being a teacher

Some Favorite Picture Books to Highlight LGBTQ+ Experiences

As June rolls nearer and we get ready to celebrate pride in my own house, I have been pulling books from our classroom collection to put on display. While many of these books have already been booktalked, read aloud, or shared in other ways in our time together, there is something beautiful about seeing a whole wall of books all centering within the LGBTQ+ experience in some way. Especially because this year, it finally feels like there are more books than before. Like this year, books written by and about LGBTQ+ people are not just coming out once in a while but are finally starting to get a broader publication and inclusion within schools. It is something that brings me joy and hope, even if I would still love to see a much broader emphasis on #OwnVoices stories within mainstream publishing

As I pulled books for display, I asked on Instagram whether a blog post would be helpful to others and the answer was yes! So here are the picture books being displayed and read in our 7th grade classroom as we celebrate LGBTQ+ Creators and Authors, characters, and also books that break gender stereotypes. I want to reiterate and emphasize that it is not enough to put books such as these on display, they need to be read, discussed, and woven into the work we already do because these books all lead into discussion about identity, who we are, who others are and how we view the world. These books should not just be pulled out once a year but instead be a naturally integrated part of our curriculum. But I hope this gives you a good place to start if you are looking to add more titles, new and old.

Our Subway Baby: Mercurio, Peter, Espinosa, Leo: 9780525427544: Amazon.com:  Books
Our Subway Baby by Peter Mercurio and illustrated by Leo Espinosa

Some babies are born into their families. Some are adopted. This is the story of how one baby found his family in the New York City subway.So begins the true story of Kevin and how he found his Daddy Danny and Papa Pete. Written in a direct address to his son, Pete’s moving and emotional text tells how his partner, Danny, found a baby tucked away in the corner of a subway station on his way home from work one day. Pete and Danny ended up adopting the baby together. Although neither of them had prepared for the prospect of parenthood, they are reminded, Where there is love, anything is possible.

Call Me Max (Max and Friends Book 1): Kyle Lukoff, Luciano Lozano, Luciano  Lozano: 9781478868972: Amazon.com: Books
Call Me Max by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Luciano Lozano

When Max starts school, the teacher hesitates to call out the name on the attendance sheet. Something doesn’t seem to fit. Max lets he know the name he wants to be called by–a boy’s name. This begins Max’s journey as he makes new friends and reveals his feelings about his identity to his parents.

I'm Not a Girl: A Transgender Story: Lyons, Maddox, Verdi, Jessica,  Simpson, Dana: 9780374310684: Amazon.com: Books
I’m Not a Girl by Maddox Lyons and Jessica Verdi illustrated by Dana Simpson

Nobody seems to understand that Hannah is not a girl.His parents ask why he won’t wear the cute outfits they pick out. His friend thinks he must be a tomboy. His teacher insists he should be proud to be a girl.But a birthday wish, a new word, and a stroke of courage might be just what Hannah needs to finally show the world who he really is.

My Rainbow by DeShanna Neal, Trinity Neal: 9781984814609 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
My Rainbow by Trinity and DeShanna Neal and illustrated by Art Twink

Warm morning sunlight and love fill the Neal home. And on one quiet day, playtime leads to an important realization: Trinity wants long hair like her dolls. She needs it to express who she truly is.So her family decides to take a trip to the beauty supply store, but none of the wigs is the perfect fit. Determined, Mom leaves with bundles of hair in hand, ready to craft a wig as colorful and vibrant as her daughter is.

I Am Perfectly Designed: Brown, Karamo, Brown, Jason "Rachel", Syed,  Anoosha: 9781250232212: Amazon.com: Books
I Am Perfectly Designed by Karamo Brown and illustrated by Anoosha Syed

In this empowering ode to modern families, a boy and his father take a joyful walk through the city, discovering all the ways in which they are perfectly designed for each other.

Riley wears whatever clothes feel right each day. On Monday, Riley feels shy and wears a bunny costume to school. On Tuesday, a scary trip to the dentist calls for a super hero cape. For a trip out with Otto and Oma, a ball gown is the perfect outfit.

This charming picture book is a gentle exploration of self-expression and source of encouragement for being true to oneself despite the expectations of others.

Sparkle Boy: Leslea Newman: 9781620142851: Amazon.com: Books
Sparkle Boy by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Maria Mola

Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump truck, but he also loves things that sparkle, shimmer, and glitter. When his older sister, Jessie, shows off her new shimmery skirt, Casey wants to wear a shimmery skirt too. When Jessie comes home from a party with glittery nails, Casey wants glittery nails too. And when Abuelita visits wearing an armful of sparkly bracelets, Casey gets one to wear, just like Jessie. The adults in Casey’s life embrace his interests, but Jessie isn’t so sure. Boys aren’t supposed to wear sparkly, shimmery, glittery things. Then, when older boys at the library tease Casey for wearing “girl” things, Jessie realizes that Casey has the right to be himself and wear whatever he wants. Why can’t both she and Casey love all things shimmery, glittery, and sparkly? 

What Are Your Words?: A Book About Pronouns: Locke, Katherine, Passchier,  Anne: 9780316542067: Amazon.com: Books
What Are Your Words by Katherine Locke and Illustrated by Catherine Passchier

Whenever Ari’s Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: “What are your words?” Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood’s big summer bash, Ari doesn’t know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves, including pronouns like she/her, he/him, they/them, ey/em, and ze/zir. As Ari tries on different pronouns, they discover that it’s okay to not know your words right away–sometimes you have to wait for your words to find you.

Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love

Julián and his abuela are going to a wedding. Better yet, Julián is in the wedding. Weddings have flowers and kissing and dancing and cake. And this wedding also has a new friend named Marisol. It’s not long before Julián and Marisol set off for some magic and mischief of their own, and when things take an unexpected turn, the pair learns that everything is easier with a good friend by your side.

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love: 9780763690458 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself?

Peanut Goes for the Goal by Jonathan Van Vess and illustrated by Gillian Reid

Peanut just has their own unique way of doing things. Whether it’s cartwheeling during basketball practice or cutting their own hair, this little guinea pig puts their own special twist on life. So when Peanut decides to be a rhythmic gymnast, they come up with a routine that they know is absolutely perfect, because it is absolutely, one hundred percent Peanut.

It Feels Good to Be Yourself by Theresa Thorn and Illustrated by Noah Grigni

Some people are boys. Some people are girls. Some people are both, neither, or somewhere in between.This sweet, straightforward exploration of gender identity will give children a fuller understanding of themselves and others.

