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Read Across America Books for the 2021-2022 School Year

Read Across America is the United States’ largest celebration of reading. A great way to celebrate is to share quality literature like the Read Across America books listed below. This Read Across America book list is not only a list of read aloud books for Read Across America, but can be used any time of the school year. They are inclusive stories that highlight interesting characters, settings, and storylines. Check out the full list of Read Across America books below!

This post highlights the following books:

  • Jabari Jumps
  • Mixed: A Colorful Story
  • Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré
  • Big Red Lollipop
  • Malala’s Magic Pencil
  • Zonia’s Rain Forest
  • We are Water Protectors
  • Freedom Soup
  • Tiara’s Hat Parade
  • Because
  • Carter Reads the Newspaper
  • Leila In Saffron
  • Wilma’s Way Home: The Life Of Wilma Mankiller
  • Maya Lin: Artist-architect of Light And Lines
kids reading Read Across America books

14 Read Across America Books

Below are 14 quality Read Across America books. Your elementary students are going to love these books for Read Across America!

1. Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

In Jabari Jumps, Jabari is at the pool with his father and sister. He has just finished swimming lessons and passed his swim test. Today is the day he will jump off the diving board for the first time and he is really excited. However, when he gets in line to climb the ladder, Jabari starts to feel nervous. He lets other kids go before him, takes a rest, remembers to do his stretches, and even decides tomorrow is a better day for jumping.

Thankfully, his father is there to help. He explains that it is okay to be a little scared and explains it helps to take a deep breath and tell yourself you’re ready. Jabari starts to climb up the tall ladder once more and steps out onto the diving board. After a deep breath, he leaps into the air and falls down into the water. Everyone is happy when he emerges from the water and Jabari is ready to jump again. 

predicting worksheet for the book, Jabari Jumpsworksheet based on the book Mixed: A Colorful Story

2. Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung

At first, there were only three colors: red, blue and yellow in the book Mixed. The reds were the loudest, the yellows were the brightest, and blues were the coolest. They all got along until the reds started to say they were the best. This made everyone upset and the three colors started fighting. It was decided that each color would live in different parts of the city.

One day Blue and Yellow become friends. Blue liked how happy he felt with Yellow and the Yellow like how calm Blue made him feel. The two colors mixed, everything started to change. At first the other colors were not happy, they didn’t think colors should mix. Yellow and Blue made an all new color together, green. Everyone was amazed by green and started mixing as well. Soon, there was a brand new city full of new colors. 

3. Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise

Planting Stories is a biographical picture book about Pura Belpre, who was the first Puerto Rican Librarian in New York City. When she started working the library, she realized that there weren’t any of the stories and folktales that she was familiar with in Puerto Rico. She decides to share her stories during story hour and through puppet shows, and eventually publishes a book.

Pura travels across the country and from classroom to classroom planting her story seeds and educating about her homeland. When she returns to the library, she sees that her story seeds have bloomed and everyone is telling her stories. Students will love learning about Pura and how she shared her stories with children everywhere. 

writing paper based on the story Planting Storiesworksheet based on the book, Big Red Lollipop

4. Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan

Big Red Lollipop is told from the point of view of Rubina. Rubina receives her first invitation to a birthday party, and is overjoyed to go home and tell her family about it. However, she is met with disappointment when Ami tells her that, in order for her to go to the birthday party, she has to bring her little sister, Sana.

Rubina brings Sana to the birthday party and has a miserable time. They both get goodie bags from the party that have a big red lollipop in them. Sana eats hers right away, and Rubina hides hers away for the next day. When Rubina wakes up the next morning, she is furious when she discovers that Sana has eaten her lollipop!

Eventually, Sana gets invited to a birthday party. She becomes devastated when Ami tells her she has to bring their littler sister Maryam. Instead of letting Sana be miserable at the party, Rubina tells Ami to not make Sana bring Maryam. Sana gets to have fun at the birthday party, and brings home a big green lollipop for Rubina. 

5. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

Malala’s Magic Pencil is about Malala Yousafzai when she was a child. When she was younger, she watched a TV show about a boy who had a magic pencil. When he was in trouble, he could draw something to get out of the situation. Malala always wished she could have a magic pencil, too. If she had one, she could use to to put a lock on her bedroom door, or to erase the smell of the trash dump near her house. She would draw things for others, too: a beautiful dress for her mother, or a proper ball for her brothers to play with.

One day, when she is throwing away trash, Malala notices a girl around her age working in the trash pile. When she returns home, she asks her father about it, and finds out that not many girls like her get to go to school. School is Malala’s favorite place, but she had never considered herself lucky to be able to go.

Over the next few years, Malala worked hard to be one of the top students in her class. However, at that point powerful men demanded that girls can no longer attend school. The other girls in Malala’s class stopped attending because they no longer felt safe doing so. Malala decided to do something to speak out about what was going on. She wrote accounts of what she’d been through in her valley, speeches, and even talked to reporters. Now, people all over the world know Malala’s story, and she continues to fight, using her own magic: the magic of her words.

Malala's Magic Pencil book coverZonia's Rain Forest book cover

6. Zonia’s Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal

In Zonia’s Rain Forest, an Ashaninka girl named Zonia lives in the rainforest in Peru. She is friends with all the animals that live there, such as sloths, snakes, and jaguars. She takes the time to visit and greet them during her morning walk in the forest. However, she eventually comes across something shocking: a patch of the forest had been cut down and destroyed. She runs back to her mother for advice, and decides that she must do something to help.

7. We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

in We are Water Protectors, a girl and her people live in a village. They are water protectors, and they honor and appreciate everything water has done for them. It is the first medicine, it nourishes all life, and it is sacred. When a black snake threatens her people’s land, the girl rallies her village to stand against the threat. 

We Are Water Protectors book coverFreedom Soup book cover

8. Freedom Soup by Tami Charles

Freedom Soup is a story about a family’s special New Year’s tradition. It is a cold and snowy day, but inside Ti Gran’s kitchen, it is warm and busy. Today, Belle is excited for her Ti Gran to teach her how to make traditional Haitian Freedom Soup for New Year’s Day. As they prepare the ingredients and add them to the big pot, Ti Gran tells Belle why it is called Freedom Soup and what it means to their people.

Long ago, the people of Haiti were enslaved and forced to work for their masters. Part of their work was making Freedom Soup, which they were never allowed to eat. When the Haitians rebelled and won their freedom, they were finally able to make and eat Freedom Soup since they were now free. Every New Year’s Day, Haitians make and eat Freedom Soup to remind themselves of their fight for freedom. 

9. Tiara’s Hat Parade by Kelly Starling Lyons

In Tiara’s Hat Parade, Tiara’s Momma owns a hat shop, and women come from all over to buy hats from her. One day, though, a store opens nearby that sell cheaper hats, and Momma has to close her shop. Sadly, they pack up the studio and put the hats into boxes.

Tiara’s Momma returns to work as an art teacher at Tiara’s school. After school, Tiara asks her mom to help her make a hat, but she refuses and no longer seems interested, since it reminds her of her studio that she loved.

One Fun Friday at school, in art class, Momma lets the class choose their art project. Tiara suggests hats, and all of the other students agree. Seeing her Momma showing the other kids how to make their hats look great, Tiara knows what she should do. She surprises her Momma with an evening hat parade, featuring many of the hats that her mom had made! With everyone’s help, Tiara is able to remind her Momma that better days are coming.

Tiara's Hat Parade book coverBecause book cover

10. Because by Mo Willems

Because is a book about how a series of events can cause someone to know their purpose in life. The composer Brahms was influenced by Beethoven to write beautiful music. Because of Brahms’ beautiful music, people decided to form an orchestra so that they could play it. Tickets were sold and parts were rehearsed. Because someone’s uncle had caught a cold, someone’s aunt had an extra ticket, and she invited her niece to watch the orchestra play. From the moment she watched that performance, the girl learned everything she could about music, and soon, she started writing music of her own. Because of that show she went to that day, she was able to become a successful conductor. 

11. Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson

In Carter Reads the Newspaper, Carter G. Woodson was the son of two former slaves. His father, James Henry, had run away from his owner and fought in the Civil War in the Union Army. After the war, Carter’s father worked on the railroad to make enough money to pay for a few acres of land, which he farmed. He and his wife had several children, one being Carter. Because Carter had to work on the farm, he was only able to attend school four months out of the year. His father knew how important learning to read and write were for him, so he read the newspaper to Carter.

When Carter was 17 years old, he had to get a job to support his family. He worked on a garbage wagon, then in a coal mine. While working in the mine, Carter met Oliver Jones, who opened up his house as a reading room. Jones could not read, but when he learned Carter could he inspired him to learn and research.

When Carter was 20 years old, he went back to his hometown and went to high school. Eventually he earned a master’s degree at 33 years old, and had earned his PhD in history at 37. He was the second black man to earn a PhD at Harvard.

Carter promoted the idea of a Negro History Week by sending pamphlets out to schools, churches, and women’s groups. In 1926, Negro History was celebrated for the first time. Today, every February we celebrate Black History Month, which all began with Carter G. Woodson.

Carter Reads the Newspaper book coverLeila in Saffron book cover

12. Leila In Saffron by Rukhsanna Guidroz

Leila In Saffron is a sweet story about an evening with a young girl named Leila and her family. Every Friday, Leila’s family visits her Naani and her extended family for dinner. Today, Leila is wearing a saffron dress, which Naani says suits her. Sometimes, Leila struggles with her self-esteem, but her Naani’s compliment warms her.

Tonight, Leila decides to find parts of herself she likes in the rest of her family. She notices that she has the same smile as her aunt, then she looks at some books in Arabic and wishes that she can travel to Pakistan soon. In the kitchen, Leila’s Naani realizes that they are out of cilantro, and Leila is able to get some from their neighbor, Miguel. At dinner, everyone compliments Leila’s curry, and after dinner, Naani lets Leila try on a saffron scarf. Leila realizes that the scarf makes her feel most like herself.

13. Wilma’s Way Home: The Life Of Wilma Mankiller by Doreen Rappaport

Wilma’s Way Home: The Life Of Wilma Mankiller is a biographical story about Wilma Mankiller. Born in Oklahoma in 1945, Wilma Pearl Mankiller was an activist, social worker, and community developer who was the first woman to serve as the Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation. Growing up, she experienced the Cherokee practice of Gadugi, or helping each other, even when times got tough. When she is uprooted by the federal government in 1956, her family is forced away from their community to California. Wilma finds refuge and community in the Indian Center in San Francisco. Eventually, Wilma returns to Oklahoma with a family of her own and takes part in Cherokee government. Her courageous dedication to her community eventually leads her to become the first female chief of the Cherokee Nation!

Wilma's Way Home book coverMaya Lin book cover

14. Maya Lin: Artist-architect of Light And Lines by Jeanne Walker Harvey

Maya Lin: Artist-architect of Light And Lines tells the true story of Maya Lin, who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. Ever since she was young, Maya Lin always loved to study the spaces around her. She observed the forest and built tiny towns using paper and scraps. Maya’s parents had fled China before she was born, and, with an artist father and a poet mother, Maya grew up with art all around her.

When she got to college, she imagined that she would become an architect, and she would observe all of the beautiful buildings around her. During her final year of college, Maya entered a contest to design a memorial to honor soldiers who lost their lives during the Vietnam War. When she visited the site, Maya saw the design she would choose in her mind. She worked in order to sketch her design, and she wrote and essay to go alongside it.

Out of 1,421 entries, Maya’s design was chosen. She was surprised that she had won, and even more surprised when her design faced criticism from many people. However, she did not back down, and her design was eventually approved, and she watched the thousands of people who came to honor those that they’d lost.

Reading Activities

If you are looking for book-based lessons and activities, then check out the Starts With a Story resources below. They include reading comprehension questions, SEL lesson ideas, writing paper, and much more.

Mixed: A Colorful StoryJabari JumpsFreedom Soup book companion cover
Planting Stories book companionThis image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is big-red-lollipop-activities-worksheets-1024x1024.jpgWe are Water Protectors book companion

Grab the Free Reading Resources!

We hope you found this list of Read Across America books helpful! Many of the books highlighted are part of my 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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