Diversity in Literature for Children and Young Adults

Of the titles I chose for my diverse materials, I had only previously read one (The Departure, it was the first Animorphs book I ever read). I had read other books in the other series’ that I chose because I knew the characters were diverse (The Magic Schoolbus and Giants Don’t Go Snowboarding, of the Bailey Schoolkids). I’ve helped students check out books from the Pony Pals and the Fairy series’, so I peripherally knew there was a range of characters in them. I think the most diverse title was Mama Provi, since she interacted with people of so many different heritages and the reader was able to see a little into their lives through the foods they made. Meet Josefina was a good title because it gave a more in-depth view into a culturally-diverse person’s life.

School libraries should represent a broad range of diverse populations, not just of race, but also of gender, sexuality, and disability. Focusing only on the diverse populations within the school is not good if that excludes diverse populations outside of the school. Children need to be exposed to the concept of diversity early on in their lives.

For the most part, diverse books do not have their own special section. They are shelved right out there amongst the other books, because that is how society is, and diversity is everywhere. I think it sends a powerful message to the kids. Children seem to not pick their reading material based on the diversity of the characters in the books, but it is important that diversity is included so that children recognize from the start that differences are normal.

We can promote diversity in reading in libraries in several ways. We can place books with diversity more prominantly on displays and put up posters or about them. We can feature a particular type of diversity, to be determined on a rotating basis each month. We can link similar books, as in, “If you liked this book, you might try…” We can also encourage teachers to pair such books in reading assignments so that the students can compare and contrast the characters and their stories.

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Animorphs: The Departure

Chapter Book

Bibliographic Information: Applegate, K. A. Animorphs: The Departure (#19). New York: Scholastic, 1998.

Plot Description:
Cassie and her friends the Animorphs have been secretly fighting the invasion of the parasitic alien Yeerks for a while now, and she’s tired of the battles and the secrets. Her identity is discovered by a Yeerk and its host. The Yeerk claims that it has a right to experience life as a human. Cassie tries to bargain for the host’s freedom, offering herself instead. The Yeerk agrees. She convinces it that enslabing other beings is bad, and it agrees to return to its other Controller on the condition that Cassie transforms into a nearby caterpillar and lives her life as it. She agrees, absorbs its DNA, and morphs. Once she is a caterpillar, she can’t hear anything that is said, and miserably stays transformed over the two hour time limit, stuck as a caterpillar forever. Eventually she metamorphosizes into a butterfly, unaware that that transformation resets the morphing time. Her friends find her and are able to communicate this, and she morphs back into her human self. The Yeerk decides to try to convince others of its species that slavery is wrong.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 510; Accelerated Reader: 3.8

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book is written in first-person, focusing on Cassie’s moral dilemma between pacifist and warrior-protector of humanity. It teaches about how one group’s right to exist should not impact another group’s freedom. There are no illustrations in the book. The text is 4th grade reading level.

Content Area: English

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Literature for K-5: #2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral; #4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language; #7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Informational Text for K-5: #5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently; #7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
  • CCSS for Foundational Skills for K-5:  #4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a great chapter book to use in English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 3rd grade through 5th grade. It explores themes like morality and adventure.

Character Diversity:
Main character is African-American, the rest are Caucasian (and there’s aliens).

Pony Pals: I Want a Pony

Chapter Book

Bibliographic Information: Betancourt, Jeanne. Pony Pals: I Want a Pony. New York: Scholastic, 1994.

Plot Description:
Lulu wants a pony because her father left her with her grandmother to go on a trip. She wants to ride with her friends and participate in competitions. Lulu finds a wounded pony that may have been neglected by its owners. She has a vet come look at the pony, and he fixes the animal as best he can. The owner is mad that he has to pay medical bills when the pony still might have to be put down; Lulu wants to use her allowence for the year to pay for the animal so that she can have it. She takes care of the pony while the it recovers. Lulu and her friends write a letter to the daughter of the pony’s owner, asking if Lulu can rent the animal. She writes back her agreement.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 690; Accelerated Reader: 4.2

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book is written in third-person, focusing on caring for animals. It teaches about responsibility. There is one full-page illustration per chapter. The text is 4th grade reading level.

Content Area: English

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Literature for K-5: #2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral; #4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language; #7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Informational Text for K-5: #5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently; #7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
  • CCSS for Foundational Skills for K-5:  #4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a great chapter book to use in English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 3rd grade through 5th grade. It explores themes like friendship and compassion.

Character Diversity:
Main character is Brazillian-American, supporting characters are African-American and Caucasian.

Whitney the Whale Fairy

Chapter Book

Bibliographic Information: Meadows, Daisy. Whitney the Whale Fairy. New York: Scholastic, 2010.

Plot Description:
Rachel and Kristy go on a boat for whale-watching. They encounter a pod acting strangely, and Whitney the Whale Fairy arrives and asks for the girls’ help. The whales had been affected by a piece of magical conch shell. Whitney magically turned the girls into fairies and they dove to retrieve the piece of shell. They evaded the evil goblins who were also after the shell piece. Whitney returns the girls to their boat and returns the shell piece to fairyland.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 770; Accelerated Reader: 5.0

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book is written in third-person, focusing on mystery-solving. It teaches about ocean wildlife and ecology. Illustrations were placed on every other page, supplementing the text.