Be Amazing: A History of Pride by Desmond is Amazing and illustrated by Dylan Glynn

Desmond is amazing–and you are, too.Throughout history, courageous people like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and RuPaul have paved the way for a safer, more inclusive society for LGBTQ individuals, and it’s thanks to them that people just like Desmond can be free to be who they really are.

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff and illustrated by Kaylani Juanita

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life.

Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning–from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does making things right actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno

In this deeply moving and empowering true story, young readers will trace the life of the Gay Pride Flag, from its beginnings in 1978 with social activist Harvey Milk and designer Gilbert Baker to its spanning of the globe and its role in today’s world. Award-winning author Rob Sanders’s stirring text, and acclaimed illustrator Steven Salerno’s evocative images, combine to tell this remarkable – and undertold – story. A story of love, hope, equality, and pride.

Stella Brings the Family by Miriam B. Schiffer and illustrated by Kelly Clifton-Brown

Stella’s class is having a Mother’s Day celebration, but what’s a girl with two daddies to do? It’s not that she doesn’t have someone who helps her with her homework, or tucks her in at night. Stella has her Papa and Daddy who take care of her, and a whole gaggle of other loved ones who make her feel special and supported every day. She just doesn’t have a mom to invite to the party. Fortunately, Stella finds a unique solution to her party problem in this sweet story about love, acceptance, and the true meaning of family.

Prince and Knight by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far from here, there was a prince in line to take the throne, so his parents set out to find him a kind and worthy bride. The three of them traveled the land far and wide, but the prince didn’t quite find what he was looking for in the princesses they met.While they were away, a terrible dragon threatened their land, and all the soldiers fled. The prince rushed back to save his kingdom from the perilous beast and was met by a brave knight in a suit of brightly shining armor. Together they fought the dragon and discovered that special something the prince was looking for all along.

Prince & Knight: Tale of the Shadow King: Haack, Daniel, Lewis, Stevie:  9781499811216: Amazon.com: Books
Tale of the Shadow King by Daniel Haack and illustrated by Stevie Lewis

Our brave and dashing heroes, the prince and the knight, are happily married and their kingdom is prospering, but soon, a fog of darkness that blocks the sun spreads across their land. They get word that the cause of this is a dark and mysterious Shadow King, and they rush off to find and stop him, but encounter many obstacles along the way. Will they be able to restore the light to their kingdom?

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnett, illustrated by Henry Cole

At the penguin house at the Central Park Zoo, two penguins named Roy and Silo were a little bit different from the others. But their desire for a family was the same. And with the help of a kindly zookeeper, Roy and Silo get the chance to welcome a baby penguin of their very own.

Red: A Crayon Story by Michael Hall

Red has a bright red label, but he is, in fact, blue. His teacher tries to help him be red (let’s draw strawberries ), his mother tries to help him be red by sending him out on a playdate with a yellow classmate (go draw a nice orange ), and the scissors try to help him be red by snipping his label so that he has room to breathe. But Red is miserable. He just can’t be red, no matter how hard he tries

Finally, a brand-new friend offers a brand-new perspective, and Red discovers what readers have known all along. He’s blue.

Introducing Teddy – a Gentle Story about Gender and Friendship by Jessica Walton and illustrated by Dougal MacPherson

Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it’s riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party, or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do.One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas is sad, even when they are playing in their favorite ways. Errol can’t figure out why, until Thomas finally tells Errol what the teddy has been afraid to say: In my heart, I’ve always known that I’m a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas. And Errol says, I don’t care if you’re a girl teddy or a boy teddy What matters is that you are my friend.

Worm Loves Worm by J.J. Austrian and illustrated by Mike Curato

You are cordially invited to celebrate the wedding of a worm…and a worm.

When a worm meets a special worm and they fall in love, you know what happens next: They get married But their friends want to know–who will wear the dress? And who will wear the tux?

The answer is: It doesn’t matter. Because worm loves worm.

Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman and illustrated by Laura Cornell

Heather’s favorite number is two. She has two arms, two legs, two pets–and two mommies. When Heather goes to school for the first time, someone asks her about her daddy, but Heather doesn’t have a daddy. Then something interesting happens. When Heather and her classmates all draw pictures of their families, not one drawing is the same. 

Adventures with My Daddies: Peter, Gareth, Parsons, Garry: 9781682632819:  Amazon.com: Books
Adventures with my Daddies by Gareth Peter and Garry Parsons

Set off on a series of incredible adventures with an endearing, diverse family as the bedtime stories they read burst into colorful life. Together, the daddies and their little one battle dragons, dodge deadly dinosaurs, zoom to the moon, and explore the world in a hot air balloon, before winding down to sleep in a wonderfully cozy ending.

Born Ready by Jodie Patterson: 9780593123638 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
Born Ready: The True Story of a Boy Named Penelope by Jodie Patterson and illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

Penelope knows that he’s a boy. (And a ninja.) The problem is getting everyone else to realize it.

Daddy & Dada: Brockington, Ryan, Webster, Isaac, May, Lauren:  9780316427029: Amazon.com: Books
Daddy and Dada by Ryan Brockington and Isaac Webster, Illustrated by Lauren May

Hi, I’m Rumi.
Some of my friends have one mom and one dad.
Some have one mom or one dad.
I have two dads. Daddy and Dada.
Daddy sings songs with me. Dada reads me stories.
Every family is different.
And that’s pretty cool.

Grandad's Camper: Woodgate, Harry: 9781499811933: Amazon.com: Books
Grandad’s Camper by Harry Woodgate

Gramps and Grandad were adventurers. They would surf, climb mountains, and tour the country in their amazing camper. Gramps just made everything extra special. But after Gramps died, granddad hasn’t felt like traveling anymore. So, their amazing granddaughter comes up with a clever plan to fix up the old camper and get Grandad excited to explore again.

Jacob's School Play: Starring He, She, and They: Hoffman, Ian, Hoffman,  Sarah, Case, Chris: 9781433836770: Amazon.com: Books
Jacob’s School Play: Starring He, She, and They by Ian Hoffmann, Sarah Hoffmann and illustrated by Chris Case

Jacob–star of one of the most banned books of the decade according to the American Library Association–is back in his third book and ready to put on a school play While learning their lines and making their costumes, Jacob’s class finds itself unexpectedly struggling with identity, and what it means to be “he,” “she,” or “they.” Jacob’s School Play is an engaging way to introduce young readers to non-binary people and the pronoun options available to us all. Learning that individuals are more nuanced than how others see them is a developmentally important milestone, and helps foster respect of one’s self and one’s peers.

