Summer Reading Lists

I thought since I talked about the summer reading lists that I created I thought I would share pdf versions of them here.

Our lists go home with a letter attached that explains summer reading. In it, in all grades, we encourage parents to read WITH their children. Thus you will see books that are not necessarily grade level. We also point parents to ALA award lists (actually I have pdf versions that I typed up that we post to our website for parents to download).

Note that I was asked to add back in a few titles. Titles that were not diverse. Ones that I had removed because I figured that parents visiting any bookstore would find these classics and popular titles and did not need me to tell them about. It’s fine. They’re all good books. But it does skew the numbers I shared in my statistics posts. The lists are less diverse because books were added back without being intentional. It’s a work in progress and I’ll be updating them again next year too, so I can keep making it better. I am not sharing the fifth grade list because the one published is not the one I came up with.

Kindergarten Summer Reading List

First Grade Summer Reading List

Second Grade Summer Reading List

Third Grade Summer Reading List

Fourth Grade Summer Reading List

We also include a Bingo card at the end of each list and ask that the kids fill out each square (there are only 9 so it isn’t an insurmountable task!). Here is a copy of that in case you want to use it or do something similar. The kids who fill it out can come to the library for a treat and a summer reading badge in the Fall.

Summer Reading Bingo Card

Here is a reminder about my Creative Commons License:

This work by Elizabeth Wroten is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

If you want to use these for personal use, please feel free!  I would also be happy to see them built on and if you do drop me a line to let me know. I would love to know what people add and subtract from them.

Conference Reflections: ACL Institute, Race Matters

Last Friday I went to one of the best conferences I’ve been to. It wasn’t fancy and it wasn’t expensive. It was only a day long. I signed up because two people I have been following were going to be presenting and I REALLY wanted to see them. They were Zetta Elliot and Debbie Reese. While I already greatly admired them I came away from the conference with a newfound respect for them. Everything they said just clicked for me. They often make me feel uncomfortable, but I should, if for no other reason than my discomfort really makes me examine myself and the world around me and pushes me to learn and open up.

My biggest takeaway from the conference was twofold. Usually I like conferences where I can take something concrete back to the library or classroom at the end, but this one was different. My takeaway was really codifying my thinking about our collection and making a decision about how I would approach both weeding and purchasing. I have decided anything that has racist content in it goes off our shelf.  This seems really obvious, but while trying to pull things off the shelf I have asked if we can leave things so they spark discussion and had my other librarian make the same suggestion. I’ve also gone back and forth on the idea that pulling a lot of these materials constitutes censorship.

But from here on out, I don’t care if people want to label it censorship or think the materials should stay for historical/conversational purposes. Because unless we are having explicit conversations about these questionable depictions in materials, the kids are internalizing it and that perpetuates all our problems with race and with privilege. And let’s face it, the majority of materials are going home and are not being discussed, examined, or broken down. They just aren’t, plain and simple. I’m sorry (not sorry) if people think that I’m pushing an agenda, but I can’t stand by and let our children internalize racism. No one is okay with that when you call it out, but because it’s so often “under the waterline” as Mitali Perkins called it, we are letting this stuff slip by and it’s not okay.

The second part of my takeaway is that I need to be very, very careful and thoughtful in examining the narratives that our collection creates (i.e. do all our books with African Americans show them as either poor or in historical contexts as slaves). I was already very aware that I needed to focus on this, but I feel a much greater drive to really examine it now. Collection development is not just about getting overt (or even subtly) racist content off the shelves.

I was glad because some of the steps the speakers talked about for incorporating diversity I’m already doing. I know I have a lot more work both personally and in the library to deconstruct the racism that is so prevalent, but it’s nice to know I have taken some steps in the right direction and have started the journey.

Thank you to Debbie for helping me really accept my new weeding policy. Thank you to Zetta Elliot for making me think (and for being gracious as I very nervously introduced myself and tripped over my own tongue while gushing about how much I love your work) and for making me see that I fall into some of the same traps I keep trying to stay out of. Thank you to ACL for such a great conference.

Summer of Diverse Books

100dayprojectI recently came across this project called The 100 Day Project. It encourages you to do one thing for 100 days, with an emphasis on making or doing something. The project technically started back in April, but I just don’t have time to do this kind of thing every day during the school year and I feel like I had my plate full this spring. So instead I decided to start late and use it to guide some (most) of my summer reading. I have a couple larger projects planned this summer, like revamping my curriculum for the library and also, with the generous help of my best friend, who is also one of the second grade teachers, weeding our Native American content in the library.

