Sunday, August 2, 2020

Back-to-School Picture Books 2020 Recommendations for #classroombookaday

With all of the uncertainty facing educators about how we might be starting this school year, there is one thing I do know for certain: We can use picture books to start building relationships and connections with and among our students. Whether virtual behind a screen or in person behind a mask/shield, we can use picture books to create a more welcoming environment that honors all students and shows them they have a place in our virtual or physically distanced classroom communities.

For my back-to-school recommendations this year, I have chosen books with themes of friendship, focusing on the power of names, being welcoming to those from other cultures, doing our best in the circumstances we are given, thinking about worry and what to do with it, several around families near and far, some straight-forward ones around racism and viruses and consent, grieving those lost or moved away, dealing with worry around the first day, empowering stories, those that honor Black lives and raise up Asian American creators and characters, and a few that are just fun in thinking about our classroom and reading spaces. I believe this collection will have something for everyone to fit that first month back with students as teachers try to be responsive to the needs of their group and build community from the start.
I hope that these titles will bring you comfort and inspiration for the work we have ahead during this ongoing global pandemic to keep kids and relationships at the heart of our classrooms, no matter the worry, fear, anxiety, or despair that may also be present. I wish you the best in whatever your circumstances may be as we head back this year. xo Jillian
Here are 37 picture books I recommend for back-to-school read alouds this year. 

A slide collection with book covers of the 37 picture books recommended in this post.

2020 Back-to-School Picture Book Recommendations
*You can shop this list at Bookshop to support independent bookstores + my work. 

by Jenn Bailey, illustrated by Mika Song

by Flavia Z. Drago

by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett

by Katrina Moore, illustrated by Julia Woolf

by Alexandra Pendolf, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

by Angela Johnson, illustrated by Nina Crews

by Melissa Stewart, illustrated by Stephanie Laberis

by Meg Medina, illustrated by Sonia Sanchez

by Ryan T. Higgins

by Minh Lê, illustrated by Dan Santat

by Angela Joy, illustrated by Euka Holmes

by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Dream Chen

by Tiffany Rose

by Minh Lê, illustrated by Gus Gordon

by Emily Neilson

by Aya Khalil, illustrated by Anait Semirdzhyan

by Cece Meng, illustrated by Jago

by Anna Kim

by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

by Michelle Cook, illustrated by 14 Black Illustrators

by Kyle Lukoff, illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

by Malia Jones

by Julie Berry, illustrated by Holly Hatam

by Cori Doerrfeld

by Gaia Cornwall

by Jelani Memory

by Sarah Lynne Reul

by Juana Martinez-Neal

by Sheetal Sheth, illustrated by Jessica Blank

I'm Worried
by Michael Ian Black, illustrated by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

by Christian Robinson

by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe

by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

#BuildYourStack: Ten Must-Share Picture Books in 2020

Tonight the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) held their first virtual #BuildYourStack event. I was honored to be able to be a part of it because I've loved getting to share stack recommendations during the annual convention. 

Picture Books for PRIDE (& for #classroombookaday all year long)

As 2020 PRIDE month concludes, and because I have been asked a lot this month, I'm sharing some of the picture books I most often recommend for #classroombookaday around LGBTQIA+ characters & gender identity themes. Because ALL students and ALL types of families should be able to see themselves and their lived experiences celebrated in the books we share in our schools. 
Gatekeeping is a type of soft censorship. By choosing not to share books with these identities with your students, you are censoring their humanity and saying they have no place in your classroom.
In the TREVOR Projects' Facts About Suicide, they share statistics that should be startling to every educator: 
If knowing this, you continue to make a choice to reject these identities in your classroom by not sharing books with LGBTQIA+ characters whole class, you are willingly causing harm. 

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Honoring Black Lives: A Virtual Picture Book Library

I've been working on a thing! I was already planning on making a slideshow similar to this that would link to my own read aloud videos for my staff at my schools to utilize in further distance learning and teaching if needed. Then when I saw so many educators sharing a different resource that linked to videos that violated copyright, I decided to shift my focus a bit and make this public-facing version first. 

Because it is important that we, as educators, provide good models of digital citizenship for our students and other educators. Yes, even when we are sharing free resources! And especially in an effort to support authors and illustrators! 

Educators need to respect intellectual property rights and follow copyright laws. As a school librarian, it is part of my job to know copyright regulations and help teaching staff understand how to align with copyright laws, so I included parts of that in this resource. 

So, after a week of working on it, I can finally share
A Virtual Picture Book Library Honoring Black Lives

The slideshow includes links to 47 copyright-compliant read aloud videos + 70 more recommended picture book titles (with links to book trailers or author/illustrator video resources if I could find them) that I recommend. These are a mix of picture books that focus on Black Joy & Magic, Empowering Stories, Racial & Community Awareness, & Black People Impacting the World. And I made an effort to curate a collection that is primarily Black authors and/or illustrators.