Jacob's Room to Choose: Hoffman, Sarah, Hoffman, Ian, Case, Chris:  9781433830730: Amazon.com: Books
Jacob’s Room to Choose by Ian Hoffmann, Sarah Hoffmann and illustrated by Chris Case

When Jacob goes to the boys’ bathroom he is chased out because the boys think he looks like a girl because of the way he is dressed. His classmate, Sophie, has a similar experience when she tries to go to the girls’ bathroom. When their teacher finds out what happened, Jacob and Sophie, with the support administration, lead change at their school as everyone discovers the many forms of gender expression and how to treat each other with respect.

Jacob's New Dress: Hoffman, Sarah, Hoffman, Ian, Case, Chris:  9780807563755: Amazon.com: Books
Jacob’s New Dress by Ian Hoffmann, Sarah Hoffmann and illustrated by Chris Case

Jacob loves playing dress-up, when he can be anything he wants to be. Some kids at school say he can’t wear “girl” clothes, but Jacob wants to wear a dress to school. Can he convince his parents to let him wear what he wants? This heartwarming story speaks to the unique challenges faced by children who don’t identify with traditional gender roles.

Llama Glamarama: Simon James Green: 9781407197036: Amazon.com: Books
Llama Glamarama by Simon James Green and Garry Parsons

Meet a dazzlin’ dancin’ llama who learns to march to the beat of his own drum by strutting his stuff with Pride (and a funky feather boa)!Larry the llama loves to move and groove! But will his friends all disapprove?Larry lives a slow and quiet life at the barn with all the other llamas, just the way they like it. But at night when everyone has gone to bed, Larry loves to dress up in bright costumes and DANCE! He has to hide this from the others, for fear that they won’t approve of his raucous ways. One day, he stumbles upon the Llama Glamarama, a carnival full of music, laughter, and yes-dancing!Will this vibrant celebration give Larry the pride he needs to bring his dance back home? 

Two Grooms on a Cake: The Story of America's First Gay Wedding: Sanders,  Rob, Cathro, Robbie: 9781499809565: Amazon.com: Books
Two Grooms on a Cake: The Story of America’s First Gay Wedding by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Robbie Cathro

Long before marriage equality was the law of the land, two grooms stood on a wedding cake with their feet firmly planted in fluffy white frosting. That cake belonged to Jack Baker and Michael McConnell, who were wed on September 3, 1971, becoming the first same-sex couple in America to be legally married. Their struggle to obtain a marriage license in Minnesota and their subsequent appeals to the Minnesota Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States is an under-told story of LGBT history. This beautiful book celebrates the love story of two pioneers of marriage equality for all through the baking of their wedding cake!

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress: Baldacchino, Christine,  Malenfant, Isabelle: 9781554983476: Amazon.com: Books
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino and illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

Morris is a little boy who loves using his imagination. But most of all, Morris loves wearing the tangerine dress in his classroom’s dress-up center. The children in Morris’s class don’t understand. Dresses, they say, are for girls. And Morris certainly isn’t welcome in the spaceship some of his classmates are building. Astronauts, they say, don’t wear dresses. One day when Morris feels all alone and sick from their taunts, his mother lets him stay home from school. Morris dreams of a fantastic space adventure with his cat, Moo. Inspired by his dream, Morris paints the incredible scene he saw and brings it with him to school. He builds his own spaceship, hangs his painting on the front of it and takes two of his classmates on an outer space adventure. 

The Boy & the Bindi: Shraya, Vivek, Perera, Rajni: 9781551526683:  Amazon.com: Books
The Boy and the Bindi written by Vivek Shraya and illustrated by Rajni Perera

In this beautiful children’s picture book by Vivek Shraya, author of the acclaimed God Loves Hair, a five-year-old South Asian boy becomes fascinated with his mother’s bindi, the red dot commonly worn by Hindu women to indicate the point at which creation begins, and wishes to have one of his own. Rather than chastise her son, she agrees to it, and teaches him about its cultural significance, allowing the boy to discover the magic of the bindi, which in turn gives him permission to be more fully himself.

My Two Moms and Me: Joosten, Michael, Zenou, Izak: 9780525580126:  Amazon.com: Books
My Two Moms and Me (Boardbook) written by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Izak Zenou

Families with same-sex parents are celebrated in this board book that follows busy moms and their kids throughout their day–eating breakfast, going on a playdate, heading to the pool for a swim, and settling back in at night with a bedtime story and a good-night lullaby. LGBTQ+ parents and their friends and families will welcome this inclusive and cheerful book that reflects their own lives and family makeup.

Zero Local: Next Stop: Kindness: Murrow, Ethan, Murrow, Vita, Murrow,  Ethan, Murrow, Vita: 9780763697471: Amazon.com: Books
Zero Local: Next Stop Kindness written by Ethan and Ava Murrow

Train riders are used to stressful delays on the Zero Local line. But when a new passenger shows gratitude to the driver on their daily commute, tensions begin to ease. Eventually the artistic traveler stops riding the Zero Local line, and discord begins to creep back into the train car. Will the regular passengers find a way to restore the sense of camaraderie they once felt? 

I Love My Purse: Demont, Wimmer: 9781554519545: Amazon.com: Books
I Love My Purse by Belle Demont and illustrated by Sonya Wimmer

Charlie loves the bright red purse that his grandmother let him have. One day, he decides to take it to school. His father, then his friends, and even the crossing guard question him about his “strange” choice. But Charlie isn’t deterred. And soon his self-confidence starts to affect those around him. Thanks to Charlie, everyone around him realizes that it isn’t always necessary to conform to others’ expectations. It’s more important to be true to yourself.

I Am Jazz: Herthel, Jessica, Jennings, Jazz, McNicholas, Shelagh:  9780803741072: Amazon.com: Books
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNichols

From the time she was two years old, Jazz knew that she had a girl’s brain in a boy’s body. She loved pink and dressing up as a mermaid and didn’t feel like herself in boys’ clothing. This confused her family, until they took her to a doctor who said that Jazz was transgender and that she was born that way. Jazz’s story is based on her real-life experience and she tells it in a simple, clear way that will be appreciated by picture book readers, their parents, and teachers.

Encourage children accept themselves and others with these picture books that feature LGBTQ characters, as well as share important moments in LGBTQ history.#weneeddiversebooks
They, She, He, Easy as ABC bY Maya Christine Gonzalez and Matthew Sg

They, She, He easy as ABC shows that including everyone is all part of the dance. It’s easy. It’s fundamental. As the dance begins the kids proclaim, “No one left out and everyone free,” in a sing-song rhyme about inclusion. This sets the stage for readers to meet 26 kids showing us their dance moves.

