Books have the ability to build awareness and empathy by allowing the reader to experience and learn from the stories of others. We believe that these stories can help students more fully embrace their role in speaking out against all forms of intolerance, in celebrating diversity and in feeling safe and secure to be who they are.
Our hope is that through this partnership, we are enriching and deepening your students’ understanding of social justice issues and helping to build a more tolerant and compassionate world.
To see the recommended lists, click on one of the six categories below.
- The Refugee and Immigration Experience
- The Holocaust and Other Genocides
- Indigenous Voices
- The Bully Issue
- Gender Differences and Homophobia
- Religious Intolerance, Racism and Embracing Diverse Cultures
For each section, a number of titles have been suggested for the following types of books:
- The teacher reading aloud
- Independent reading
Picture books provide an opportunity for a community reading experience. Through interactive read aloud experiences the teacher can invite opportunities for discussion about a topic, theme, or issue. The teacher can also use the read aloud opportunity to demonstrate comprehension strategies (e.g., activating prior experience, questioning, making predictions, making connections). Picture book titles offer meaningful resources for response activities that include talking, writing and/or the arts.
There are three ways to organize a novel program:
1. Whole Class / Community Experience
- Implementing and managing before, during and after response activities
- Monitoring and assessing progress
- Sharing personal views and learning from diverse views of the other
- All students read the same novel (each student is given a copy)
- The teacher reads aloud a novel to the whole class
Teachers introduce students to material they might never read on their own. When experiencing the community read, students can discover new genres, authors, series of novels, worldviews and cultures. Listening to a good novel read aloud one section at a time, can connect students to a theme or themes they can discuss and explore in depth. Apart from the teacher read aloud experience, each student is given a copy of a single title to read. Teachers can organize before, during and after responses that include reading, writing, talking, art and drama and inquiry.
2. Small Groups
- Whole class, community read
- Small groups (Literature Circles)
- Independent reading
Commonly, teachers form small reading groups which can be formed according to criteria such as:
- Homogenous abilities
- Heterogenous abilities
- Social skills
- Random selection
Ideally, teachers organize groups in response to students’ learning needs and common interests. Ideally, the whole class experiences reading on a central theme (e.g., The Holocaust, Bullying).
The small group experience can be organized by implementing Literature Circles where most commonly students who are reading the same book meet to discuss, react and share responses to it. To promote full participation in literature groups, teachers can begin by assigning roles that need to be explained and modeled. Then students switch role duties after each session (until formal roles are no longer required). Some common roles include The Reteller, The Linguist (Vocabulary and language) , The Questioner, The Literary Artist (illustrator).
3. Independent Reading
- Accommodating individual needs and interests
- Student independence to make own choices and read at own pace
- Monitoring and assessing wide range of reading behaviours and responses
Students are given the opportunity to choose their own material to read where their individual needs and interests are accommodated. Only one copy of a book per student is required. For purposes of exploring issues connected to Choose Your Voice, students should select independent reads that focus on a central theme or issue.
It is best to structure a consistent time each day where students are given the opportunity to read independently.
- Independent reading
- Inquiry-based research
- Teacher reading aloud excerpts or chapters
Schools have come to realize the significance of reading across the curriculum, mainly nonfiction, and technology has opened a great deal of information and other types of nonfiction texts. We need to help our students notice text features in different genres, giving them much-needed access to those texts. Nonfiction selections are available for students to investigate topics of interest or concern and serve to answer questions, raise new questions and help students affirm or build new knowledge around a topic. Today, many young people choose to read nonfiction material independently along with (or in place of) reading fiction.
In some cases other titles are listed because they focus on a particular issue (e.g. gender and homophobia) or a particular genre (e.g. short story).
Since 2004, the Indigo Love of Reading Foundation has been dedicated to putting books in the hands of Canadian children at high-needs elementary and middle schools. This is part of our commitment to transforming the lives of children across the country by inspiring in them a love of reading. Together with Indigo, its customers and its employees, we have committed $31 million to over 3,000 high-needs schools, impacting more than 1 million children.
A Note About Grade Levels
Grade levels have not been designated for each of the recommended fiction titles. The lists were designed for students ages 10-14. In any junior or intermediate classroom there will likely be the range of developmental skills that includes TRANSITIONAL, DEVELOPING and FLUENT readers. These lists include appropriate material for addressing diverse needs in a grade five to eight classroom.
Some titles, however, present content or style and language that may be somewhat advanced and would therefore be more suited to older or fluent readers. These titles have been designated as YA – Young Adult.
Larry Swartz, Instructor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)
Joan O’Callaghan, instructor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)
For further information about organizing a literature-based program see the following recommended titles by Larry Swartz (Pembroke Publishers):
- The Novel Experience
- This is a Great Book!
- Take Me to Your Readers