Children’s Books about Poverty for Elementary Teachers in 2024

January is a great time to discuss and explore poverty and socio-economic diversity with your students because it’s Poverty Awareness Month, but really you can do this any time of the year. This post shares children’s books about poverty that you can use for this purpose. All of the picture books on this list lend themselves to this topic really well. Take a peek below to learn more about these children’s books about poverty!

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5 Children’s Books about Poverty

Below is a list of some of our favorite children’s books about poverty to share with elementary students. Check them out!

1. A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts

A Bike Like Sergio’s is told from the point of view of Ruben, a boy who really wants a bike. Everyone else has a bike, but Ruben’s family can’t afford one. One day in the grocery store, Ruben sees a woman drop money. He picks it up and puts it in his pocket, thinking that it is just one dollar. However, when he gets home he discovers that it is really $100! He decides to keep the money a secret and buy a bike. When Ruben gets home from school the next day, he thinks that he has lost the money! He becomes very upset and searches everywhere. He is relieved when he finds it. The next day, his mom asks him to pick up juice at the grocery store. Juice is one of the few things his family can afford. When he is at the store, he sees the woman who dropped the money. Ruben remembers how he felt when he thought he lost the money, and chases after her to return it. The woman is very thankful because she too is struggling with money. Ruben is proud of himself for doing the right thing.

Check out these A Bike Like Sergio’s teaching resources and activities to help you plan and deliver highly engaging read aloud lessons!

2. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena

CJ and his Nana ride bus to get around their town. CJ enjoys his bus ride on most days. He does start to question his Nana about why they have to ride the bus, wait in the rain, why they do not have a car, and why they always need to visit with the passengers on the bus.

CJ asks many questions and Nana is always happy to answer him with an honest response. He wondered how his Nan always found beautiful where he never even thought to look. CJ realizes that his Nana helps him see the beauty in all they do and he finally realizes that Nana knows best!

Check out these Last Stop on Market Street teaching resources and activities to help you plan and deliver highly engaging read aloud lessons!

3. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts

Everyone in Jeremy’s class is getting new high-top sneakers, and he really wants a pair. His grandma says the new shoes are a want, not a need. One day at school Jeremy’s shoes fall apart and he must wear an old velcro pair from the guidance counselor. When he returns to class, everyone except Antonio laughs. 

Grandma saved up some money and took Jeremy to the shoe store to see if they could afford them. Unfortunately, they were took expensive so they decide to look at thrift shops. In the window of the third thrift store, Jeremy sees the shoes he wants! When he tries them on, Grandma says they’re too small. Even though they hurt his feet, Jeremy buys them anyway. The shoes are so small that they are too uncomfortable to wear. Jeremy notices Antonio’s shoes are falling apart, and smaller than his. He gives Antonio the new pair of shoes he bought that were too small.

Check out these Those Shoes teaching resources and activities to help you plan and deliver highly engaging read aloud lessons!

4. Thank You, Omu! by Oge Mora

The story Thank You, Omu! is about a woman named Omu who makes a big delicious pot of thick red stew to have for dinner and she thinks it will be the most delicious dinner she has ever had. The smell of her delicious stew is carried out of her window and down to the people below. 

Many people smell the stew from out her window and go to tell her how delicious it smells. Omu offers the stews to people without them asking until there isn’t any stew left. Then Omu hears a knock at her door and all the people that Omu gave stew to have brought something for dinner for her. They have a big feast together and Omu says it is the best dinner she has ever had.

Check out these Thank You, Omu! teaching resources and activities to help you plan and deliver highly engaging read aloud lessons!

5. Maddi’s Fridge by lois Brandt

Maddi and Sofia are great friends. They stayed at the playground as the shadows lengthened, swinging, sliding, and climbing on the rock wall.  

One day, Sofia was hungry and ran up Maddi’s apartment stairs to open the refrigerator… but there was only a bottle of milk inside. Sofia made a promise to Maddi saying that she would not tell anyone that her family did not have enough money for groceries. Each night at her own house, she thought about how she was eating delicious, nutritious meals while her friend was having bread and milk. 

These inspiring, heartwarming stories reminds students to feel grateful, compassionate, and to spread kindness to all we love.

Check out these Maddi’s Fridge teaching resources and activities to help you plan and deliver highly engaging read aloud lessons!

Grab the Free Reading Resources!

In closing, we hope you found this list of children’s books about poverty helpful! They are part of our Starts With a Story collection. If you want to get more book ideas to read aloud to your elementary students, then grab this reading freebie. It includes read aloud books lists, reading logs, and reading challenges for 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade classroom teachers. It will have you covered for the entire school year, as well as the summer months! Grab this free elementary reading packet now!

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