Ari loves to arabesque. They hold their pose with ease.
Brody is a break dancer. Brody loves to freeze.”

Fast-paced rhyming keeps the flow of text upbeat and rhythmic, and naturally models how to use a wide range of pronouns. There’s no room for stereotypes on THIS dance floor with spirited imagery that keeps names, clothes, hair and behavior fresh and diverse. The combination creates a playful and effortless practice to expand ideas about gender while learning the alphabet and makes being inclusive as easy as A-B-C.

From Freddie Mercury’s contribution to music and Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to James Baldwin’s best-selling essays and more, discover tales of courage, triumph, and determination. Published to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, this extraordinary book shows children that anything is possible.

Plum: Hayes, Sean, Icenogle, Scott, Thompson, Robin: 9781534404045:  Amazon.com: Books

Plum will not stay glum.For as long as she can remember, Plum has lived at the Mary Fitzgerald Orphanage, wishing and hoping for a family. When a sudden snowfall threatens a delivery of presents on Christmas Eve, Plum is determined to save Christmas–even for the kids who laugh at her.Plum’s pure heart grants her an unexpected reward. When she eats a cake left behind by a mysterious magician, she is transported into the Land of Sweets. But Christmas here is threatened, too–by a sourness that is spreading from the center of the land. Plum’s determined to help, and in doing so, she might just find the family she’s always dreamed of, thanks to a good heart–and Christmas magic!

The Rainbow Flag (Hardcover) | ABRAMS

Flags are brilliant and clever works of art and design, and they bring people together under a common banner. This colorful story follows a group of friends who helped dye and sew strips of cloth to create the first Rainbow Flags for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day Parade in 1978.Led by a young artist named Gilbert Baker, the friends set out to create a flag that people could march behind during the Pride Parade. They knew the flag needed to be bright, in order to be seen by everyone as they marched. It needed to be bold, to lead the crowd. And it needed to be beautiful, like the love celebrated by the parade The result is an iconic flag that has become an international symbol of the gay pride movement.

Fred Gets Dressed: Brown, Peter: 9780316200646: Amazon.com: Books

The boy loves to be naked. He romps around his house naked and wild and free. Until he romps into his parents’ closet and is inspired to get dressed. First he tries on his dad’s clothes, but they don’t fit well. Then he tries on his mom’s clothes, and wow! The boy looks great. He looks through his mom’s jewelry and makeup and tries that on, too. When he’s discovered by his mother and father, the whole family (including the dog!) get in on the fun, and they all get dressed together.

Big Boys Cry: Howley, Jonty: 9781524773205: Amazon.com: Books

It’s Levi’s first day at a new school, and he’s scared. His father tries to comfort Levi by telling him Big boys don’t cry. Though the father immediately understands his misstep, he can’t find the words to comfort his son, and Levi leaves for school, still in need of reassurance.Fortunately, along his walk to school, Levi sees instance after instance of grown men openly expressing their sadness and fear. His learned mantra, Big boys don’t cry, slowly weakens, and by the time he’s at school he releases a tear. Once he’s there, things aren’t so bad after all, and on his walk home he sees everyone he’s encountered earlier, feeling better now that they expressed their emotions. Upon his arrival home, he finds his father waiting for him on their porch, tears in his eyes. His father is able to admit that he was scared and the two embrace, closer than before.

Katy Has Two Grampas: Julie Schanke Lyford, Robert A. Schanke, Mariia  Luzina;Mariia Luzina, Mariia Luzina;Mariia Luzina: 9781634893923:  Amazon.com: Books

Katy’s school is celebrating Grandparents Day, and Katy is nervous. She doesn’t want to introduce her grandpas in front of the class because she’s worried that nobody will understand her lisp. To make matters worse, when Katy tells her teacher that she’s inviting her married grampas, her teacher thinks she means to say grandma and grandpa instead of grandpa and grandpa. Will Katy build the confidence to speak in front of the class and challenge stereotypes?

There you have it, just a few of our favorites, I know I missed some that I have pulled as well and that there are more to discover too. Please let me know! I have pulled all of these together in an easy to access booklist on Bookshop.org as well.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

Be the change, being me, end of year

On Counting Down the Days…Again

Make those last days count Design

An older post from 2017 that still rings true today. I will not do a countdown for many reasons, even if I know how many days I have left. While the belief started as an epiphany of the wildness it was creating, it now rests more solidly in the notion that not every child has a safe place to be during the summer. And while this year of teaching has been like no other and every single person involved with schools deserves a break, to step away from simply making it through the day, I still know that for some being out of school does not allow them to thrive in the ways I hope every child has the possibility to; with food, a bed, adults to supervise and care, learning opportunities, and true rest. We can still celebrate a conclusion of an extraordinarily hard year without counting down the days together. We can still be glad to have the chance to step away to recharge without notching days.

The other day I was asked, “What is the one thing you would tell teachers to stop doing as the end of the year nears?”  I needed no time to think because my answer is simple; the countdown.

I used to do the countdown with my students.  20, 19, 18 days left of school.  Each day the kids would get more excited.  “We are almost out of here, Mrs. Ripp!”  They got crazier as the countdown neared the end, energy barely contained, and I loosened the reins, had fun, did less curriculum and more community building.  Except the days dragged on.  The kids grew restless, and I even started looking at the clock, wishing the day to be over.  Was this what teaching the last few weeks of school would always be like?

Six years ago,  after a particularly trying week, I had an epiphany – one that many have had before me.  I was creating the excited mess unfolding every day in my classroom.  My choices in doing a countdown and stepping away from our routines were signaling to the kids that school no longer mattered.  That what we were doing no longer mattered.  That all they had to do was wait it out and then this, too, would finally be over.  As if our students needed any more reminders that school is not a great place to be.

So I stopped the countdown, I went back to teaching and have not looked back since.  Because while the countdown may be fun on the surface; another way to show off student accomplishment – you made it through 7th grade! -it also sends a much deeper message; we are done with the year.  I am done with you.   Is that really what we want to tell our students?

