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

When people find out that I teach kids with dyslexia, out comes the confessionals about their smart child who just won’t read. “Kevin”, she says, “it’s like he’s guessing the words and not reading them.”

 

Sounds familiar?

 

As the daughter of a dyslexic parent, I’ll tell you that it does no good to deny your child the help he or she needs to realize the reader within. A professional reading specialist, not your basic tutor, is who you need to turn to RIGHT NOW! Back in the day, a kid with dyslexia got swept under the “special needs” carpet, many never to receive the consistent rigorous training they required to build reading decoding skills. These kids, especially if they were black, were embarrassedly tucked away and shorted the quality education they deserved simply because their school wasn’t resourced with a trained professional or, most likely, without the scheduling room to meet the instructional demands of a scientific evidence-based reading remediation program. If these kids had above average smarts when compared to their non-dyslexic peers, they might’ve made it through grade school. (Oh, “smarts” has nothing to do with dyslexia. There are plenty of highly intelligent dyslexics out there in the world. Albert Einstein, Steven Spielberg, and Mohammed Ali to name a few.) Even still, dyslexia (mild to severe) untreated leads down a slipper slope of shame, frustration, and learned helplessness for many youngsters who then grow up to become closeted and defensive adults. Recognize any adults in your life who are frustrated by sloppy print, always seem to forget their glasses, never want to look at a map, can’t spell, mix up numbers and names, and is quick to say what they “can’t” do? Uh huh.

 

But, the times have changed. We know more about the dyslexic mind than ever before. Without reading remediation, the dyslexic brain fires without uniformity when reading. It struggles to make sense of the symbols the eyes see, and forgets the sounds of the letters. That’s it. The brain forgets. Many of us were misled to believe that a person with dyslexia sees words upside down and backwards, perhaps because many smart dyslexics memorize the shapes of words rather than actually decoding them. Think about it—every time we come across a word we don’t recognize, we stop and apply decoding skills to help us sound out the word, which skilled readers can do within a second. For the reader with dyslexia, every third word may present a decoding challenge and, depending on the severity of his or her dyslexia, is still misread. Yet, with effective and consistent training, the brain remembers, and starts to fire with uniformity, matching sounds to symbols with less and less effort. Ka-boooooooom!

 

The joys of working with a dyslexic student, frustrated by reading failure before, and finally making solid progress under my instruction now is professional opium for me, and probably for most other trained reading specialists. It’s cra-cra-cra-crack! To see eyes light up with pride because suddenly my already brilliant student can relax and read for information alas is divine. Do your kid a favor and treat dyslexia with the attention it deserves by finding professional services in your area or in your school today.

 

Also, be aggressive sooner than later. By age 8, kids start to develop self-awareness that makes remediation trickier. Past this age, the kid and the service provider have to overcome bad habits and/or cultivated confidence issues. Check out the International Dyslexia Association website here for more information. https://dyslexiaida.org/ . Or contact me if you want my help finding services.

 

In case your kid isn’t dyslexic, but has some mild reading problems, there are so many other things you can do. See my post Want Your Black Child to be a Better Reader? for other ideas.

 

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.

5 Things You Can Do to Get Your Child Reading

 

  1. Let your child read what they like.

Contrary to common beliefs about what good readers do, assigning the classics (Shakespeare, Orwell, Poe, etc.) doesn’t automatically result in your child becoming a “good” reader. Face it, these writers are literary dinosaurs. Just because you read them in school, doesn’t mean that this NEXT generation of reader should. What makes your child a good reader is consistent practice at the skill of reading. Plain and simple! Increase your child’s contact with text by providing literature your kiddo enjoys. Play attention to authors, genres, and content areas your kid likes, and build your home library from there.

 

  1. Woooh there Panther Moms and Panther Dads…Stick to easy reading.

I’m sorry to break it to you strick traditional parents, but statistics don’t lie. The “sink or swim” education philosophy fails more children than it does support learning, and doesn’t motivate them to succeed at reading. Reading at home should be for pleasure. Think about it: reading for pleasure is why good readers read when they aren’t required to. Your child needs to pass time laughing, creating, imagining based on what they are reading in order to ever find pleasure in it. And they can’t do that if they are struggling to read the words. If you catch them warring to “sound out” words, that particular skill is called “decoding”, and a hired SPECIALIST (or reading professional) has the specific skills required to tackle decoding issues/dyslexia. Don’t torture your kids with texts that are too hard for them, and expect it to make them stronger. Instead, let reading serve as a better alternative to being bored, at the very least.

 

3. Find black literature.

Nurture the text-to-self connection that all good readers need to develop by incorporating more black literature into your child’s library. It’s unfair to expect black children today to connect to texts that aren’t about them, for them, or culturally inclusive of them when there’s just so much out “there”. The more readers make connections while reading, the more they comprehend by building “schema”, or building on prior knowledge. Building schema is fundamental to the learning process. Look here for my list of good literature for black kids organized by genre, age and reading levels.

 

4. Structured reading time.

A literate home= a literate child. What I tell parents all the time when they come to me worried about their kid’s low reading scores is to expect your child to read as much as he or she sees you read at home. If you increase your reading time, so will Jordan. As adults, we read more for information, but many of us read to relax. Model this by structuring a relaxing time during the day when everybody at home reads. Some good friends of mine read with their child in bed as a calm-down exercise before lights out. Stick to the same time of day for leisurely reading because consistency is key when developing a new habit. Kids beg for consistency. Commit to reading every day at the same time for 10 minutes and watch your child blossom into an independent reading machine over the year.

 

5. Saturate your home in literature.

Kids are lazy. Just accept it and do the work for them by making avoidance of reading a challenge. If Jason wants a Power Ranger themed room, make some space on his walls for homemade posters about the characteristics of his favorite ranger, book reviews, favorite quotes, religious versus, love letters from mom or dad, etc. Heck—add books, magazines, articles, journals to every room, hallway, table and counter top. Put cool things to read in the bathroom too. And this doesn’t have to be expensive. Print things at home or utilize your local library to have a healthy rotating stock of current good reads. Email your kid something interesting and ask them about it via Whatsapp, FB Messenger, Snapchat or at meal times to make reading purposeful as a plus.