Black children need quality texts that are diverse in content and rich in vocabulary. Our kids deserve “just right” books that speak directly to them! Immerse your reader in books that depict black characters and self-inclusive cultural content to help nurture the text-to-self connection that all good readers ought to develop. The following is a list of books my young readers have loved over the years. Use the chart to help identify books that are at the perfect reading level for your kid. You want your reader to enjoy the process of reading, so if he or she struggles with more than 3 words per 100 words (or about 2 words per page depending on the text) go down a level or two. Old school parents believe in the sink or swim approach to reading. But who practices drowning? Keep your kid’s head floating upward and above the literacy cut point when you reinforce joy in reading.

If you foster the love of reading in your kid, you have a reader for life!

 

                                                               ***

 

 

Do NOT expect these reading levels to correlate to each other. They don’t. Also, I needed to use my professional judgment to “guess” reading levels where none (or blatantly misleading levels) were found.

 

 

 

Book Title AGE       Fountas

& Pinell    

 

DRA            

Lexile
Ellray Jakes (series) 6 – 10 J-P 20-38 451-770
The Color of us 4 – 8 M 18 570
Dyamonde Daniel (series) 7 – 9 M 38 630
Alfie’s Great Escape 4 – 7 J 18 480
Little Rhino 6 – 8 K 15-20 540
Skateboard Party 8 – 10 O 30-40 740
Nikki & Deja: Substitute Trouble 6 – 9 N 30 670
Clayton Byrd Goes Underground 8 – 10 P 30-40 740-770
P.S. Be Eleven 8 – 10 O 30-40 770
Gone Crazy in Alabama 8 – 10 P 50 740
Message in the Sky: Corey’s Underground Railroad Diary 6 – 9 M 20-28 610
Luke on the Loose 6 – 7 I 20-28 360
Little Robot 6 – 7 I 20-28 GN170
In the Land of Words 4 – 8 M 28 551-650
Changing You 6 – 9 K 20 501-550
The Pot that Juan Built 8 – 11 Y-Z 50 1000
Honey I Love 6 – 9 L 24 np
Phillis’ Big Test 8 – 9 S-T 40 930
Astrophysicist and Space Advocate Neil Degrasse Tyson 7 – 11 R 40 780
The Girl Who Buried Her Dreams in a Can 6 – 8 O 34 770
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom 6 – 8 N 30 660
It Jes’ Happened: When Bill Taylor Started to Draw 8 – 10 S 40 830
Howard Thurman’s Great Hope 8 – 9 S 40 840
Harriet Tubman and My Grandmother’s Quilts 6 – 9 N 30 651-730
Piano Starts Here: The Young Art Tatum 4 – 8 O 34 750
Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist 9 – 11 S-T 40-50 1020
Sojourna Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride 5 – 8 M 28 650
National Geographic Kids: George Washington Carver 7 – 10 P 38 731-770
Catching the Moon: The Story of Young Girl’s Baseball Dream 8 – 9 M 28-30 640
In Her Hands: The Story of Sculptor Agusta Savage 8 – 11 M 28-40 630
Charlie Parker Played Be Bop 6 – 7 I 16 260
I am Jackie Robinson 5 – 8 M 24-28 610
Jackie Robinson: Baseball Legend 4 – 8 J 18 490
Jackie Robinson: American Hero 6 – 8 F-J 10-18 840
Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America 9 – 11 W-X 40-50 1030
Paul Robeson 5 – 8 F-M 20-24 600
The Closer 8 – 10 S 40 810
Philip Reid Saves the Statue of Freedom 8 – 11 W-X 60 920–1070
Bad News for Outlaws 8 – 11 S 40 860
A Splash of Red 5 – 7 M 28 610
Leotyne Price: Voice of a Century 5 – 9 K 20 501-550
Pele King of Soccer 5 – 8 L 24-28 551-650
Young Pele: Soccer’s First Star 7 – 9 O 30-34 651-770
Gordon Parks 5 – 7 L 20-24 840
Gordon Parks: No Excuses 8 – 9 O 34-38 770
Rosa Parks: My Story 8 – 10 U-V 50 970
Satchel Paige: Don’t Look Back 8 – 9 R 40 840
Jesse Owens: Legendary Track Star 6 – 9 M 24-28 590
Barack Obama 6 – 7 L 20-24 580
Michelle Obama 7 – 10 T 40 880
Barack Obama: Out of Many, One 5 – 8 L 20-24 580
Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope 6 – 10 M 28 630
Garrett Morgan 5 – 7 M 24-28 570
Magic Trash 6 – 8 L 20-24 560
I and I Bob Marley 8 – 11 Q-R 40 800
Brittney Griner 7 – 11 O-P 34-38 760
Martin de Porres 5 – 7 M 28 640
Nelson Mandela 7 – 9 N 30 680
National Geographic Kids: Sonia Sotomayor 6 – 9 N 28-30 670
Nelson Mandela 8 – 12 O-P 34-38 770
Who Was Nelson Mandela? 8 – 12 S 40 850
Nelson Mandela 9 – 11 U-V 50 960
Nelson Mandela 9 – 14 S 40 860
The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch 7 – 10 U-V 50 920
A Nation’s Hope 6 – 8 L 24 np
John Lewis in the Lead 8 – 10 U-V 50 950
José! Born to Dance 5 – 8 M 28-30 720
When the Beat was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of HipHop 7 – 9 N 30 651-690
Martin Luther King Jr. 8 – 9 Y-Z 70+ 1080
As Good as Anybody 7 – 9 N 24-30 680
Marching with Martin 5 – 8 K-M 20-28 720
Coretta Scott 4 – 8 K-M 24-28 720
Martin Luther King Jr.: Civil Rights Leader 4 – 8 K-M 24-28 500
National Geographic Kids: Martin Luther King, Jr. 7 – 8 M 28 630
Mahalia Jackson: Walking with Kings and Queens 4 – 8 F-J 10-18 500
Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree 7 – 9 N 24-30 540
Art from Her Heart: Folk Artist Clementine Hunter 6 – 8 T 40 870
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton 8 – 10 N-Q 30-40 730
I, Matthew Henson: Polar Explorer 6 – 11 Y-Z 70+ 1070
Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow 6 – 9 U-V 50 900
Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald 8 – 11 S 40 820
Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa 6 – 10 S 40 700
Duke Ellington 5 – 9 S 40 800
Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History 4 – 8 F-J 10-18 450-540
Anthony Davis 7 – 11 T-U 40 780
Mo’ne Davis: Remember My Name 9 – 13 T 40 890
George Washington Carver 5 – 8 L-M 20-28 520
Ruby Bridges Goes To School: My True Story 4 – 7 F-J 10-18 470
Hank Aaron: Brave in Every Way 4 – 7 S 40 850
Queen of the Track: Alice Coachman Olympic High Jump Champion 8 – 10 W-X 50 790
I am Cleopatra 8 – 10 Y-Z 70+ 1030
Marian Anderson: Amazing Opera Singer 5 – 8 K-L 20-24 570
Marian Anderson: A Voice Uplifted 10- 14 Z+ 70+ 1210
When Marian Sang 7 – 10 T-U 40 780
Twelve Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali 10 – 15 Z+ 70+ 1230
Muhammad Ali: The People’s Champion 5 – 8 T-U 40 770
The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali 5 – 8 T-U 40 760
Alvin Ailey 5 – 9 T 30 880
Ira’s Shakespeare Dream 8 – 10 T-U 40 780
Henry Aaron’s Dream 8 – 12 W-X 60 920
I Love My Hair 5 – 7 S 40 840
Black is Brown is Tan 4 – 8 K 20-24 540
Black Pioneers of Science and Invention 9 – 11 Y-Z 70+ 1230
Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children 2 – 3 A-F 6-10 np
Please, Baby Please 2 – 5 C-E 6-10 np
The Snowy Day 2 – 8 C-J 10-18 500
I like myself 5 – 9 L 24-28 230
I Got the Rhythm 4- 6 J 18 170
I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl 3 – 6 F 10 300
Chocolate Me! 3 – 6 H 14 330
Hair Like Mine 3 – 6 H 14 330
Just Because I Am 4 – 8 H 20 330
Mixed Me! 3 – 7 H 20 330
Black Business 10 – 15 Z+ 70+ 1230
One Love 2 – 5 F 10 NP
I’m Awesome Because 2 – 5 F 10 NP
Amazing Grace 7 – 10 N 30 680
The Tar Beach 5 – 8 L 24-28 790
The People Could Fly 8 – 10 P-S 38-40 660
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad 7 – 9 J-N 24-30 490
One Crazy Summer 8 – 11 P-S 38-40 750L
Whistle for Willie 3 – 5 J 18 490L
Precious and the Boo Hag 6 – 8 L-M 24-28 640L
Last Stop on Market Street 3 – 5 H-J 14-18 610
Daddy Calls Me Man 2 – 5 A-F 1-10 np
Full Full Full of Love 2 – 5 F 10 np
Bitty Bop Barbershop 4 – 7 J 18 550
We Had a Picnic This Sunday Past 4 – 8 L-M 20-28 570
Visiting Day 5 – 7 J-K 18-20 520
Pecan Pie Baby 5 – 8 M 28 560