Yet, this is not the only reason I hate the countdown.  One year, a child cried under his desk on the last day of school.  Inconsolable, I asked him what had happened.  Had someone said something to him that I had not caught?  Instead, he looked up at me, tears running down his face and said, “Don’t make me leave…I don’t want to go on vacation, I want to stay here.”  I cried with him and did the only thing I could, hug him and tell him I would always be here for him if he needed me.  Yet, his words have stayed with me all of these years.  This child did not look forward to summer.  This child faced a summer of unknowns, of food shortage, of not knowing who he would live with, of who would care for him.  Summer did not represent a break, but an uncertain future where he had to carry the weight of a society who has very few safety nets for children in poverty and home adults who are trying to survive.  Our classroom was his safe space.  In our classroom, he felt cared for, knew he would eat, and knew he had people with him. Outside of school that wasn’t always the case.  By counting down the days, I was reminding him every day of what was ahead after that last day of school; uncertainty, fear, hunger.  None of those messages were what I hoped to convey to my students. None of those messages were what my silly countdown was meant to convey to him. And I am sure there have been others who silently dreaded the end of school, who didn’t show it through their tears but kept it inside or showed in other ways. Who didn’t excitedly tell their peers about all the things they couldn’t wait to do but instead hoped that they could stay together, sta where they were, instead of walking out on that last day of school. So while school certainly doesn’t represent safety for all children, for some it does.

So It is not that I don’t know how many days are left.  That I pretend to be clueless as to the end of the year. It is just that I don’t advertise it. I don’t actively remind children how much better summer will be than what we are doing together, than what we have built together.  It undermines the entire mission we have had all year of instilling the importance of the work we do.  It undermines every single time we have said that school is important, that our community is valuable.  I have less than three weeks left and so much still to teach and learn, so many opportunities to keep connecting with kids, to continue to build community and provide resources that will hopefully make a difference in the days ahead. So now, when a child tells me that they are excited about summer, I tell them I am too, but also that I will miss them, that I will miss our learning, that I will miss our classroom.  That we have so much learning still to do.  That we will work to the very last day because our time is valuable.  Because we need every minute we can get. Because what we have built matters and I am sad to see it go. I am sad to see them go. I don’t need a countdown to remind me of that.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher

Some Favorite Picture Books to Discuss Our Perception of Others

I love using picture books to help my students relate to the world and grow as thinkers and humans and recognizing that our perception of others greatly influences how we treat them as is a great discussion to have repeatedly.

So why not offer up a collection of picture books that does that just. Some are new, some are old, but all carry a powerful message of going beyond our initial assumptions and really seeing others for who they are not what we want or think they are and sometimes even seeing ourself in a new light, too.

What are your favorite reads for this discussion?

Daisy happens to be fluffy–she’s a young chick after all. Her friends can’t help but want to pet her, squeeze her, and tell her how cute she is. But Daisy doesn’t want to be hugged or kissed. She’s not just fluff; Daisy has substance! But how can she tell everyone to give her some space without hurting their feelings?

On the day it snows, Gabo sees kids tugging sleds up the hill, then coasting down, whooping all the while. Gabo wishes he could join them, but his hat is too small, and he doesn’t have boots or a sled.

But he does have warm and welcoming neighbors in his new town who help him solve the problem in the sweetest way possible!

A young artist has drawn birds and bird houses in corresponding colors. Now it’s time to match them up. The blue bird goes in the blue house, the orange bird in the orange house, and so on. But wait! The birds don’t agree with the narrator’s choices and, much to her distress, are rebelling by swapping houses. Can the narrator make the birds see sense? Or is it possible that you just can’t tell a bird by its feathers?

Milo is on a long subway ride with his older sister. To pass the time, he studies the faces around him and makes pictures of their lives. There’s the whiskered man with the crossword puzzle; Milo imagines him playing solitaire in a cluttered apartment full of pets. There’s the wedding-dressed woman with a little dog peeking out of her handbag; Milo imagines her in a grand cathedral ceremony. And then there’s the boy in the suit with the bright white sneakers; Milo imagines him arriving home to a castle with a drawbridge and a butler. But when the boy in the suit gets off on the same stop as Milo–walking the same path, going to the exact same place–Milo realizes that you can’t really know anyone just by looking at them.

Every day, a little girl rides to school on the back of her father’s bike. As they twist and turn through the streets, the little girl spreads her arms like wings and sings her birdsong for all to hear. But when they pass a strange woman in blue who carries a mysterious bag, the girl goes quiet until the woman is out of sight. One day, when they’re running late, the little girl discovers what the woman does with her bag each morning—a surprise that transforms her wariness into a feeling of kinship to be celebrated. 

Laxmi never paid much attention to the tiny hairs above her lip. But one day while playing farm animals at recess, her friends point out that her whiskers would make her the perfect cat. She starts to notice body hair all over–on her arms, legs, and even between her eyebrows.

With her parents’ help, Laxmi learns that hair isn’t just for heads, but that it grows everywhere, regardless of gender.

Norman is a porcupine. Mildred is a tree. Norman and Mildred are best friends. Just the two of them. And only the two of them. But when a surprise pops up, life will never be the same again.

Imagine you were asked the same question again and again throughout your life . . .
Imagine if it was a question that didn’t bring about the happiest of memories . . .

This is the experience of one-legged Joe, a child who just wants to have fun in the playground . . .
Constantly seen first for his disability, Joe is fed up of only ever being asked about his leg. All he wants to do is play Pirates.

But as usual, one after the other, all the children ask him the same question they always ask, “What happened to you?”

Understandably Joe gets increasingly angry!

Until finally the penny drops and the children realize that it’s a question Joe just doesn’t want to answer . . . and that Joe is playing a rather good game . . . one that they can join in with if they can stop fixating on his missing leg . . .

Because children are children, after all.

The cat walked through the world, with its whiskers, ears, and paws . . . In this glorious celebration of observation, curiosity, and imagination, Brendan Wenzel shows us the many lives of one cat, and how perspective shapes what we see. When you see a cat, what do you see?

When a young boy visits his grandfather, their lack of a common language leads to confusion, frustration, and silence. But as they sit down to draw together, something magical happens-with a shared love of art and storytelling, the two form a bond that goes beyond words.

Nobody seems to understand that Hannah is not a girl.

His parents ask why he won’t wear the cute outfits they pick out. His friend thinks he must be a tomboy. His teacher insists he should be proud to be a girl.

But a birthday wish, a new word, and a stroke of courage might be just what Hannah needs to finally show the world who he really is.

Where Are You From? By Yamile Saied Méndez  (Author), Jaime Kim  (Illustrator)

When a girl is asked where she’s from—where she’s really from—none of her answers seems to be the right one.

Unsure about how to reply, she turns to her loving abuelo for help. He doesn’t give her the response she expects. She gets an even better one.

Where am I from?

You’re from hurricanes and dark storms, and a tiny singing frog that calls the island people home when the sun goes to sleep….

