August always ensures the first day of school is looming right around the corner! In our country, some schools have already begun and some are still making plans for the Fall. There are a ton of mixed feelings about school this year due to COVID-19. However, no matter how we bring about the school year, we need to make sure to create excitement and ease within our students, PreK through 12! 

This year is probably the most important year to have youth read books about school. We can utilize diverse books about school to cultivate more positive feelings about school in the wake of anxiety about this year and grief about last year. Use one of these Diverse Books about PreK-12 School to do that! In this list, there are 10 Picture Books, 9 Early Chapter/Middle Grade Books, and 7 Young Adult Books. 

Picture Books

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-9 years

Separate Is Never Equal is a wonderful way to teach deeper into racism for little ones because they are able to connect with it since the protagonists are the same age as them. Duncan Tonatiuh wrote this picture book to tell the true story of Sylvia Mendez and her family as they fought against racism through school segregation in California in 1947. 

The Noisy Classroom, by Angela Shanté

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Representation

Age Range: 6-8 years

In The Noisy Classroom, a little girl is going to start third grade soon, which means she will be in Ms. Johnson’s “noisy classroom”. From the hallway, she can always hear singing, chattering, and lots of other noise from Ms. Johnson’s room. She is getting worried about what school will be like in the Noisy Classroom. This is perfect for students to connect with while they are anxiously waiting for school. 

David Jumps In, by Alan Woo

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Exploration

Age Range: 4-7 years

In this picture book, Alan Woo writes about David’s first day at his new school. He does not know anyone and he does not know who to play with. However, at recess, David is ready to make friends with a game called Elastic Skip, which has roots in ancient China. Woo’s book is great to talk about diversity and inclusion within school as well as feelings of nervousness or anxiety around making new friends. 

Henry and Bea, by Jessixa Bagley

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Representation

Age Range: 4-8 years

In Henry and Bea, Henry and Bea are inseparable inside and outside of school. Suddenly, Henry stops talking to Bea and she has no idea what to do. Their class takes a field trip and Bea uses this as an opportunity to figure out what is going on with her best friend. This is a great book to talk about strong friendships in school settings. 

My Name is Bilal, by Asama Mobin-Uddin MD

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 9-12 years

My Name is Bilal is about a young boy named Bilal, who is starting a new school and is struggling with his Muslim identity. Bilal sees his sister Ayesha getting bullied for being Muslim on their first day at the new school. He wonders if he should go by Bill instead of Bilal. While he is wrestling with these decisions, one of his teachers, Mr. Ali sees his struggles and tries to help empower Bilal in his identity. 

The Sandwich Swap, by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abudllah & Kelly DiPucchio

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 3-7 years

Salma and Lily are best friends in the picture book, The Sandwich Swap. However, they eat very different things for lunch at school. One day, Salma and Lily insult each other’s lunches and start a food fight in the cafeteria. I love this book because I use it to talk about the vocabulary term, “prejudice”. It also shows how school is a place that needs to be inclusive of all cultures and identities. 

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: mostly Representation

Age Range: 5-8 years

The Day You Begin is a picture book about being different from others. It explores different situations where different characters feel like “the other” in places. The book shows how overcoming that feeling is so brave. The Day You Begin is great for the first day of school for grades K-5 because it is about entering into a new environment, which our students will be. Families and educators can use this book to start conversations about facing first day worries and creating an inclusive community in school. 

Suki’s Kimono, by Chieri Uegaki

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Between Exploration & Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

Chieri Ugeaki writes this picture book about Suki and her kimono that was given to her by her obachan. Suki decides that she wants to wear the kimono she loves so much on her first day of school. Her sisters try to dissuade her from wearing it by stating, “People will think you’re weird”. However, the blue kimono means so much to Suki that she is brave and decides to wear it! It is an important message for all children to hear about standing up for and sharing your culture and things important to your family..

The King of Kindergarten, by Derrick Barnes and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Representation

Age Range: 3-6 years old

The King of Kindergarten is a picture book about a little boy getting ready and going to his first day of Kindergarten. Barnes and Brantley-Newton beautifully position the little boy as a king ready to take on a new adventure with their illustrations and figurative language. The King of Kindergarten  is a great story for every child and it specifically helps empower our Black boys. It shows that they not only belong in school, but that they are kings and can achieve so much!

I Got the School Spirit, by Connie Schofield-Morrison

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Representation

Age Range: 3-6 years old

I just found this book and wish I had it in previous years teaching! It is the perfect quick read about the first day of school. I Got the School Spirit is about a little girl getting ready for her first day of school. She has school spirit and is super excited to be at school. This is a great read aloud to get students pumped for the first day!

Early Chapter/Middle Grade Books

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business, by Lyla Lee

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Exploration & Representation

Age Range: 6-9 years

Mindy Kim and the Yummy Seaweed Business is the first book in the Mindy Kim series! It is an early chapter book about Mindy transitioning to a new school and starting a business with her friends where they sell seaweed snacks. Diverse early chapter books are always really hard to find, so I was very appreciative of Mindy Kim!

Stella Díaz Has Something to Say, by Angela Dominguez

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Exploration with a little Conversation

Age Range: 6-9 years

Angela Dominguez creates a fun and charming character in Stella Díaz Has Something to Say. Stella and her best friend, Jessica, are in different classes this year and she feels incredibly lonely. But then, a new boy comes into her class and Stella wants to be his friend. This early chapter book is perfect for talking about friendships in school and putting yourself out there.   

