Booklist: Black & Brown Teen Fantasy Books

Booklist: Black & Brown Teen Fantasy Books

Booklist Inspired by Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Looking for good graphic novels or novels for your teen?
Discover young adult fantasy books written about a Black or Brown teen.

1. The Gilded Ones, by Namina Forna, (2020) Deka lives in an unknown land and learns that her blood is made of gold. Young women must go through a Purity Ritual to see if their blood is gold or red. Gold bleeders living in shame, ostracized. They are held captive where their blood is harvested. Deka’s fate is tumultuous, and she learns about another path. She can stay and suffer, or join an army with other Gilded Ones or Alaki to fight the enemy. In this new place, Deka identifies her true self and learns that fighting for a cause has major sacrifices and victories. Her mentor encouraged her to look deeper within and in the end, Deka was determined to fight for women and change the narrative of the Gilded Ones.

2. A Song Below Water, by Bethany Morrow (2020)  Tavia is a mermaid living in Portland, OR. Her community condemns mermaids also known as sirens. So she must hide her identity but still secretly keeps her identity alive at home and with the friends in her choir. Effie her Best friend is not a mermaid, but the closest to Tavia since she has her struggles. They share a love for the water. When another Siren is murdered, Tavia’s world shakes up and is trying to keep out of sight but find justice for another targeted woman.

3. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Marvel Comic Series (2015-2019) A comic book series from 2015-2019 about Lunella aka “Moon Girl.” She is confident, powerful, and an inventive mind. Lunella gained powers after an incident gave her inhuman powers. One day she locates an Omni that she wants to tinker with to help her cure her inhumanness. This Omni is a time-traveling portal that brought the Devil Dinosaur and cavemen to her city-New York. This story is the first of many. It is about a young black girl who does not fit in already. But now that she is walking around with this colossal dinosaur.

4. A Blade So Black, by L.L. McKinney (2018) Alice lives a “normal life” her mom works a normal job. Alice attends high school, and Alice is grieving over  of loss her dad who recently died. But one terrifying day, she is being chased by a monster. She identifies that she is not normal and has superpowers. She can walk in and out of Wonderland-the land of dreams. She sees the dreams and nightmares of humans living on Earth. She also sees the nightmares and has to fight the monsters when nightmares appear. Alice must decide how to live in both worlds but also keep her other life secret from her mom.

5. A Dream So Dark, by L.L. McKinney (2019) Book 2 from A Blade So Black. Alice has an even bigger nightmare to fight. This time, she has to save the world because an evil queen is trying to become resurrected. Alice can no longer keep this secret hidden from her mother

6. Rebel Sisters by Tochi Onyebuchi (2020) Their world is cyberized where some people can download their memories and others cannot. This is Book 2, Ify is dealing with the war that happened before. Ify’s memories are coming back because her life was impacted by the war. Her home is Nigeria and she lives in space. A fantasy book about a teen wanting change.

7. Nubia, Real One by L.L. McKinney (2021) A DC comic book. Nubia, a teen superhero. She has the strength to fight villains. She lives in a modern-day society where she deals with having two moms, police brutality, and school. Nubia hides her powers and only shows them to protect the people she loves comes into harm. She scared away armed robbers, and she rescued her friend when she was being threatened. Regardless of the turmoil, Nubia is strong a powerful teen who is trying to find her way to live in modern society.

8. The Interrogation of Ashla Wolf, by Ambelin Kwaymullina   
Ashla Wolf is a leader of a tribe. Ashla and her tribal members all have powers. When Ashla becomes a teenager, she is locked up because all people holding powers are considered illegal. She is trying to escape and protect her tribe. While she is dealing with Connor who is spying on her and he holds a lot of power in the detention center. This story was inspired from the cultural heritage of the author’s ancestry in Australia. Critically, the reader will find cultural elements and fantasy in this novel.


9. Shadoweyes by Sofie Campbell, 2011
Scout’s community is plagued with crime, and she wants to fight. Nevertheless, one evening she placed on her cap attempting to stop someone. Unfortunately, she was hit by a brick. After her recovery, something happened. One minute she was Scout, the next, she turned into a blue alien creature called “Shadoweyes.” Whenever Scout turned into “Shadoweyes” she could now fight and save the people who needed her help.

10. Legendborn by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Most importantly, above you can find a new fantasy novel or graphic novel for a young adult. The characters are inventive, strong, and of course a Black or Brown girl. If you want to learn more on to evaluate their a book featuring a person of color, Click Here.

What is Literacy?

What is Literacy?

  • Literacy is the ability to demonstrate your language through reading, writing, speaking, viewing and listening.