What Are Your Words?: A Book About Pronouns: Locke, Katherine, Passchier,  Anne: 9780316542067: Amazon.com: Books
What Are Your Words? A Book About Pronouns by Katherine Locke and illustrated by Anne Passchier

Whenever Ari’s Uncle Lior comes to visit, they ask Ari one question: “What are your words?” Some days Ari uses she/her. Other days Ari uses he/him. But on the day of the neighborhood’s big summer bash, Ari doesn’t know what words to use. On the way to the party, Ari and Lior meet lots of neighbors and learn the words each of them use to describe themselves, including pronouns like she/her, he/him, they/them, ey/em, and ze/zir. As Ari tries on different pronouns, they discover that it’s okay to not know your words right away—sometimes you have to wait for your words to find you.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

being a teacher, books, picture books, Reading

#PernilleRecommends – My Favorite Books January through April, 2021

If you follow me on Instagram, you may know that I recommend a lot of books on there, in fact, it is the number one thing I use my account for. Perhaps you follow me there? If you don’t, or if you missed some, I figured a blog post to pull them all together would be helpful. That way you can see what I have read and loved, see what age groups they may work and order some books yourself. I don’t post all of the books I read, just the ones I love so much that I want to share them with others. I use the hashtag #pernillerecommends and they get cross-posted to Twitter as well if you want more than 1,000 book recommendations. Either way, here are the books I loved and shared from January until today!

Picture Books

Someone Builds the Dream: Wheeler, Lisa, Long, Loren: 9781984814333:  Amazon.com: Books
The One Thing You'd Save: Park, Linda Sue, Sae-Heng, Robert: 9781328515131:  Amazon.com: Books
Amazon.com: The Gift of Ramadan (9780807529065): Lumbard, Rabiah York,  Horton, Laura K.: Books
Your Mama: Ramos, NoNieqa, Alcántara, Jacqueline: 9781328631886:  Amazon.com: Books
The ABCs of Black History: Cortez, Rio, Semmer, Lauren: 9781523507498:  Amazon.com: Books
Zonia's Rain Forest: Martinez-Neal, Juana, Martinez-Neal, Juana:  9781536208450: Amazon.com: Books
The People's Painter: How Ben Shahn Fought for Justice with Art: Levinson,  Cynthia, Turk, Evan: 9781419741302: Amazon.com: Books
The Boy and the Sea: Andros, Camille, Bates, Amy June: 9781419749407:  Amazon.com: Books
El Cucuy Is Scared, Too! (Hardcover) | ABRAMS
Twenty-One Steps: Guarding the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: Gottesfeld,  Jeff, Tavares, Matt: 9781536201482: Amazon.com: Books
Ambitious Girl: Harris, Meena, Valdez, Marissa: 9780316229692: Amazon.com:  Books
The Little Things: A Story About Acts of Kindness: Trimmer, Christian,  Juanita, Kaylani: 9781419742262: Amazon.com: Books
Pre-order for April 27th!
Blue Floats Away: Jonker, Travis, Snider, Grant: 9781419744235: Amazon.com:  Books
Sharing a Smile: Kramar, Nicki, Evans, Ashley: 9781534497856: Amazon.com:  Books
Kamala Harris children's picture book 'Rooted in Justice' coming soon
Together We March: 25 Protest Movements That Marched into History:  Henderson, Leah, Feder, Tyler: 9781534442702: Amazon.com: Books
A Sled for Gabo | Book by Emma Otheguy, Ana Ramírez González | Official  Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster
Amy Wu and the Patchwork Dragon: Zhang, Kat, Chua, Charlene: 9781534463639:  Amazon.com: Books
A House for Every Bird by Megan Maynor: 9781984896483 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
Curls: Forman, Ruth, Bowers, Geneva: 9781534446311: Amazon.com: Books
Jump at the Sun | Book by Alicia D. Williams, Jacqueline Alcántara |  Official Publisher Page | Simon & Schuster
Standing on Her Shoulders: Clark-Robinson, Monica, Freeman, Laura:  9781338358001: Amazon.com: Books
Milo Imagines the World: de la Peña, Matt, Robinson, Christian:  9780399549083: Amazon.com: Books
Eyes That Kiss in the Corners: Ho, Joanna, Ho, Dung: 9780062915627:  Amazon.com: Books
I Am a Bird: Lim, Hope, Yum, Hyewon: 9781536208917: Amazon.com: Books

Watch Me: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration: Richards, Doyin, Cepeda,  Joe: 9781250266514: Amazon.com: Books
Cover art

Grandpa Across the Ocean: Yum, Hyewon, Yum, Hyewon: 9781419742255:  Amazon.com: Books
My Day with the Panye: Charles, Tami, Palacios, Sara: 9780763697495:  Amazon.com: Books
Our Favorite Day of the Year: Ali, A. E., Bell, Rahele Jomepour:  9781481485630: Amazon.com: Books
Laxmi's Mooch by Shelly Anand: 9781984815651 | PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
Call Me Max (Max and Friends Book 1): Kyle Lukoff, Luciano Lozano, Luciano  Lozano: 9781478868972: Amazon.com: Books
Have I Ever Told You Black Lives Matter: King, Shani, Martin Jr, Bobby C.:  9780884488897: Amazon.com: Books
Amazon.com: In My Mosque (9780062978707): Yuksel, M. O., Aly, Hatem: Books
Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace  Engineer: Sorell, Traci, Donovan, Natasha: 9781541579149: Amazon.com: Books
Wishes: Van, Muon Thi, Ngai, Victo: 9781338305890: Amazon.com: Books

We Are Still Here! – Charlesbridge
Pre-order for May 4th!
I Am an American by Martha Brockenbrough | Little, Brown Books for Young  Readers
Pre-order for November 2nd!
Too Many Bubbles: A Story about Mindfulness (Books of Great Character):  Peck, Christine, DeRoma, Mags: 0760789306037: Amazon.com: Books
Pre-order for July 6th!
Hello, Star: Lucianovic, Stephanie V.W., Harrison, Vashti: 9780316451758:  Amazon.com: Books
Pre-order for September 21st!
On the Trapline by David A. Robertson: 9780735266681 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
Pre-order for May 4th!

Early Readers

Too Small Tola: 9781406388916: Amazon.com: Books
Indian Shoes – HarperCollins
Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott: 9781524770488 | PenguinRandomHouse.com:  Books
Global Read Aloud 2021 choice!

