Books Matter

On February 1, I attended the webinar hosted by AASL Partner organization, ADL Education, titled “Books Matter: Using Children’s Literature to Invite Conversations about Identity, Bias and Social Justice.”

Attending this webinar, emphasized to me that during this time, when books across the nation are being widely challenged, it is important to remember – “Yes! Books do matter to our learners and communities!” In that spirit, I wanted to highlight some resources that support our work selecting inclusive books for our libraries to provide our students with the “Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors” per Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop.

Unite Against Books Bans
Unite Against Books Bans has published a white paper titled: “Empowered by Reading The Benefits of Giving Youth Access to a Wide Variety of Reading Materials.” This four-page report is meant to be shared with community members and provides information about why it is important to provide learners with access to a wide variety of books. The report outlines that books 1) promote student achievement and well-being, 2) encourage critical thinking and family connection and 3) foster community cohesion. We, as school librarians, know this to be true. Our learners need access to books for all of these reasons. The “Empowered by Reading” report provides key takeaways, graphics, quotes, and supporting references. Please read this powerful resource to develop key talking points that you can use with your communities. Also, please share this resource widely with your school community.

ADL Education Books Matter & Monthly Featured Book
ADL Education shared some wonderful resources during their webinar “Books Matter: Using Children’s Literature to Invite Conversations about Identity, Bias, and Social Justice.”

ADL provides a bibliography of recommended children’s literature at their website “Books Matter.” The books selected convey important anti-bias themes. You can search the list using a wide selection of terms to find specific books in the list on sub-topics including:

Ability, Disability & Ableism, Anti-Bias Education, Bias, Discrimination & Hate, Bullying & Cyberbullying Prevention, Gender & Sexism, General Hate Symbols, Genocide & Holocaust, Immigrant & Refugee Rights, Jewish Culture & Antisemitism, LGBTQ+ People & Heterosexism, LGBTQ+ Rights, People, Identity & Culture, Race & Racism, Racial Justice, Religion & Religious Bigotry, Religious Freedom, Social Justice, and Voting Rights.

Find the bibliography here.

In addition, every month ADL features a book from this list and provides access to all of the past monthly featured books. Each featured book comes with two discussion guides: one for the classroom and one for the home. The parent/family discussion guides include conversation starters, talking points, related books, and additional resources. These discussion guides are a great resource for school librarians. This month’s featured book is Ruth and the Green Book. There is a wide variety of past featured books including award winners such as Watercress and New Kid. Please check out this wonderful resource.

Youth Media Awards
The excitement around the recent 2023 Youth Media Awards announcements confirms that ‘yes, books do matter.’ The list of winners provides a broad, diverse spectrum of books that we can use to find great titles to add to our collections (if we don’t already own them). A list of all of the winners can be found here

MISelf in Books Lists
Being from Michigan, I have to point out the wonderful lists that the Michigan Association of School Librarians (MASL), (formerly called MAME), develops each year. Since 2020, a committee of certified school librarians who are MASL members reads and selects a list of inclusive books that have been published in the last two years representing a wide range of identities. The lists identify books by grade levels: PreK-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-8, and 9-12. You can find the lists from 2020, 2021, and 2022 as well as an app that allows you to search all three lists by identity at: Kelly Hincks who was a co-chair for the 2020 MISelf in Books Committee wrote a KQ blog post about the goals and rubric used by the committee. 

We Need Diverse Books
I would be remiss when writing a blog about the fact that “Books Matter” without mentioning We Need Diverse Books. We Need Diverse Books is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that advocates for change in the publishing industry to develop and promote literature reflecting all young people. There are many resources at We Need Diverse Books including where to find diverse books, lists of Walter Award winners, and more. Find all of the We Need Diverse Book Resources at:

Books Matter
Yes, having access to a wide variety of reading materials is so important for our learners! We will continue to work together to provide access to our students. If you know of other great resources to support this access, please share them in the comments. Thank you!

Author: Kathy Lester, AASL President 2022-2023

Categories: Advocacy/Leadership, Intellectual Freedom

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