Books For Diverse Speech Therapy Bookshelves
As Speech-Language Pathologist working with young children, we must be committed to having diverse bookshelves. ALL students deserve to see themselves reflected in the toys and books we have in our Speech Therapy rooms. The lack of POC represented in children’s books is profound and long-lasting to Black children, but equally profound is the message it sends to white children. Read this article by Rudine Sims Bishop, “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors.” I’m committed to intentionally seeking out books with more representation of POC and sharing them with you. Read how I select quality books to use in speech therapy. In this post, I’ll share some contemporary narratives to help you diversify your speech therapy rooms with books featuring Black characters. While there are MANY excellent books, I always select books to share here from the lens of using them specifically in Speech Therapy. You can also read about children’s books that celebrate diversity.
***Please note, except for non-fiction books, these don’t get a special place on your bookshelf, they just get mixed in WITH ALL THE OTHER BOOKS.
First, a few facts for perspective:
Until recently, many of the books published primarily showed people of color as background characters or more predominately, a marginalized, oppressed group. You know, the historical ones about civil rights and slavery. But rarely a contemporary narrative featuring a Black protagonist. You know, the ones with a superhero, pirates, mysteries, a day at the beach, etc. They just weren’t published.
Although the numbers are still not where they should be, in 2016 there was a substantial increase in the number of diverse books being published. Books about Black characters and experiences increased 26% from 2015 to 2017, from 270 to 340 titles, and represented 9.19% of books for youth in 2017.
You can view the entire collection of recommended books with diverse characters.
Machines At Work by Byron Barton – Rhythmic text and bold, graphic illustrations in this book about machines at a construction site. It features workers with different skin tones.
Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn – there are several in this series. Sweet gentle book with bright illustrations that follow Lola’s experience at the library. I also love the other Lola books!
We’re Different, We’re The Same by Bobbi Kates. Who better than Sesame Street to teach us that we may all look different on the outside—but it’s important to remember that deep down, we are all very much alike.
Billy Bloo Is Stuck in Goo by Jennifer Hamburg is an adorable cumulative story with hysterical, rhyming nonsense. Kids will love this one. I’ve put it in “elementary” simply because of the length, but you could easily use it with preschoolers too.
Corduroy by Don Freeman. This beloved children’s book is likely already on your shelf. An ideal book for understanding character, sequencing, and perspective.
Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell. This series is perfect for teaching character and dealing with bullies/being confident in who you are. I also love all the Molly Lou Melon books (Have Fun Molly Lou, Melon also has a character with leg braces).
Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall. Perfect for talking about courage and overcoming your fears. In Speech, I use it for understanding a character’s perspective, setting, and small moment writing.
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty. Girl power and women scientists in a celebration of curiosity, the power of perseverance, and the importance of asking, “Why?”
Pet Show! by Ezra Jack Keats (author of many books featuring Black characters) This is a fun, relatable book about a quick-thinking, problem-solving kid! A favorite for me to use in Speech for predicting, and character analysis.
The Camping Trip by Jennifer Mann. This is a new release for 2020 and a new author for me. I shared a walkthrough on my @literacybasedspeech Instagram page. Each time I read this delightful book, I get new ideas for using it in speech. The format is unique and sure to capture the attention of kids. Use it for discussing text format, compare/contrast.
You Matter by Christian Robinson. I LOVE this book. A very inclusive/diverse character profile. This sensitive and impactful book with illustrations invites readers to engage with the world in a new way and see how everyone is connected, and that everyone matters.
All of these below are series books featuring a Black main character with relatable storylines to elementary students.
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed is about the first African American woman to travel to space, Mae Jemison.
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super Soaking Inventions by Chris Barton. A summer favorite! What kid doesn’t love a super soaker?! This picture book biography tells the story of Lonnie Johnson, a kid rocket launcher turned NASA engineer that ACCIDENTALLY invented one of the coolest toys EVER!
Counting On Katherine by Helaine Becker about Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA during the space race and depicted in the film Hidden Figures.
Misty Copeland (You Should Meet) The first African-American woman to become a principal ballerina with the American Ballet Theater—in this fascinating, nonfiction Level 3 Ready-to-Read, part of a new series of biographies about people “you should meet.”
I also want to amplify black authors and illustrators:
Christian Robinson – (author & illustrator) You Matter, Another, The Last Stop On Market Street, many more!
Natasha Tarpley- I Love My Hair
Marti Dumas – Jaden Toussiant series
Sharon Draper – Clubhouse Mysteries, Blended, Out Of My Mind
Vashti Harrison- Little Legends, Hair Love (illustrator)
Vanessa Brantley-Newton – (Illustrator, stuttered as a child) Mary Had a Little Glam, The King of Kindergarten
Derrick Barnes- The King of Kindergarten, Ruby and the Booker Boys, Crown-An Ode to the Fresh Cut
Sherri Winston- President of the Whole Fifth Grade, Jada Sly (Artist & Spy)
I hope these recommendations have given you some ideas to include more books for diverse speech therapy bookshelves!
So now that we know the books are out there, we must put them in the children’s hands.