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Multicultural Literature By Subject Area:

Math, Science, Social Studies, Music, and Special Education

The goal of this list is to provide ideas for high quality literature that could be used in content areas to support student learning. This is in no way an exhaustive list, but the goal is to help teachers and parents begin thinking about how to integrate reading into other subject areas. The subject area lists are organized by age/grade level from less advanced to more advanced. Also, note that many of the books cross multiple genres, so a math book may be appropriate in the history context as well. 

Subject Areas

Social Studies


More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby; Illustrator: Chris K. Soentpiet

  • Age range: 5-11 (570L)
  • Synopsis:
A fictionalized story about the life of young Booker T. Washington. Living in a West Virginia settlement after emancipation, nine-year-old Booker travels by lantern light to the salt works, where he labors from dawn till dusk. Although his stomach rumbles, his real hunger is his intense desire to learn to read. Sylvia & Aki by Winifred Conkling
  • Age range: 8-11 (760L)
  • Synopsis: Young Sylvia Mendez never expected to be at the center of a landmark legal battle. Young Aki Munemitsu never expected to be sent away from her home and her life as she knew it. The two girls definitely never expected to know each other, until their lives intersected on a Southern California farm in a way that changed the country forever. Who are Sylvia and Aki? And why did their family stories matter then and still matter today? This book reveals the remarkable, never-before-told story—based on true events—of Mendez vs. Westminster School District, the California court case that desegregated schools for Latino children and set the stage for Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education at the national level.
  • Additional resources:
Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Age range: 9-11 (950L)​
  • Synopsis
It's 1936, in Flint, Michigan. Ten-year-old Bud may be a motherless boy on the run, but he's on a mission. His momma never told him who his father was, but she left a clue: posters of Herman E. Calloway and his famous band, the Dusky Devastators of the Depression! Bud's got an idea that those posters will lead to his father. Once he decides to hit the road and find this mystery man, nothing can stop him. Bud, Not Buddy is full of laugh-out-loud humor and wonderful characters, hitting the high notes of jazz and sounding the deeper tones of the Great Depression. The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson
  • Age range: 9-13 (610 L)
  • Synopsis:
The letter waits in a book, in a box, in an attic, in an old house in Lambert, South Carolina. It's waiting for Candice Miller. When Candice finds the letter, she isn't sure she should read it. It's addressed to her grandmother, who left Lambert in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding the letter-writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle. So with the help of Brandon Jones, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert's history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter's promise before the answers slip into the past yet again? Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
  • Age range: 10-14 (920L)
  • Synopsis:
Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And it is also Cassie’s story—Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect. Paperboy by Vince Vawter
  • Age range: 10-14 (940L)
  • Synopsis:
An 11-year-old boy living in Memphis in 1959 throws the meanest fastball in town, but talking is a whole different ball game. He can barely say a word without stuttering, not even his own name. So when he takes over his best friend’s paper route for the month of July, he knows he’ll be forced to communicate with the different customers, including a housewife who drinks too much and a retired merchant marine who seems to know just about everything. The newspaper route poses challenges, but it’s a run-in with the neighborhood junkman, a bully and thief, that stirs up real trouble–and puts the boy’s life, as well as that of his family’s devoted housekeeper, in danger. The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Age range: 11-14 (920L)
  • Synopsis:
Enter the world of ten-year-old Kenny and his family, the Weird Watsons of Flint, Michigan. When Momma and Dad decide it's time for a visit to Grandma, Dad comes home with the amazing Ultra-Glide, and the Watsons head South to Birmingham, Alabama... toward one of the darkest moments in America's history. A hilarious, touching, and tragic novel about civil rights and the impact of violence on one African American family. A Spy in the House (The Agency: Book One) by Y. S. Lee
  • Age range: 12-15 (grade 7-9)​