Middle Grade

Amazon.com: Across the Tracks: Remembering Greenwood, Black Wall Street,  and the Tulsa Race Massacre eBook: Ball, Alverne, Robinson, Stacey,  Anderson, Reynaldo, Robe, Colette Yellow: Kindle Store
Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids: Cynthia Leitich Smith:  9780062869944: Amazon.com: Books
Could also be used with early readers
Amari and the Night Brothers (Supernatural Investigations, 1): Alston, B.  B.: 9780062975164: Amazon.com: Books
Amazon.com: Starfish (9781984814500): Fipps, Lisa: Books
Alone | Book by Megan E. Freeman | Official Publisher Page | Simon &  Schuster
The Barren Grounds: The Misewa Saga, Book 1: Robertson, David A.:  9780735266100: Amazon.com: Books
Middle School Global Read Aloud Choice 2021!
History Smashers: The American Revolution by Kate Messner: 9780593120460 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books
Jumbies (The Jumbies): Baptiste, Tracey: 9781616205928: Amazon.com: Books
Global Read Aloud Choice 2021!
Amazon.com: Flood City (9781338111125): Older, Daniel José: Books
The Year I Flew Away: Arnold, Marie: 9780358272755: Amazon.com: Books
Rez Dogs: Bruchac, Joseph: 9780593326213: Amazon.com: Books
Pre-order for June 8th!
The Fabulous Zed Watson! by Kevin Sylvester
Give This Book a Title: Over 100 Activities to Kick-Start Your Creativity:  Lerner, Jarrett, Lerner, Jarrett: 9781534489790: Amazon.com: Books
Could also be used for early readers
Amazon.com: The Deepest Breath (9780358354758): Grehan, Meg: Books
She Persisted: Claudette Colvin: Cline-Ransome, Lesa, Clinton, Chelsea,  Boiger, Alexandra, Flint, Gillian: 9780593115831: Amazon.com: Books
Could also be used for early readers
The Canyon's Edge - Kindle edition by Bowling, Dusti. Children Kindle  eBooks @ Amazon.com.
Strong As Fire, Fierce As Flame: Supriya Kelkar: 9781643790404: Amazon.com:  Books
When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller: 9781524715700 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

Young Adult

Amazon.com: The Gilded Ones (9781984848697): Forna, Namina: Books
Becoming: Adapted for Young Readers: Obama, Michelle: 9780593303740:  Amazon.com: Books
Amazon.com: Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet eBook: Kemp, Laekan Zea:  Kindle Store
Amazon.com: Firekeeper's Daughter (9781250766564): Boulley, Angeline: Books
The best book I have read so far this year.
Game Changer by Neal Shusterman
A Pho Love Story by Loan Le
Amazon.com: Fadeaway (9780593180198): Vickers, E. B.: Books
Amazon.com: Chlorine Sky (9780593176399): Browne, Mahogany L.: Books
Amazon.com: VIRAL: The Fight Against AIDS in America (9780425287200):  Bausum, Ann: Books
Amazon.com: Muted (9781338673524): Charles, Tami: Books
Amazon.com: The Fell of Dark (9781250155849): Roehrig, Caleb: Books
Amazon.com: Things That Make White People Uncomfortable (Adapted for Young  Adults) (9781642590227): Bennett, Michael, Zirin, Dave: Books
Amazon.com: Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything  (9781534448636): Gilliland, Raquel Vasquez: Books
Amazon.com: Legendborn (The Legendborn Cycle) (9781534441606): Deonn,  Tracy: Books
Amazon.com: Early Departures (9780062748409): Reynolds, Justin A.: Books
Wings of Ebony | Book by J. Elle | Official Publisher Page | Simon &  Schuster
Amazon.com: Burn (9780062869494): Ness, Patrick: Books
Pre-order this thing of beauty now – it is incredible!
Amazon.com: How It All Blew Up (9780593202876): Ahmadi, Arvin: Books
Just Like That: Schmidt, Gary D.: 9780544084773: Amazon.com: Books
Amazon.com: Three Things I Know Are True (9780062908025): Culley, Betty:  Books

Wow, what a lot of incredible reading! I am so thankful for all of the creators who continue to give us opportunity for great moments and memories.

As always, I am also curating lists on Bookshop.org – a website who partners with independent bookstores to funnel book purchases through them, if you use my link, I get a small affiliate payout.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.

Be the change, being a teacher, being me

To All the Tired Educators

Before the first day of school, oh the excitement and nervousness present

Dear Pernille, and perhaps so many others

You have been losing a lot of sleep this past year. The world has felt so heavy, so hard at times, and when you finally have found your stride, life has thrown yet another turn your way. Events that will shape you the rest of your life, experiences that are being lived through that will follow you until the end.

You have worked too much, you have tried to create boundaries as well as anyone else, and yet you have felt the insatiable hunger of failure nipping your heels every day, haunting your every decision. Never enough. Never good enough. You have felt like the role of teacher came first, above mom, above wife, above person. You have stayed up too late, gotten up too early, pondered and wondered, sought out idea upon idea in an effort to continue all of the dreaming that shapes the classroom community you build every year with your students. And you have looked at the constraints and tried to plan your way through them, busting the chains of the old ways that have stood in your path, getting tangled up in obstacles unforeseen, expanding energy quicker than you could replenish it.

And now you face the creeping end of the year and you hear the whispers of learning loss, of failed year, of not enough so loudly they feel like drums beating a new path ahead. They drown out the voices of the educators who innovated, who created, who invented and rose to the occasion. Of the kids who met us in the pursuit of learning despite all of their obstacles. Of the home adults who kept trying no matter their own circumstances. Do not listen to them. This past year was not lost. The moments we have lived through, the experiences we have created, the learning that has happened has transcended what we thought was possible. We did the impossible, we did it, despite everything in our way.

Because this year the learning was perhaps not as much in the standards. It was perhaps not as much in the pages of textbooks. Perhaps it looked nothing like we had ever tried before. It was a year of navigating new. Of hearing the words “unprecedented” and “Covid” too many times. A year of figuring out how to connect through screens and distance. Of asking kids to tune in when their reflexes were to tune out. Of asking ourselves to try again when we were beyond exhausted. Of sending one more email, making one more phone call, of showing up and trying again.

It was in living through experiences that will help these incredibly resilient kids for years to come, will help us, the school staff who kept trying for years to come; how to problem-solve technology, how to advocate, how to manage time, how to learn independently, how to chunk out assignments, how to get the help deserved and needed. How to recognize what is the most important in everything we do; not the content but the kids, not the grades but the growth. It was in showing up in whatever capacity we could despite everything that stood in front of us. It was in digging in even after the energy was depleted. In not painting a year in failure before it had even begun.