The plan is to read one diverse book a day and review it. This will give me a lot of good practice reviewing and force me to seek out a lot more diverse books. Many will be picture books (my line up is on Goodreads if you want a sense of where I’m starting out and going) because they are faster to read and a lot of these books I’m looking at with an eye toward adding them to our library collection and I do a lot of the development in the picture book section. I am really trying to hit more than racial diversity, although we need plenty more of that in our collection, so if you have any suggestions please feel free to share them.

One final note, the project asks you to document your project on Instagram. As much as I dislike taking daily pictures and as much as I dislike having one more social media account to manage I’m going to try and do this. I will be adding my Instagram account in the sidebar, but as of writing this I haven’t done it. I think I can set it up to only see the hashtag for this project (fingers crossed). If not you’ll be seeing my other 100 day project which is 100 days of simple science play with my daughter. I suppose the Instagram will serve the purpose of documenting the reading even if I don’t get around to writing reviews each and every day.

The State of: Biographies and Summer Reading After Weeding

Shortly after starting to look at our diversity numbers I decided that I could tackle weeding the biography collection. It was relatively small and the third grade students would be using it at the end of the school year for a project. I figured it couldn’t hurt to have the biography of Christopher Columbus removed as an option in which it states that Columbus knew the “Indians” he “discovered” couldn’t be Chinese because they were not yellow with slanted eyes (I SO WISH I WAS JOKING ABOUT THIS, BUT I AM NOT!). There were several other questionable bits of information in that book as well as some incredibly questionable other books. I also pulled biographies of people who were white and male and no one cares about. A handful of books were moved to other collections that are used for very specific units of study in the classrooms. Here are the new numbers:

Sure, they still aren’t great, but it’s a start. There is probably another stack we could get rid of, however we’ve got a decent core collection and now we can work on building it up. No more biographies of dead white men. We have a lot of those already, time for something new.

I also went back and revamped the summer reading lists before they went out to our families. I thought I was intentional last year, but I was way more intentional this year. Way more and I think the numbers really reflect that. Here they are:

Note, this lumps all the grades together. As with my last post on summer reading you can see individual grade level numbers here. I was just going to be WAY too many charts to do each one. Please do go look at numbers. It’s also telling. Also note that there was no fifth grade list last year. The teacher wanted to make her own. This year she is leaving so I made up a list.

Final Thoughts on the State of Our Collections

This was such a telling exercise and I’m so glad I did it. I know now how I can target my collection development dollars and attention to help build up a much better collection. It also shows me where I need to begin my efforts to really clean out our collection.

I’m aware, with all of these numbers that gender and race are only two types of diversity, but the other types are almost nonexistent in our collections. I think they appear in a very few books and maybe incidentally in a few books. I’m not quite sure what to do about that. I will be sure to purchase books and create lists that show things like disability and different family structures and economic diversity from here on out. Paying attention to this will also be really important in terms of ensuring we don’t create a false narrative about certain ethnicities (I’m thinking specifically of making all African Americans or all Latinos appear poor or part of a slavery narrative).

If I have time (that’s a big if) this summer I may take a look at some or all of these same collections again to see how they look after adding to them and subtracting from them. If not this summer I would like to revisit it next year sometime and that may be necessary as I am not sure how much time I’ll have to tackle all of this.

The State of: My Personal Collection

The Collection

Okay, I forgot to count exactly how many books we have and really the number tallied isn’t quite the right number since there are a few collections not included (more on that below) and a pile or two I may have forgotten. There are books all over our house, not surprisingly. There are about 320 picture books. I don’t have very many chapter books lying around yet since my daughter is not even reading yet so they are not in here.

I thought this would be an interesting collection to look at and was spurred on by this talk by Grace Lin. It also prompted me to get rid of a lot of books I had, but didn’t really like (or my daughter wasn’t really interested in). It’s also given me a good look at where I would like to build the collection up (more diversity, not surprisingly). Multitasking for the win! I was able to purge and look at how I can better support diversity in our home.

The Numbers

Once again the numbers don’t lie, I need to work on building diversity in my home collection too. In this first chart none refers to books with weren’t really nonfiction, but didn’t really feature people or animals prominently or have inanimate objects (think The Day the Crayons Came Home).

Thoughts and Ideas

I got most of the books tallied, but not all of them. I think it doesn’t really matter if I have all of them it wasn’t going to push my numbers either way.