Here is a list of a few things I’ve asked black student families to get. When used with intention, parents can help close the performance gap just as much as teachers.

  1. An abundance of texts.

All your kid’s favorites to read. Favorite authors. Favorite genres. Favorite topic. etc. Do your research for texts written by black authors, or with black protagonists, or about black people. See my list of good picks for black kids (categorized by genre, age, and reading level) here. And just so you know what the research says, reading success outranks ALL other subject areas when looking for early indicators of overall LIFE success. If your kid struggles to read, treat it like his or her LIFE depends on getting better. HIRE a SPECIALIST if needed for reading instruction  based on SCIENTIFIC-EVIDENCE. (NOT to be confused with the teaching practices branded as “research-based”. Research-based practices in education basically are as flippant as Oprah’s favorite things, and usually are an up-cycling of the same ol’ same.) Inquire about treating your child for dyslexia as opposed to faulting laziness. Truly, there is soooo much that a proper reading specialist can do to activate your kids inner voracious reader.

 

  1. Unifix cubes/Snap cubes.

I’ve attended quite a few math workshops and educational conferences, and parents should be aware that most of our kids suffer from a poor grasp of one-to-one correspondence. This means our kids are rushed through the learning process, never really making the connection between numbers and the abstract value of the number itself. Using unifix cubes to “build” numbers and to “construct” equations, especially in those early years, helps kids make meaning out of numbers. (The number 4 is built by putting four cubes together, for example) In school, we jump too fast into the big numbers, so kids lose one-to-one correspondence, and like so, struggle to understand what’s really happening when solving equations. (If I build the number four and “subtract” the number two, I can see that I’ve taken away 2, and only have 2 left. You see?) Ever get upset at how your kid attempts to solve a simple math equation, and starts to guess terribly wrong answers, when you know they should know the answer? That’s a gap in one-to-one correspondence at work. Some experts in the field of mathematics support that these simple same size same shape cubes are really the only tool a kid should need until middle school. See the work of expert in mathematics education Erma Anderson. Her webpage is pretty basic, but get your school to bring her in and attend her workshop. My white expatriate, Asian, and rich parents are hip to this stuff. You should be too.

 

  1. Chart paper/Post-it Pad (with the adhesive top).

“But why?” you ask. Believe it or not, hand-made posters and charts go a long way with your kids; much further than those store bought ones. Kids pay attention to writing on the walls, especially if they can associate the writing with an event they’ve witnessed and that has relevance to their own lives. Use chart paper to help your kid plan for school projects or papers, to mind-map stories, or put up study notes for assessments. Do as good teachers are supposed to do and encourage your kid’s learning to be visible by giving them big pieces of paper to show you their thinking. For the little ones, you could also put up instructions for common household routines. (Find chart paper at Staples, Walmart or your local teacher supply store.)