The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown, by Crystal Allen

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Representation 

Age Range: 8-12 years

In The Magnificent Mya Tibbs: Spirit Week Showdown, Mya Tibbs is super excited for Spirit Week at her school! Unfortunately, things go terribly wrong when she somehow breaks her promise to her best friend Naomi and becomes partners with Connie Tate, a huge school bully, for a Spirit Week competition. Mya is now even more determined to win the competition so that she can get the prize and win back her best friend! 

President of the Whole Fifth Grade, by Sheri Winston

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Representation

Age Range: 8-12 years

This middle grade book is about Brianna Justice and her race to become president of the fifth grade. Brianna was inspired by her hero in life, who said that she became successful because of her time as fifth grade president. Brianna’s plan to follow in her hero’s footsteps is interrupted when Jasmine Moon, the new student, decides to run against her and Brianna has to choose if she will keep running a fair campaign. President of the Whole Fifth Grade would be fun to get older students excited about the school year and promote getting involved in student organizations. 

Planet Omar: Accidental Trouble Magnet, by Zanib Mian

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation

Age Range: 8-12 years

When Omar and his family move, he is not excited at all to start a new school. He is worried about what it will be like. As Omar makes a new friend, he experiences bullying when a peer tells him that all Muslims are going to be kicked out of the country! This middle grade book is so engaging with illustrations and labels along with chapter book text.

Farah Rocks Fifth Grade, by Susan Muaddi Darraj

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Representation with some Exploration

Age Range: 8-12 years

Susan Muaddi Darraj writes about Farrah and her best friend, Allie Liu, who are applying for the Magnet Academy. The Magnet Academy is their dream school with its focus on science and math! But, Farrah starts to second-guess her excitement for The Magnet Academy when her little brother starts to get bullied at their current school. 

A Good Kind of Trouble, by Lisa Moore Ramée

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 8-12 years

In A Good Kind of Trouble, the main character, twelve-year-old Shalya, is figuring out what trouble actually is. Shayla has always wanted to follow the rules and stay out of trouble. However, after going to a Black Lives Matter protest, Shayla decides that she will start wearing an armband to school in support of Black Lives Matter. This book is perfect to motivate students to advocate for justice in school settings. 

New Kid, by Jerry Craft

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation

Age Range: 8-12 years

I have been in love with this graphic novel since it was first published and I am really happy that Jerry Craft is getting the recognition he deserves for it! New Kid is a graphic novel about Jordan Banks, a seventh grader. Jordan is being forced to go to a prestigious private school that his parents enrolled him in. He struggles with the transition to a new school in addition to navigating the different cultures between the neighborhood he grew up from and the private school.

Suee and the Shadow, by Ginger Ly and Molly Park

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Representation

Age Range: 9-12 years

I read this book within a night because I could NOT put it down! Perfect for Goosebumps fans, Suee and the Shadow is about Suee, a twelve-year old who transfers to a new elementary school. At Outskirts Elementary, Suee causes an accident in the exhibit room and suddenly her shadow can talk. Every day after, weird things occur, including her classmates becoming zombie-like!

Young Adult Books

Lucy and Linh, by Alice Pung

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation with some Exploration

Age Range: 12-17 years 

Lucy and Linh revolves around how to stay true to yourself in a new environment. Lucy is given a scholarship to go to a prestigious school and quickly becomes accepted into the Cabinet, the popular group at the school. Lucy struggles with her identity in this new, very privileged setting as a first-generation Australian. She writes to Linh, her connection to her old life, as she experiences all these changes at school. 

Smash It!, by Francina Simone

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Representation

Age Range: Young Adult +

Even though this young adult novel is going to be published in September, I had to include it in our Back-to-School list. Smash It is about Olivia “Liv” James who wants to transform herself and get rid of all her insecurities. She decides to try out for the school musical and make new friends. However, while trying to follow her heart, Liv ends up creating a mess in her love life. 

Watch Us Rise, by Renée Watson & Ellen Hagan

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

In Watch Us Rise, best friends, Jasmine and Chelsea, decide to start a Women’s Rights Club at their progressive New York High School because they are fed up with sexism. Their school club becomes incredibly popular, which then attracts trolls and leads to the principal wanting to shut down their club. 

Black Boy White School, by Brian F. Walker

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

Anthony “Ant” Jones has to figure out where he belongs in Black Boy White School. Ant gets a scholarship to an elite almost all-White prep school. In this new school, Ant experiences prejudice and racism. However, he is also realizing home is becoming a place he doesn’t fit in either. 

I Believe in a Thing Called Love, by Maurene Goo

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Between Representation and Exploration

Age Range: Young Adult +

The main character in this young adult novel, Desi Lee, has a type-A personality and loves plans. She believes that you can get anything you want with a good plan. Now that she is student body president and on the varsity soccer team, Desi decides that the next step in her success is finding a boyfriend. Her father’s Korean dramas become the inspiration for her plan to get Luca Drakos to fall in love with her. 

Here to Stay, by Sara Farizan

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

In Here to Stay, Bijan Majidi gains new fame as he makes the winning basket in a varsity playoff game. In his new popularity, he becomes the target of a cyberbully who sends a racist photo depicting him as a terrorist. Bijan tries to navigate islamophobia while still staying proud of his Middle Eastern heritage. 

They Could Have Named Her Anything: A Novel, by Stephanie Jimenez 

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult +

Stephanie Jimenez tackles racism, class, and privilege in this novel. They Could Have Named Her Anything: A Novel is about Maria, a seventeen-year-old from Queens who goes to a private high school on the Upper East Side. At the private high school, Maria struggles to fit in as one of the only Latina students. Soon, she becomes friends with Rocky, a white student who uses his privilege to get away with anything.

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