Because there were many who wanted us to fail. Who told us that the only way to do school was the ways we had done it for hundreds of year, a way that has failed so many before. There were many who couldn’t wait to tell us how this would never measure up, how this would never be enough. And yet we came, we worked, and we kept trying long after our contract hours, long after our energy had left.

So dear Pernille, you have to let the whispers of failure go. You have to rise from the ashes of your own doubt, burn down the defeat and recognize the strength that you carry within you after the last 13 months. You have to look back at this year and see the small triumphs that have risen through the cracks. Not as an attempt to dismiss the things that didn’t work, the kids where traditional learning was put on hold, but to recognize that among the fires there were things that did succeed. That success is not just found in standards and grades, which you have known for so long, but in the small conversations, the openings into their lives, the bonds that have been formed no matter they had to work their way through. No matter how much you worried.

That you and all of the kids in your care did incredibly hard things. They spoke up when they would rather stay muted. They turned on their cameras even when they would rather have sat in the dark, they chatted when they could, they handed in what they could, they asked questions when they could and they hopefully recognized that every day, no matter how much work they did, they were cared for, they were accepted, and they felt safe.

Because what happened in the past year in education is so much bigger than just learning content. Is so much bigger than just one singular experience. It is about community. About innovating through unforeseen obstacles. About a relentless pursuit of connection, of seeing our own mistakes not as places to rest but places to grow. Of knowing that you did the best you could and that what we did mattered, that what you did mattered.

So celebrate these last few weeks. Revel in the kids and their amazing fortitude. Cherish the times that you still get to have with these incredible kids that you got to call yours for a while. And rest. Rest in the knowledge that you did it. That you worked through it. That you learned lessons you will use for the rest of your teaching career. Rest in the knowledge that there will be more learning and growing in years to come and that we did not get lost, we instead found a new path that we had to forge together and that the content and the skills is still on our path. We may just need a new way to get there.

Love,
Pernille

Ready for yet another change – now only 3 feet between desks and 21 kids in the classroom as of April
Be the change, being a teacher, Reading, Reading Identity, student choice, Student dreams, student driven

A Question to Center Reading Joy

What are the reading experiences Design

I have been thinking a lot about reading experiences of kids lately. If you follow my writing, you know that this is something I think about a lot. Perhaps it is because I finally have big classes of kids in front of me rather than small cohorts. Perhaps it is because we have only 7 weeks left of the year and I feel the urgency of the mission we have been on all year to help kids change their relationships to reading. Perhaps it is because I am presenting on this topic around the world and so I keep thinking of what else we should discuss about it, what else we can do to potentially change the narrative that seems to be repeating itself this year despite our best intentions.

Because I see a lot of kids not reading. I see a lot of kids disengaged from reading. I see a lot of kids who don’t see reading as something valuable or even something they have want to spend time doing. And I see a lot of adults not quite sure how this keeps happening despite everything we are trying.

So perhaps, this post is a way to remind myself to take a deep breath, perhaps it is an offer to us all to rethink the dialogue that surrounds kids’ reading lives. Perhaps this is a reminder to those who need to hear it that this disconnect between books and readers is one we have been working through for a long time, one that we will continue to work through for a long time, and it also didn’t just happen because of the pandemic. And that there are things we can do but that sometimes we create obstacles that we can’t even see, we don’t recognize the long term consequences of short-term ideas.

I could blame previous curricular decisions, after all, wouldn’t we all like to assume that it is solely because of the decision some other teacher made that created the readers we have. And yet, when we do that, we don’t see our own part in this either. We don’t see how we often have to interrogate, audit, and change an entire system rather than just one teacher. It is too easy to blame one year or one experience for killing the love of reading. When we get stuck there, it does us no good, it doesn’t allow us to see past those small decisions and instead focus on the entire experience. It doesn’t allow us to see that perhaps the whole system we function in needs to be aligned and adjusted. That what we see as “okay” may not be at all.

So instead, I would offer up that we use our worry about kids and their relationships to reading to urge us forward. That we start to invest in long-term solutions, discussions, and curricular choices that offer up an opportunity for all kids to connect or re-connect with reading year after year. That we shift the focus from what one teacher can do to what an entire system can take on. That we recognize that to center reading joy is not just the work of one, but the work of many, and that kids need more than one great teacher urging them to read.

And that starts in conversation rather than reading logs. That starts in meaningful work rather than computer quizzes. That starts with making space and time for kids to explore the parts of their identity that is tied in with reading and asking them how they ended up where they are. That starts with recognizing what the reading rights are of all kids, not just the ones we get to teach on a daily basis and then wonder how the experiences they are all guaranteed shape their readerly lives or not.

And so we must put our emotions aside for a bit in order to step into these conversations, to recognize that everything we do should be put on the table in order for us to weigh what may work for all kids. What should be instituted on a whole-school or all-district schedule.

It means that we offer space to think and then space to do. That reflecting on the journey we are on becomes a part of the curriculum, even when we feel pressed for time like this year. That we listen to student voices and have them move us into action. That we consider the weight of their words as we plan for future units and experiences and not just assume that we know what they need or even what they want.

The work of creating joyful reading experiences centered in powerful instructions, access to books, free choice of independent reading books, culturally relevant teaching and ongoing conversations should not and cannot fall on the shoulders of just one teacher. We are not enough, the year we may have with students is not enough. It has to be a whole district or at the very least a whole school conversation and plan.

So where do you start? We start with one single question to guide our work; what are the reading experiences EVERY child is guaranteed in our care. We lay it all out on the table in order to constructively look at what the reading experiences are for every child no matter the reading experience and skills they have had before this year. We truthfully recognize what often happens when a child is identified as being behind in whatever scope the data says and how often that impedes the choices they get to make throughout their day and even the joyful reading experiences they get to be a part of. And then we fight to give them access. We fight to give them equality in their reading experiences and we monitor what happens to the kids in our care.

And we cannot do that work without listening to the voices of our students, without asking the home adults what they see happening while we have kids in our care. We cannot do this work without revisiting the question again and again to re-align and readjust. Without truth, courage, and a recognition that sometimes our best ideas are not the ideas that should continue on.

It takes humility, patience, and toughness to do this work. Our students deserve that their experiences are carefully constructed around choice, around freedom, around receiving the care they absolutely deserve. We can do it and it starts with a conversation and it continues with a commitment.

I am excited to be heading out on the road again to be with other educators in-district or at conferences, while continuing my virtual consulting and speaking as well. If you would like me to be a part of your professional development, please reach out. I am here to help.