I did not included our poetry books in this count as most of them don’t have main characters (although many feature incidental diversity). I also skipped the non fiction collection for basically the same reason. Only a handful even feature people that could be counted for their diversity or lack of diversity.

I also did not tally in our holiday collection. It would have skewed our numbers for sure, but really that part of our picture book collection is all about supporting the holidays we celebrate as a family. Unlike the library collection there is only one child using this collection and she is white and German, so that’s very strongly reflected in our holiday books. I would very much like to get a handful more diverse holidays, but those books will primarily be informational since we don’t celebrate Ramadan or Kwanza or Diwali. I guess what I’m trying to say is these are probably not books we’ll own, but will get from the library. I want to read them, but I would rather devote the money I have to spend on books for us to building diversity elsewhere.

Can you tell I have a soft spot for animal books? So does my daughter. Too bad animal books often look pretty white too.

All in all, we need more diversity. The bulk of this collection was built while I worked in a book store in my very early twenties at which point I was totally oblivious to everything. Meaning, the bulk of the collection was built completely unintentionally. I did get a fair amount of diversity in despite that, but not nearly enough. As the years have continued I’ve added favorites of mine as well as things that I know feature diversity and are amazing books to boot.

I have work to do, but as with all the collections, this will be better and easier with these numbers in hand.

I would love to see more Native American stories and books in here and, considering the wonderful stuff I’ve seen lately, I’m surprised I don’t have more. I did recently weed through the folk tales portion of our collection so that I could remove anything that wasn’t quality content and that basically removed a good portion of those books. I would rather have fewer high quality ones than a lot of crappy, racist books.

This is going to be really good when I start buying chapter books. I can be super intentional as I build up that collection (seriously I have maybe 25 upper elementary and middle grade chapter books).

The State of the: Summer Reading List

One of my goals and major projects this year has been to examine the different sections of our collection, weed and update them, ensure they are being used, and introducing more diversity into them. I’m going to start sharing the numbers and my ideas on how I’m going to improve the collections. 

The Collection

We publish a list for each grade, Kindergarten through fifth, with suggested titles for summer reading. Parents can download the list off our school website along with a reading log. While summer reading is encouraged it is not mandatory until third grade and not until fifth is there at least one required book for all students (we are in the process of hiring a new fifth grade English teacher so that may not be the case this year).

Last year I completely revamped the lists so they were much shorter than previously. They also have sections for series, single titles, and suggested authors & illustrators. For this last section I am able to look at the ethnicity of the them which I have not done for any of the other collections.

The Numbers

I ran numbers for the summer reading as a whole:

However I added them up as each individual grade so I can look more directly at each list. If you wish to see all the lists click here. Each grade would have required four charts and with five grades that seemed like a lot, so I think it would be easier to just share the numbers.

Thoughts & Concerns

I put together these lists last year and paid very close attention to diversity on them. Or I thought I did. They still don’t look good (although the higher grades are better than the lower, which isn’t saying much). In fact it looks like I paid closest attention to balancing male and female authors and main characters. I think this shows how much I’ve learned over the past year and how much more conscious I have become. To be honest, I’m embarrassed by these lists. I made sure we had a bigger mix of ethnicities, cultures and women, but I can do so much better!

The worst grades are Kindergarten and first with the best being second. That doesn’t surprise me in that I made sure to line the second grade list up with some of their curricular units and their social studies units are probably the most diverse over the course of the year.

Fortunately one of my projects over spring break is to work on these and with these numbers in hand I can do a MUCH better job of that.

The State of the: Holiday & Seasonal Collection

One of my goals and major projects this year has been to examine the different sections of our collection, weed and update them, ensure they are being used, and introducing more diversity into them. I’m going to start sharing the numbers and my ideas on how I’m going to improve the collections. 

The Collection

We have 25 different holidays or seasons represented in our collection. There is one section for miscellaneous holidays (April Fool’s Day, Arbor Day, etc.) that have only one book about them and one small section for books that are collections of holidays- these are shelved in with our regular nonfiction.

The Numbers

Here is how the collection breaks down by holiday. There were a couple nonfiction books that collected Jewish holidays, Hindu holidays, and also National holidays. The miscellaneous holidays are days like April Fool’s, Arbor Day, Memorial Day and New Years- holidays that aren’t really religious and tend to be generically American. There were only a few so I lumped them together. Be sure to scroll through the legend to see what holidays there are- it’s a long list.

