You may have heard about the recent uproar over the Florida Department of Education reading list, which offered little diversity and consisted of very few recently published books (the most recent book for 3-5th grades is 20 years old).
I understand the importance of getting the classics in front of kids, but let’s be real: kidlit has radically changed in the last 5-10 years, let alone the last 20. Our kids have radically changed, too, and giving them books that don’t speak to 90% of their experiences is a quick way to discourage them from the joy of reading. It’s just not a great way to go.
I see a lot of lists when I’m at that children’s desk. Some are amazing – I asked one middle schooler to give his librarians and teachers, whoever came up with his school’s list, a high five from me when he saw them, because the books were great. Nonfiction selections included graphic novels and a book on creating Minecraft worlds. The fiction was recent, within the last 7-10 years, with some being only 6 months to a year old. I know I work in an urban library in a multicultural community, and for that, I’m fortunate; our teachers get what our kids need and want to read. But I also get book lists that have books on them that are so old, there may be only one or two repeatedly book-taped, repaired copies in the system: surely, there are more recent concept books than this one?
Anyway, after reading the School Library Journal article, I sat down and came up with some of my own suggestions to rejuvenate some of the school reading lists out there. I’ve read most of these books; what I haven’t, fellow educators have read, and enjoyed, and suggested that I read (and so, they go on my precariously lurching TBR). I humbly suggest considering some of these for future reading lists.
This is by no means a complete list – it’s just a hopeful start for a conversation. I’d like to hear what you’re reading, and what you suggest, so I can pass along the good word to the families in my community and in my life. My list is influenced by my living and working in urban Queens, New York, so I’ve worked to give it a multicultural feel that speaks to everyone living here. I haven’t included graphic novels and only included a smattering of primary nonfiction; I may work on a list for each of those next.
Books are in alphabetical order by author’s last name.