Because #BlackLivesMatter on our bookshelves
& behind the pages also. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Recommended: You Matter by Christian Robinson + Giveaway

I am always searching for picture books for my school library and to read aloud for #classroombookday that will show students that they matter. The kinds of books that affirm their existence, validate their beings, and support their lived experiences. Books that remind kids that we believe in them and support them, and that even though they are little, the space they take up is theirs to make a difference with. And to know who they are, what they believe, how they want to be - it all matters.

Christian Robinson is a well-known Caldecott Awarded & Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honored Black illustrator in the children's literature world. And now, with this second book that he illustrated AND wrote (the first was ANOTHER), he has created a gem of a book that is what we all need right now. A book that reminds kids that they matter whether they are big or small, first or last, follow the crowd, fall down, are old or young. It's a book without much text – a quiet book that will help kids see that they matter no matter how others see them or they see themselves. The illustrations bring joy, empathy, and love to the pages. And right now, that is the message I hope all kids will get to see and hear.

So on this release day of his newest picture book, I celebrate that Christian Robinson shares his gift freely with us all so it can positively impact children. And I celebrate that this book, YOU MATTER, exists for us to share with kids.
You Matter
They All Saw a Cat meets The Important Book in this sensitive and impactful picture book about seeing the world from different points of view by Caldecott and Coretta Scott King Honoree Christian Robinson.

In this full, bright, and beautiful picture book, many different perspectives around the world are deftly and empathetically explored—from a pair of bird-watchers to the pigeons they’re feeding. Young readers will be drawn into the luminous illustrations inviting them to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters. 
I hope you will read it and share it with the children in your life!
Please support independent bookstores by buying YOU MATTER from Bookshop or your local indie.

Simon & Schuster are offering up a copy of YOU MATTER.
To enter, complete the form below & leave a comment on this post with your recommendation for another picture book from a Black author and/or illustrator.

Friday, May 29, 2020

100 Picture Books Including Black People and Communities & Why You Need Them

*Update 6/5/2020: After seeing tweets from several Black educators/ authors/ scholars about the need to promote Black voices first and foremost in any work right now, it made me reconsider this list. Upon reflecting on my initial process for adding titles I recognize that it was a mistake to put together a list like this at this time for this purpose without consideration of who created the book. Although I considered positive representation of the characters and families, I should also have considered the representation of the creators. I have removed the 21 books from the original list that were from non-Black authors/illustrators. I have replaced those titles with new selections from Black authors and/or illustrators with the same focus on joyful everyday experiences instead of oppression. I did leave books that have Black illustrators even if a non-Black author or a Black author with a non-Black illustrator. The additions begin after Hey, Black Child.

*Edited 6/4/2020 to include links to additional recommendation lists from Black librarians and other BIPOC created recommendation lists I saw after publishing mine. Though my original purpose in this list was to speak more directly to non-Black educators, I want to be sure to also amplify Black and BIPOC voices for you to follow. They appear before the start of my list.
Black Lives Matter - Home | Facebook
When the news comes out about things in this country that shatters hearts, & we see Black people bleeding their pain onto the screen in the hope that it will get through to white folx, it shows that we white folx have so much more work yet to do. It is work that doesn't ever stop, but if you haven't even started yet... what the hell are you waiting for? Lives are at stake. And it's going to take all of us to do this work.

Because Black Lives Matter. 

We have to stand next to our Black colleagues and those we learn from and bear witness to what they share. And then we have to act. We have to do the work, the internal work, to do and be better. Because standing by should not be an option. As Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi make clear in STAMPED: RACSIM, ANTI-RACISM, AND YOU, if you're not being anti-racist, by definition you are being racist. Read the book as your starting point and then share and discuss with the kids in your life.

Because Black Lives Matter. 

White women especially, we have work to do. When we know that calling the police on a Black man can lead to his death, and when we hear stories like those that come out over and over and over and over and over and over and over again about the fear Black people in this country live with, sometimes it's hard to feel like you know what to do. But there is one thing we can always do - and that is consider how, in our role as educators, we can impact belief systems that start when kids are young. 

Because Black Lives Matter. 

What can we do as white educators? What can we do as educators to lean in to anti-racist practices? It starts with doing the internal work necessary to acknowledge & break down biases and stereotypes & catch ourselves heading into the kind of thinking that leads to Black people being killed. And Black children being killed. Consider how your actions in the school building might be perpetuating racism. Consider what Christina Torres reminds us of: we need to check our own biases or we are perpetuating systems of oppression.