Content Area: English, Mysery

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Literature for K-5: #2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral; #4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language; #7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Informational Text for K-5: #5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently; #7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
  • CCSS for Foundational Skills for K-5:  #4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a great chapter book to use in English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 3rd grade through 5th grade. It explores themes like teamwork and adventure.

Character Diversity:
Main characters are Caucasian, the guiding fairy of this book is African-American (by the cover illustration, not described in text).

Giants Don’t Go Snowboarding

Chapter Book

Bibliographic Information: Dadey, Debbie. Giants Don’t Go Snowboarding. New York: Scholastic, 1998.

Plot Description:
Third graders Howie, Eddie, Liza, and Melody take a trip to go snowboarding. The owner of their lodge, Jack, wears the cowbell of a cow he once had. His assistant, Hugh Mongus, is a giant of a man. The kids have fun snowboarding but find out some strange things, like the existance of a supposed golden goose and a large tangle of vines. Eventually the kids decide that it’s impossible for the characters of the story “Jack and the Beanstalk” to be real.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 720; Accelerated Reader: 3.8

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book is written in third-person. It teaches the reader to pay attention to small clues that are placed throughout the text. The text has about six paragraphs per page, with most words being one or two sllables. The vocabulary is basic third-grade level.

Content Area: English, Mysery

  • Content Area Standard:
  • CCSS for Literature for K-5: #2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral; #4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language; #7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Informational Text for K-5: #5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently; #7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
  • CCSS for Foundational Skills for K-5:  #4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a great chapter book to use in English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 2nd grade through 5th grade. It explores themes like friendship and adventure.

Character Diversity:
One of the four main characters is African-American, the rest are Caucasian.

Meet Josefina

Chapter Book

Bibliographic Information: Tripp, Valerie. Meet Josefina. Middleton, WI: Pleasant Co. Pub., 1997.

Plot Description:
Josefina is a nine-year-old living in New Mexico in 1824. Her mother passed away, leaving Josefina, her three sisters, and their father to tend the ranch and their home. Josefina is afraid of the family goat. The girls’ maternal grandfather occasionally visits with his caravan. Josefina hopes that he might bring her some courage. One trip, he brings his other daughter with him, the girls’ Tía Dolores. The family has a feast and tells stories. The goat eats a flower arrangement that Josefina had made for Tía Dolores, and she wrestles it back to its enclosure. Josefina realizes that she had courage all along.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 690; Accelerated Reader: 4.1

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book is written in third-person, focusing on teaching the reader about how Mexican-American families lived in the 1800’s. There is an illustration every third or fourth page, usually small, but some a half-page or full-page depicting the text.

Content Area: Social Science: Mexican Immigrant History, 1800’s

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Literature for K-5: #2 Recount stories, including fables and folktales from diverse cultures, and determine their central message, lesson, or moral; #4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language; #7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Informational Text for K-5: #5 Know and use various text features (e.g., captions, bold print, subheadings, glossaries, indexes, electronic menus, icons) to locate key facts or information in a text efficiently; #7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
  • CCSS for Foundational Skills for K-5:  #4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a great historical fiction book to use in English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 3rd grade through 5th grade. It explores themes like family, dealing with grief, and self-worth.

Character Diversity:
Mexican-American characters.

Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo

Picture Book

Bibliographic Information: deGroat, Diane. Happy Birthday to You, You Belong in a Zoo. New York: Morrow Junior Books, 1999.

Plot Description:
Gilbert is invited to the birthday party of a person who teases him at school. The boy’s mom made him invite all the boys in his class. Gilbert does not want to attend, until he realizes he can give the other boy a bad gift in retribution. He picks out a frying pan as a gift, ignoring the space ship. Gilbert has a fun time at the party, but becomes nervous when all the other presents are good gifts. It turns out Gilbert’s mom had gotten the space ship as the gift! When he gets home, his mom says that she may have given him the wrong present, because his dad is using the brand new frying pan. Gilbert says that she gave him the right gift after all.

Quantitative Reading Level: Lexile: 350; Accelerated Reader: 3.0

Qualitative Reading Analysis:
This book is written in third-person, focusing on Gilbert’s feelings on attending the birthday party. It has text on almost every page, ranging from one sentence to a few paragraphs. The illustrations compliment the text well.

Content Area: English, Friendship, Feelings

Content Area Standard:

  • CCSS for Literature for K-5: #2 Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson; #4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, distinguishing literal from nonliteral language; #7 Explain how specific aspects of a text’s illustrations contribute to what is conveyed by the words in a story; #10 Read and comprehend literature in grade level text complexity range.
  • CCSS for Informational Text for K-5: #2 Identify the main topic and retell key details of a text; #7 Explain how specific images (e.g., a diagram showing how a machine works) contribute to and clarify a text.
  • CCSS for Foundational Skills for K-5:  #4 Read with sufficient accuracy and fluency to support comprehension.

Curriculum suggestions:
This is a great modern book to use in English Language Arts Curriculum. It is best suited to 2nd grade through 4th grade. It explores themes like friendship and family.

Character Diversity:
All characters are anthropomorphized animals, but range in fur from white through browns.