I’m thrilled to be judging first round Easy Readers and Early Chapter books for the Cybils! I’m joined by Katie Fitzgerald of Story Time Secrets, Jennifer Wharton of Library Thing and Jean Little Library, Juliana Lee of Juliana Lee: Crafting Stories, Susan Murray of From Tots to Teens.
The Easy Reader genre was my biggest challenge to find diversity, multicultural and inclusive books for kids when I searched for ten great ones. I literally sat in my public library and read an entire wall of them to create Top 10 Best Multicultural Easy Readers. This year there were 3o Easy Readers nominated for the Cybils and these 5 have diversity themes and characters.
Do you have any favorite diversity Easy Readers? Please share!
Don’t Throw It to Mo! by David A. Adler
Mo Jackson loves football and he just so happens to be African-American. He’s the smallest one on his football team but that’s because he’s also the youngest. Coach Steve keeps him mostly on the bench with him but he’s training Mo to be their secret weapon. Mo practices catching a buttered football. When a big play is needed, no one expects Mo to catch the ball, but he does! [Level 2 Easy Reader, ages 5 and up]
Ting and Ling: Twice as Silly by Grace Lin
I love this series and it just seems to get better and better. The short stories are original and funny. To me, this is a pitch perfect as the Little Bear series to entice newly independent readers into the joy of reading. Ting and Ling are back with adventures that are both silly, sweet, and creative. They treat each other like best friends and while they look very similar, they are actually quite different. In this Easy Reader, they explore the world around them wondering how high they can swing and if they can get cupcakes to grow. Each story is a standalone gem, but the stories also tie up into a satisfying whole. [Level 3 Easy Reader, ages 5 and up]
National Geographic Kids: Rosa Parks by Kitson Jaznyka
I am really impressed with the National Geographic Kids Easy Readers series in general, but this one on Rosa Parks in particular. It dispels commonly held beliefs about Rosa Park and is full of interesting details that most kids would not know like Rosa Parks was part Native American. It should be in every classroom library, especially in 4th grade where kids learn about the Civil Rights Movement. The format of the book also prepares kids for standardized testing because there are captions under the photos with unique information. [Level 2 Easy Reader, ages 6 and up]
Katie Fry Private Eye: The Lost Kitten by Katherine Cox, illustrated by Brantley Newton
A reader asked me for a mystery with a character of color and I had to wrack my brain and I could only come up with one chapter book. There aren’t enough diversity Easy Readers and I like how this one is a mystery with a strong girl character of color. The cat’s voice adds a note of humor to the otherwise straightforward dialogue. I like how this Easy Reader had a wide appeal; it would appeal not just to girls of color but to girls and boys of any stripe. [Level 2 Easy Reader, ages 5 and up]
Sophia Martinez: Picture Perfect by Jacqueline Jules, illustrated by Kim Smith
This is the kind of diversity book that I want to see more of! I like the Spanish words sprinkled throughout the book with a glossary in the back for those who need a translation. Sophia’s desire to stand out alongside her two sisters is pitch perfect for this age group. Her family is portrayed as any other middle class American family who just so happens to be Hispanic American though there is a strong sense of family which ties back subtly to Latino culture. This is a great way to introduce Spanish to fans of Dora the Explorer and Go! Diego Go! Written in three chapters, this is also a very Easy Chapter Book. [Easy Reader, ages 5 and up]