Here is a look at the percentages of nonfiction books within some of the religions. I totaled all the titles of the Christian holidays, Jewish holidays, Muslim holidays, etc. and then looked at what percentage of these are non fiction. I will talk below about why this matters.


Thoughts and Concerns

Here is another place we can easily support and promote diversity and it’s a collection that circulates A LOT. We always have out holiday/seasonal displays. Not surprisingly we don’t often have ones that center around Jewish (I don’t think the Hanukah books made it off the shelf this year and that was my fault and I’m very sorry) or Muslim (let’s mark Ramadan on our calendar every year so we’re sure to get those out) or Hindu (Diwali lines up with the Winter Solstice) holidays and that needs to change right away. Our school has a diverse population both in terms of race, but also religion. And once again the collection is overwhelmingly Christian (and therefore white). We need more Hindu holidays and especially Jewish. We do have a fair number of Jewish kids and how sad to see only a handful of Hanukah books next to the shelves bursting with Christmas books. I also have to say, with both Hanukah and Christmas, these are not the most important holidays in their respective religions so we should see more for the more important holidays. I personally think it would be fine to have books about Jesus, so long as we have books about Judaism and Islam and Hinduism.

I actually would like to weed out our holiday section and get rid of a few things (Christmas, I’m looking at you!), but really I have a long list of other holiday books I want to purchase to beef up the weaker sections. Thanksgiving will probably get the royal treatment this summer when I examine Native content in our collection. But really I love this collection and so do our students. It’s just a matter of making sure we’re all there in it and in roughly equal numbers.

It’s good to see these numbers too, because, unless I find a stellar Halloween book, I won’t be buying any more. Same goes for Christmas, Winter, and Valentine’s Day. We just don’t need more of those. Our shelves are bursting and there are other places we can use the money more effectively.

Now to address the nonfiction percentages. These are important to look at because they indicate how Christian- and white-centric our holiday collection is. If you are Muslim you do not need a nonfiction book about Ramadan. Sure, a Muslim kid might check one out, but as with Christians and Christmas, those kids are probably more interested in story books about their holidays. Books that don’t make them seem abnormal (or out of the norm) and needing explaining. They already know about the holiday. I will say this is going to take a bit more digging to find stories about Hindu holidays and Muslim holidays and Chinese holidays, but they are out there. I already have a list started.

The State of the: Folktale & Fairytale Collection

One of my goals and major projects this year has been to examine the different sections of our collection, weed and update them, ensure they are being used, and introducing more diversity into them. I’m going to start sharing the numbers and my ideas on how I’m going to improve the collections. 

The Collection

This is all our 398.2s. There are a couple books that fall outside, but I didn’t worry about them too much. We have some books in our harder 4th-5th grade yellow section, but the vast majority of these books are in our easier/picture book red/blue section.

There are 412 books in the collection.

The Numbers

By and large I went with the culture the book identified with unless it was obvious that skin color and setting were just window dressing and the story remained very much the same. So for example Rachel Isadora did a version of The Twelve Dancing Princesses. Sure the people are black and the setting is some where in Sub-Saharan Africa, but the story is exactly the same as in the Western European tradition and quite frankly that makes it a Western European book. I’m glad to see authors and illustrators making books that don’t default white and I think that’s important, but I also think we really need to get away from an almost exclusively Western European folktale tradition. African cultures have plenty of folklore of their own that would be wonderful to draw on.

Please note that you need to scroll through the legend on the chart. The list is long.

Thoughts & Concerns

This is another collection that directly supports many of our cultural/social studies units across grades which I thought would also give us another slice to look at and see how well we incorporate diversity. It’s also an easy place to get diversity into a collection because publishers like to put these kinds of books out.

I mean I guess I can say thank goodness it’s not 50% Western European, but it sure is close. The next closest number is the number of Native American tales (many of which I think need to be weeded), but it has 100 fewer titles. That’s a lot.

As with the biography collection, many of these titles need to be weeded . They are culturally insensitive and disapproved of by the groups they say they represent (Paul Goble, I’m looking at you). Again, I am not drilling down into this collection (yet! there are plans in place to work on this over the summer) looking at who actually wrote the stories or evaluating their accuracy. This just scratches the surface of what’s here and the issues present. I may return to this series after I weed the collections over the summer and look at where they numbers stand then.

And once more, as with the other collections I’ve looked at and the library as a whole, we just need to be really intentional in what we add from here on out. Unless it’s an outstanding Western European fairy tale then we probably don’t need it. Once we weed we should by anything we can find that is high quality folklore from any other culture or tradition.