We want our students and children to see themselves within every aspect of the classroom. Therefore, diverse books should not be segregated to just ____ History Month or a “diversity read aloud”, but integrated into as many classroom lessons as possible. One area that often gets overlooked when it comes to creating a Colorful Classroom is the books we select for Guided Reading Groups.
It is not surprising that our Guided Reading Groups rarely contain diverse books. Many school districts use prescribed books in a district-adopted curriculum, which often leave out our students of color. Even if you do have autonomy over the books for your Guided Reading Groups, it is often hard to find diverse books in your school’s guided reading room (my school’s only had 0-2 diverse books for every reading level!!) and diverse books can often be hard to find or buy.
However, it is important to include diverse books within our Guided Reading Groups. In order to build a student’s love for reading, we want students of color to see themselves in their books. I do not know how many times I’ve had a “disengaged reader” that was cured by a book with a character that looked like them (one of my littles STILL thanks me every week for introducing him to the Desmond Cole series). In addition, it is important for all readers to see other races and cultures in the books we use for Guided Reading Groups. When we do this, we are showing that diversity and cultural appreciation is as foundational in our classroom communities as phonics and reading comprehension.
To help classrooms, families, and libraries, I have compiled a list of my favorite diverse books for Guided Reading Groups. These books are perfect to teach our students the skills they need to be lifelong readers!
The King School Series, published by Townsend Press
The series is around Guided Reading Levels A-K. The King School Series is a favorite of mine because of the purposeful and beautiful representation. The King School Kids show up throughout the whole series in fun and engaging stories.
Each grade level collection has a Comprehensive Teacher’s Guide that includes lessons, activities, and worksheets for each book. The series is a little pricey, but it is worth buying copies of a few books or trying to get a Donors Choose for a grade level set.
Get a Hit, Mo! and the Mo Jackson series, by David A. Adler
Get a Hit, Mo! and other Mo Jackson books are Guided Reading Level I. This book specifically is about Mo trying out baseball. However, there are at least three other Mo Jackson books in which he tries other sports. The series features a boy of color and has a focus on sports, which produces high engagement with many readers.
The Mo Jackson books include:
Meet Yasmin! and the Yasmin Series, by Saadia Faruqi
Meet Yasmin! is Guided Reading Level K. This early chapter book is about a Pakistani-American girl named Yasmin. Yasmin is a second grader who loves to explore many new situations. The illustrations by Hatem Aly are colorful and engaging combined with Saadia Faruqi’s fun stories.
Meet Yasmin! is a great beginning chapter book for Guided Reading Groups. It has a table of contents with different “chapters” and large clumps of text, but still includes pictures to help engage the reader and build comprehension. Faruqi has also authored other Yasmin novels to check out for your Guided Reading Groups.
The Haunted House Next Door and the Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol Series, by Andres Miedoso
The Haunted House Next Door is around a Guided Reading Level N. The Haunted House Next Door is an early chapter book about Andres Miedoso and his best friend, Desmond Cole. The pair has many adventures in spooky Kersville.
This book and the other ones in the Desmond Cole Ghost Patrol Series are beloved by many students! They feature children of color while also being about ghosts and hauntings, which are a big interest of students.
Esperanza Rising, by Pam Muñoz Ryan
Esperanza Rising is a must-have classic in your library, but would also double as a great book for a Guided Reading Group focusing on reading comprehension. This book is Guided Reading Level V.
Muñoz Ryan writes about Esperanza, a girl who is forced to leave her ranch in Mexico to flee to California. The story is about Esperanza coming to terms with the sudden change in socioeconomic status and culture. It is set int he 1930s around the Great Depression era.
At Colorful Pages, we are hoping to eventually provide Guided Reading Group plans for these books and others. However, because we are a free website, those may take awhile to develop. Keep a look out for Guided Reading Group plans in the near future!
In the meantime, which book are you thinking about trying in your Guided Reading Groups? Are there other diverse books your kiddos have loved?