We look at the systemic racism and oppression that leads to white people walking up to steps carrying weapons and allowed to peacefully protest having to stay at home while Black communities get tear gas and riot gear. If you're more concerned about Colin Kaepernick's knee than that police officer's, you have serious work to do on gaining a deeper understanding of systemic oppression. We can grow in our anti-racist practices and understanding of these systems through books & resources that educate us. This link intended for white parents, that also applies to white educators (shared by Brittany Packnett Cunningham on twitter), could be a good starting point. And this site, Opportunities for White People in the Fight for Racial Justice supports a deeper understanding of how to move from actor through ally to accomplice.

Because Black Lives Matter. 

But what about in an elementary school? First, we have to understand that it starts young! And we need to reflect on how we act toward Black boys, in particular, as Dr. Kim Parker shared in this open letter, and the impact that has on developing beliefs about self and toward others. This is the time when kids are learning about others & growing opinions and developing their stances. We can't avoid it just because they are young - we have to start here

Because Black Lives Matter. 

And it starts with humanizing Black people. Edith Campbell shares scholarship around the history of depicting Black people as simians and what that does to perpetuate stereotypes. Something that embedded doesn't just stay in historical times. We have to read that research and listen to it and reflect on it and sharpen our own critical lenses and understand how it plays out in the books we share with kids at an impressionable age. We have to know it so we can see it and work to find stories that humanize Black people instead of perpetuating a view of them being less than human. 

Because Black Lives Matter. 

We have to know that if we only share stories about oppression & struggle, that is the singular story that kids begin to internalize about Black people (if you don't already know Chimamanda Adichie's TED Talk about the "Danger of a Single Story" you should). In 1990 Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop coined the theory of mirrors, windows, & sliding glass doors which you likely know. But have you really considered all of what she was saying?
"Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created or recreated by the author. When lighting conditions are just right, however, a window can also be a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self- affirmation, and readers often seek their mirrors in books.” 
It matters desperately for Black kids to see mirrors of themselves in books in positive, joyful ways. Bishop further points out, "When children cannot find themselves reflected in the books they read, or when the images they see are distorted, negative, or laughable, they learn a powerful lesson about how they are devalued in the society of which they are a part." But do you also know and acknowledge this part of her piece? 
"Children from dominant social groups have always found their mirrors in books, but they, too, have suffered from the lack of availability of books about others. They need the books as windows onto reality, not just on imaginary worlds. They need books that will help them understand the multicultural nature of the world they live in... In this country, where racism is still one of the major unresolved social problems... If they see only reflections of themselves, they will grow up with an exaggerated sense of their own importance and value in the world"
Because it's equally vital that white kids see windows into the lives, communities, & humanity of Black people. 

Because Black Lives Matter. 

So we are obligated to do more. We have to show Black Girl Magic & Black Boy Joy. We have to celebrate Black people (and not just in February). We have to show everyday stories of Black people. We have to show pride in Black peoples' stories. We have to show the joyfulness and strength in Black communities. We have to honor Black people and communities. We have to do this in our curriculum and through the books we choose to share. 

Because Black Lives Matter. 

Over the past days, my mind kept returning to how educators have the ability to use books in response to current events. To pull picture books off the shelf right now to read with kids to show love for Black students & for other students to see that love. Because as children's book author/illustrator Christian Robinson points out, "When children see themselves and their experiences reflected in books, they are being sent a message that their story matters and that they matter." And they need to be seen in all of wholeness of all of their humanity. So we need to reach for those books that will remind Black kids in our classrooms the beauty within their skin. Those books that will remind other kids of the wholeness of their humanity. Those books that can impact hearts & minds. It's one thing I know I can do. It's one thing you can do, too. 

Because Black Lives Matter.
And they have to matter to all of us.

*Before getting to my list, I want to give a shoutout to two Black librarians who I greatly admire who have shared their own lists of books (for all levels, not just picture books)!

Edith Campbell - Books for Black Children - Edi "selected titles that Black parents, caregivers and teachers can use to help Black children to feel safe, to embrace their blackness and become better able to talk about and confront racism."

Alia Jones - Black Joy Booklist for Children and Young Adults - Alia " highlighted some books in our Library collection that affirm Black childhood and encourage Black youth to dream, speak up, and get started on the path towards liberation. "

*And also share more BIPOC-created recommendation lists:
Sujei Lugo Vázquez & Alia Jones partnered to create this incredible Black Lives Matter Reading List for Children

Brittany, a Black educator, shared a thread of Children's Books that Discuss Race & Racism

Karina Yan Glaser, Chinese-American author, shared a thread of 100 Must-Read Children's Books by African-American Creators.

100 Picture Books Including Black People & Communities
Shop this list at Bookshop to support independent bookstores!