  • Synopsis: Orphan Mary Quinn lives on the edge. Sentenced as a thief at the age of twelve, she’s rescued from the gallows by a woman posing as a prison warden. In her new home, Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls, Mary acquires a singular education, fine manners, and surprising opportunity. The school is a cover for the Agency – an elite, top-secret corps of female investigators with a reputation for results – and at seventeen, Mary’s about to join their ranks.With London all but paralyzed by a noxious heat wave, Mary must work fast in the guise of lady’s companion to infiltrate a rich merchant’s home with hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But the Thorold household is full of dangerous secrets, and people are not what they seem – least of all Mary .Packed with action and suspense, and evoking the gritty world of Victorian London, this first book in the Agency series debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits.
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Code Talker: A Novel about the Navajo Marines of WWII by Joseph Bruchac
  • Age range: 12-15 (7-9 grade)
  • Synopsis: Throughout World War II, in the conflict fought against Japan, Navajo code talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. effort, sending messages back and forth in an unbreakable code that used their native language. They braved some of the heaviest fighting of the war, and with their code, they saved countless American lives. Yet their story remained classified for more than twenty years.But now Joseph Bruchac brings their stories to life for young adults through the riveting fictional tale of Ned Begay, a sixteen-year-old Navajo boy who becomes a code talker. His grueling journey is eye-opening and inspiring. This deeply affecting novel honors all of those young men, like Ned, who dared to serve, and it honors the culture and language of the Navajo Indians.
  • Additional Resources:
The Weight of our Sky by Hanna Alkaf
  • Synopsis: A music loving teen with OCD does everything she can to find her way back to her mother during the historic race riots in 1969 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in this heart-pounding literary debut.Melati Ahmad looks like your typical movie-going, Beatles-obsessed sixteen-year-old. Unlike most other sixteen-year-olds though, Mel also believes that she harbors a djinn inside her, one who threatens her with horrific images of her mother’s death unless she adheres to an elaborate ritual of counting and tapping to keep him satisfied.But there are things that Melati can’t protect her mother from. On the evening of May 13th, 1969, racial tensions in her home city of Kuala Lumpur boil over. The Chinese and Malays are at war, and Mel and her mother become separated by a city in flames.With a 24-hour curfew in place and all lines of communication down, it will take the help of a Chinese boy named Vincent and all of the courage and grit in Melati’s arsenal to overcome the violence on the streets, her own prejudices, and her djinn’s surging power to make it back to the one person she can’t risk losing.*** CONTENT WARNINGS: Racism, on-page death, graphic violence, OCD and anxiety triggers. If you are affected by any of these things, please do consider setting the book aside until you feel more able to take them on. ***
  • Additional resources:
Jazz Owls by Margarita Engle (also verse)
  • Age range: 12-17 (1300L)
  • Synopsis:
Thousands of young Navy sailors are pouring into Los Angeles on their way to the front lines of World War II. They are teenagers, scared, longing to feel alive before they have to face the horrors of battle. Hot jazz music spiced with cool salsa rhythms beckons them to dance with the local Mexican American girls, who jitterbug all night before working all day in the canneries. Proud to do their part for the war effort, these Jazz Owl girls are happy to dance with the sailors—until the blazing summer night when racial violence leads to murder. Suddenly the young white sailors are attacking the girls’ brothers and boyfriends. The cool, loose zoot suits they wear are supposedly the reason for the violence—when in reality the boys are viciously beaten and arrested simply because of the color of their skin. Flygirl by Sherri L. Smith
  • Age range: 12-17 yrs (middle adolescence)
  • Synopsis: Ida Mae Jones dreams of flight. Her daddy was a pilot and being black didn’t stop him from fulfilling his dreams. But her daddy’s gone now, and being a woman, and being black, are two strikes against her. When America enters the war with Germany and Japan, the Army creates the WASP, the Women Airforce Service Pilots—and Ida suddenly sees a way to fly as well as do something significant to help her brother stationed in the Pacific. But even the WASP won’t accept her as a black woman, forcing Ida Mae to make a difficult choice of “passing,” of pretending to be white to be accepted into the program. Hiding one’s racial heritage, denying one’s family, denying one’s self is a heavy burden. And while Ida Mae chases her dream, she must also decide who it is she really wants to be.
  • Additional resources:
House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle
  • Age range: 13 and up
