This week is Banned Books Week, an annual event put on by the American Library Association (ALA) to promote the continued challenges to the freedom to read. According to the ALA, this year the most challenged books include: Looking for Alaska by John Green, My Name Is Jazz by Jessica Herthel, and yes, the Bible. Books are included on these lists after people submit an official challenge through schools and public libraries. What I find most troubling is that of the top 10 most challenged books in 2015, nine included diverse content. The ALA defines diverse content as:
...non-white main and/or secondary characters; LGBT main and/or secondary characters; disabled main and/or secondary characters; issues about race or racism; LGBT issues; issues about religion, which encompass in this situation the Holocaust and terrorism; issues about disability and/or mental illness; non-Western settings, in which the West is North America and Europe.
This is troubling! Instead of embracing the rich cultures, history, and life experiences these books offer, we are sheltering and homogenizing our children’s experiences. This results in some children seeing only lives just like theirs represented. And other children who aren’t widely represented in books are given the message that there's something wrong or invalid about their lives. We can do better than this — we need a richly diverse bookshelf at home and in school and public libraries.
Here are 21 of my favorite diverse books that are frequently challenged but instead should be frequently read! You can learn more about Banned Books Week here.
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Ball Don't Lie by Matt de la Pena
Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki
Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
The Family Book by Todd Parr
Geography Club by Brent Hartinger
George by Alex Gino
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
Heather Has Two Mommies by Lesle?a Newman
A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich by Alice Childress
I Am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings
King & King by Linda de Haan
Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino
My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis
Nappy Hair by Carolivia Herron
Nasreen’s Secret School by Jeanette Winter
The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
This Day in June by Gayle Pitman
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