 

  1. Incentive charts. (for the little people)

Little people love prizes. And anything can be a prize. I blew bubbles in a four year old’s hands and that was a prize for cleaning-up the fastest. Now, black folks, we have issues with teaching kids to respect their elders because for many of us, it was ingrained that we are to do as we are told–no talk-back. But, in case this isn’t your discipline style, create incentive charts to help your kiddo understand structure and the reward of self-control. Incentive charts make it very clear to little people that their actions yield a consequence, be it good or bad. Add a sticker to the chart to merit progress or an appropriate deed; take one away to show a back slide. (And be quick to return the sticker to the chart when your kiddo self corrects if you want to apply positive reinforcement well.)

 

  1. Work display area. (Put this in any high traffic place in your home.)

Show-case your kids WORK! Not just the report card on the fridge. Make a space where you can show off final writing drafts, stories, poems, art projects, printed emails, or love notes to mom or dad, etc. Let’s change the emphasis on grades and trophies, and glorify the product so your kid knows you value the actual WORK done in school. Stop and read it in front of them. When aunty comes over for brunch on Sunday, let her read Jordan’s short story and publicly dote on him for being soooo creative with his adventure telling abilities. Our kids have great talents, and if we showcase the academic substance as much as we flaunt high scores on report cards, Jordan will still try hard to improve on himself even if he hits an academic rough patch. Get my drift?

 

 

 

 

When parents come asking for easy to find materials to support learning at home, I hand them this list of online resources. Since schools are tossing out text books, here’s what a few teachers and parents turn to instead. Click the links below for direct access to the listed websites.

 

Online Teaching Resource List

Content Site Annotation
Learning Standards corestandards  

Free. Learn about what your child is expected to know by content area or grade. (all grades)

Multi Subject softschools  

Free worksheets, games, quizzes sorted by grade level, and subject area (all grades)

Multi Subject Khanacademy  

Free. Multisubject database of instructional videos. (all grades)

Multi Subject ixl  

Free. Online interactive multisubject activities. (all grades)

Reading/Math adaptedmind  

Register for full access. 1st month free. Lessons and worksheets for reading and math. (grades 1-6)

Reading/Math  Learnzillion  

Free. Sign up as a teacher and make your child your student. Design your own curriculum. Free videos and learning materials in math and reading. (all grades)

Phonics readinga-z  

Phonics instruction materials: decodable books & phonics lessons, read aloud books, sound/symbol books, phonogram flashcards

Reading  

readinga-z

 

Paid registration required. Effective reading tools, levelled texts, lesson plans, vocabulary exercises, activites etc. (grades K-8)

Literacy k12reader  

Free literacy instruction resources and printables. (all grades)

Literacy abcya  

Free literacy interactive games. (grades Pre-K to 5)

Writing writinga-z  

Paid registration required. Common Core/6 Traits development, organized by genre or skill.

Grammar  

chomp

 

Online interactive grammar quizzes (grades 4+)

Language Development language-worksheets  

Simple site with suggestions to improve language skills for parents and teachers. Tools include: songs, worksheets, activities (English and Spanish) All age groups

Math aaastudy  

Free lessons and practice sorted by subject and grade level (grades K-8)

Math: Fractions  

kidsolr

 

Free interactive games using fractions

Math  

mathx

 

 

Free math worksheets. Organized by concept. (grades 4+)

Math  

mathinenglish

 

 

Free remedial math resources: worksheets, word problems, puzzles, games, videos (grades K-8)

Social Skills  

youtube

 

 

Last one picked, First one picked on: Richard Lavoie talks about social stigma of the LD kid

Social Skills  

youtube

 

 

Playdates. Lavoie explains to parents how to structure playdates for kids who struggle socially

 

Also, sit with your kid while he or she works with these materials to facilitate effective use of time, focus on task, and understanding of concepts and tasks. At least spend the first few moments making sure your kiddo knows what to do. These worksheets and videos are not babysitters…sorry.