  • Synopsis: A Choctaw tale of tragedy, white and Indians, good and evil, revenge and forgiveness, even humor and magic realism."The hour has come to speak of troubled times. It is time we spoke of Skullyville." Thus begins Rose Goode's story of her growing up in Indian Territory in pre-statehood Oklahoma. Skullyville, a once-thriving Choctaw community, was destroyed by land-grabbers, culminating in the arson on New Year's Eve, 1896, of New Hope Academy for Girls. Twenty Choctaw girls died, but Rose escaped. She is blessed by the presence of her grandmother Pokoni and her grandfather Amafo, both respected elders who understand the old ways. Soon after the fire, the white sheriff beats Amafo in front of the town's people, humiliating him. Instead of asking the Choctaw community to avenge the beating, her grandfather decides to follow the path of forgiveness. And so unwinds this tale of mystery, Indian-style magical realism, and deep wisdom. It's a world where backwoods spiritualism and Bible-thumping Christianity mix with bad guys; a one-legged woman shop-keeper, her oaf of a husband, herbal potions, and shape-shifting panthers rendering justice. Tim Tingle--a scholar of his nation's language, culture, and spirituality--tells Rose's story of good and evil with understanding and even laugh-out-loud Choctaw humor.
  • Additional resources:
Call Me Ahab: A Short Story Collection by Anne Finger
  • Age range: Young adult
  • Synopsis:
Imagine a Hollywood encounter between Helen Keller and Frida Kahlo, “two female icons of disability.” Or the story of “Moby Dick, or, The Leg,” told from Ahab’s perspective. What if Vincent Van Gogh resided in a twentieth-century New York hotel, surviving on food stamps and direct communications with God? Or if the dwarf pictured in a seventeenth-century painting by Velazquez should tell her story? And, finally, imagine the encounter between David and Goliath from the Philistine’s point of view. These are the characters who people history and myth as counterpoints to the “normal.” And they are also the characters who populate Anne Finger’s remarkable short stories. Affecting but never sentimental, ironic but never cynical, these wonderfully rich and comic tales reimagine life beyond the margins of “normality.” A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles
  • Age range: Late adolescence
  • Synopsis: A Gentleman in Moscow immerses us in another elegantly drawn era with the story of Count Alexander Rostov. When, in 1922, he is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal, the count is sentenced to house arrest in the Metropol, a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin. Rostov, an indomitable man of erudition and wit, has never worked a day in his life, and must now live in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history are unfolding outside the hotel’s doors. Unexpectedly, his reduced circumstances provide him a doorway into a much larger world of emotional discovery.Brimming with humor, a glittering cast of characters, and one beautifully rendered scene after another, this singular novel casts a spell as it relates the count’s endeavor to gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a man of purpose.
  • Additional resources:
Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Age range: Late adolescence
  • Synopsis: Toni Morrison’s magnificent Pulitzer Prize–winning work—first published in 1987—brought the wrenching experience of slavery into the literature of our time, enlarging our comprehension of America’s original sin. Set in post–Civil War Ohio, it is the story of Sethe, an escaped slave who has lost a husband and buried a child; who has withstood savagery and not gone mad. Sethe, who now lives in a small house on the edge of town with her daughter, Denver, her mother-in-law, Baby Suggs, and a disturbing, mesmerizing apparition who calls herself Beloved.Sethe works at “beating back the past,” but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly: in her memory; in Denver’s fear of the world outside the house; in the sadness that consumes Baby Suggs; in the arrival of Paul D, a fellow former slave; and, most powerfully, in Beloved, whose childhood belongs to the hideous logic of slavery and who has now come from the “place over there” to claim retribution for what she lost and for what was taken from her. Sethe’s struggle to keep Beloved from gaining possession of the present—and to throw off the long-dark legacy of the past—is at the center of this spellbinding novel. But it also moves beyond its particulars, combining imagination and the vision of legend with the unassailable truths of history.
  • Additional resources:
The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
  • Age range: Late adolescence
  • Synopsis: A gorgeous novel by the celebrated author of When the Emperor Was Divine that tells the story of a group of young women brought from Japan to San Francisco as “picture brides” nearly a century ago. In eight unforgettable sections, The Buddha in the Attic traces the extraordinary lives of these women, from their arduous journeys by boat, to their arrival in San Francisco and their tremulous first nights as new wives; from their experiences raising children who would later reject their culture and language, to the deracinating arrival of war. Once again, Julie Otsuka has written a spellbinding novel about identity and loyalty, and what it means to be an American in uncertain times.
  • Additional resources:




