women in her life, she recognizes her own beauty and discovers a path to self-love and empowerment. This powerful, poetic picture book will resonate with readers of all ages.
  • Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine. A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist. Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.
  • We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom. Inspired by the many Indigenous-led movements across North America, We Are Water Protectors issues an urgent rallying cry to safeguard the Earth’s water from harm and corruption–a bold and lyrical picture book written by Carole Lindstrom and vibrantly illustrated by Michaela Goade.
  • Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o. Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.
  • The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad. With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab–a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong. Paired with Hatem Aly’s beautiful, whimsical art, Olympic medalist Ibtihaj Muhammad and Morris Award finalist S.K. Ali bring readers an uplifting, universal story of new experiences, the unbreakable bond between siblings, and of being proud of who you are.
  • Dreamers by Yuyi Morales. Dreamers is a celebration of making your home with the things you always carry: your resilience, your dreams, your hopes and history. It’s the story of finding your way in a new place, of navigating an unfamiliar world and finding the best parts of it. In dark times, it’s a promise that you can make better tomorrows. This lovingly-illustrated picture book memoir looks at the myriad gifts migrantes bring with them when they leave their homes. It’s a story about family. And it’s a story to remind us that we are all dreamers, bringing our own strengths wherever we roam. Beautiful and powerful at any time but given particular urgency as the status of our own Dreamers becomes uncertain, this is a story that is both topical and timeless. The lyrical text is complemented by sumptuously detailed illustrations, rich in symbolism. Also included are a brief autobiographical essay about Yuyi’s own experience, a list of books that inspired her (and still do), and a description of the beautiful images, textures, and mementos she used to create this book.
  • Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry. Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her — and her hair — happy. Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair — and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere. A perfect gift for special occasions including Father’s Day, birthdays, baby showers, and more!
  • Like the Moon Loves the Sky by Hena Khan.  With vibrant illustrations and prose inspired by the Quran, this charming picture book is a heartfelt and universal celebration of a parent’s unconditional love.
  • The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco. When young Trisha finds out her class at the new school is known as The Junkyard, she is devastated. She moved from her old town so she wouldn’t be in a special class anymore But then she meets her teacher, the quirky and invincible Mrs. Peterson, and her classmates, an oddly brilliant group of students each with his or her own unique talent. And it is here in The Junkyard that Trisha learns the true meaning of genius, and that this group of misfits are, in fact, wonders, all of them. Based on a real-life event in Patricia Polacco’s childhood, this ode to teachers will inspire all readers to find their inner genius.
  • Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon by Kat Zhang. Amy loves craft time at school. But when her teacher asks everyone to make their own dragon, Amy feels stuck. Her first dragon has a long, wingless body, stag-like horns, and eagle claws, but her friends don’t think it’s a real dragon. Then she makes dragons like theirs, but none of them feels quite right…None of them feels like hers. After school, a story from Grandma sparks new inspiration, and Amy rounds up her family to help her. Together, can they make Amy’s perfect dragon?
  • I Talk Like a River by Jordan Scott. When a boy who stutters feels isolated, alone, and incapable of communicating in the way he’d like, it takes a kindly father and a walk by the river to help him find his voice. Compassionate parents everywhere will instantly recognize a father’s ability to reconnect a child with the world around him. A book for any child who feels lost, lonely, or unable to fit in.

What books are you reading for Read Across America week?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

XOXO,

Nessa D.

2 thoughts on “12 Books to Read instead of Dr. Suess for Read Across America Week”

  1. Thanks for this post! I will be sure to choose books by people of color to gift to children and read to my own future children. Some of these will surely become the new classics!

    Liked by 1 person

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