Mathematics


Book Title: My Granny Went to Mark: A Round-the-World Counting Rhyme Author: Stella Blackstone and Christopher Corr Topic: Counting Ages: 3-7 years Book Title: Great Migration: An American Story Author: Jacob Lawrence Topic: Population shifts (quantity) Ages: 4-8 years Book Title: One Grain of Rice Author: Demi Topic: Exponents, doubling, patterns Ages: 4-8 years Book Title: Two of Everything Author: Lily Toy Hong Topic: Doubling Grades: Preschool - 3rd Book Title: First Day in Grapes Author: L. King Perez Topic: Problems solving using math Grades: 3-5 Book Title: Hannah, Divided Author: Adele Griffin Topic: Enjoying math Grades: 3-5 Book Title: Number Stories of Long Ago Author: David Eugene Smith Topic: Number systems Grades: 3-7 Book Title: Slay Author: Brittany Norris Topic: Coding Grades: 6-9 Book Title: The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure Author: Hans Magnus Enzensberger Topic: Number sense, algebra, geometry, problem solving Grades: 7-10 Book Title: Math Girls Author: Hiroshi Yuki Topic: Intro to advanced mathematics Grades: 9-12 Book Title: Street-Fighting Mathematics: The Art of Educated Guessing and Opportunistic Author: Sanjoy Mahajan Topic: Problem Solving Grades: High School Book Title: Infinitesimal: How a Dangerous Mathematical Theory Shaped the Modern World Author: Amir Alexander Topic: Calculus Grades: High School




Science


Title: Stripes of All Types: Rayas de todas las tallas Author: Susan Stockdale Topic: Striped animals Ages: 2-6 years Title: Counting the Stars: The Story of Katerine Johnson, NASA Mathematician Author: Lesa Cline-Ransome Topic: Space exploration Grades: Preschool- 3rd Title: CeCe Loves Science Author: Vashti Harrison Topic: Inquiry; scientific method Grades: Preschool-3rd Title: Project Mulberry Author: Linda Sue Park Topic: Silkworms Grades: 5th - 7th Title: The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind Author: William Kamkwamba Topic: Electricity; inquiry Grades: 5th - 9th Title: Carver: A Life in Poems Author: Marilyn Nelson Topic: Agriculture Grades: 5th - 9th




Music


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

  • Age range: 13 and above (grade 7 and above)
  • Synopsis: A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo. Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
  • Additional resources:
Watercolor Women, Opaque Men by Anna Castillo
  • Age range: Late adolescence
  • Synopsis: In this updated edition of Ana Castillo’s celebrated novel in verse, featuring a new introduction by Poet Laureate of Texas Carmen Tafolla, we revisit the story’s spirited heroine, known only as “Ella” or “She,” as she takes us through her own epic journey of self-actualization as an artist and a woman. With a remarkable combination of tenderness, lyricism, wicked humor, and biting satire, Castillo dramatizes Ella’s struggle through poverty as a Chicano single mother at the threshold of the twenty-first century, fighting for upward mobility while trying to raise her son to be independent and self-sufficient. Urged on by the gods of the ancients, Ella’s life interweaves with those of others whose existences are often neglected, even denied, by society’s status quo. Castillo’s strong rhythmic voice and exploration of such issues as love, sexual orientation, and cultural identity will resonate with readers today as much as they did upon the book’s original publication more than ten years ago. This expanded edition also includes a short preface by the author, as well as a glossary, a reader’s guide, and a list of additional suggested readings.
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Special Education


Special education is an extremely broad field, and it crosses all content areas. The titles included below focus on people with exceptionalities as authors, protagonists, or both. El Deafo by CeCe Bell

  • Age range: 8-12 (grades 3-7)
  • Synopsis: In this funny, poignant graphic novel memoir, author/illustrator Cece Bell chronicles her hearing loss at a young age and her subsequent experiences with the Phonic Ear, a very powerful and very awkward hearing aid. The Phonic Ear gives Cece the ability to hear (including some things she wasn't intended to hear), but it also isolates her from her classmates. She really just wants to fit in and find a true friend, someone who appreciates her as she is.After some trouble, she is finally able to harness the power of the Phonic Ear and become "El Deafo, Listener for All." More importantly, Cece declares a place for herself in the world and finds the friend she's longed for.
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Other Resources

Additional Math Books


Source: The Free Library




Math Book Club


A high school math teacher put together a list of books he has used for book clubs in his math class.




Outstanding Science Tradebooks


Lists created by the National Science Teaching Association





©2021 by Christina J. Lunsmann