  • A literate learner, an individual needs the knowledge, resources, and tools to effectively utilize the language that they are attempting to learn

What is Literacy?

When you hear the word literacy, what do you think of? If you’re like most folks, you probably think of books or high school English class. Or maybe you think of money management and the term “financial literacy”. Even thinking of technology and media and the phrase “digital literacy” may come to mind.

So what is literacy?

According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), literacy is defined as “a means of identification, understanding, interpretation, creation, and communication in an increasingly digital, text-meditated, information-rich, and fast-changing world.” So by that definition, just focusing literacy efforts on learning to read is not enough to combat the literacy gap facing communities and learners today.

A literate learner is an individual who can understand, explain, interpret, and implement the language for a variety of uses. Literacy is more than the book. Literacy encompasses: Reading, Writing, Listening, Speaking, and Viewing (which we’ll break down section-by-section later on). 

According to the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, [Literacy is to] “make connections between reading and the other language arts by integrating speaking, listening, writing, and viewing with reading instruction. [Literacy] also fosters critical reading of texts across the content areas by extending and enriching opportunities for students to read multiple genres across the curriculum.”

To be a literate learner, an individual needs the knowledge, resources, and tools to effectively utilize the language that they are attempting to learn. A literate learner should have a strong grasp of technology use. In our digital world, readers need to know that literacy is beyond their own household, and that information shifts and changes every single day. This makes it highly necessary for literate learners to use technology to support their thinking and interpretation. 

However, because there are a variety of ways to incorporate literacy into a student’s day-to-day experience, some students may find that their literacy in one area of the topic is stronger than in another area.

For example, a student that is drawn to animation, comic books, and visual storytelling but isn’t able to focus when reading an assigned chapter book isn’t a poor reader or illiterate. Their area of interest and strength just may not be in the Reading track of literacy but rather fall within the category of Viewing.

Therefore, it is the duty of educators, administrators, and parents to assess, instruct, provide resources, refine teaching, and differentiate their instruction methods to reach all students where they are at in their literacy skill-building. Some of these resources include: cultural competencies to better engage students from a wide diversity of backgrounds, enhancing the learning environment for students to encourage literacy development, and the ability to build and introduce connections between the various types and interpretations of literacy as part of a holistic approach to the language arts.

In order to ensure that students are developing well-rounded and balanced literacy skills, it is important to incorporate not only Reading and Writing, but the additional aspects of literacy, including Listening, Speaking, and Viewing. Some examples of each facet of a holistic approach to literacy include:

Reading: Reading encompasses not only your standard books and novels but also poetry, word walls, motivational posters, articles, and written media.

Writing: The importance of writing as a form of literacy is to help students to explain their ideas and thoughts through written communications. This step in literacy is also vital to helping students to develop their own sense of voice and agency in their ideation. Writing can include completing a chart for a classroom project, writing an essay on a topic to share thoughts, or even posting on social media and the Internet.

Listening: While sharing thoughts is a necessary factor in literacy development, being able to listen, understand, and respond when others are speaking or sharing their own perspectives is equally as required. We’ve all heard the term “active listening”, which is the act of listening to understand rather than listening to respond. Active listening is a form of literacy in and of itself, due to the need for students and educators alike to be able to listen to what is being said and internally process that information. Examples of listening in literacy education include: listening to a poetry reading or spoken word, listening to podcasts sharing information on various topics, and listening to music to interpret an artist’s thoughts.

Speaking: Speaking is a necessary factor in literacy development, due to the need for students to be able to vocalize their thoughts on the content they are taking in. Some forms of speaking in literacy skill-building include commenting effectively on information being introduced, engaging in conversations and discussion about texts, and being able to speak in public about a topic or issue.

Viewing: Viewing may be the factor of literacy skill-building that comes to mind the least. This area of literacy includes viewing, analyzing, and interpreting visual media, including photographs, logos, movies, or advertisements. By encouraging the development of a student’s viewing skills, educators can contribute to a holistic view of literacy skill-building, and allow students to build context for their learning through a variety of content streams  

Reading Strategies to Motivate Struggling Readers

Reading Strategies to Motivate Struggling Readers

  • Reading Strategies to help your child to read.

  • Make reading realistic so they can see how to use it in their lives

Reading Strategies for Struggling Readers

You might be wondering why your 8-year-old struggles with reading or even why your fifteen-year-old struggles with reading. Unlocking the abilities of your child’s reading abilities can provide the vast potential and experiences so that he or she can navigate this world. Children need to have the foundational skills of word acquisition, word meaning, reading speeding and pace, understanding, and word structure. Reading is a complex skill, and if he or she does not have a general interest, below are some tips to consider.

A. Inventory A child who chooses not to read has a reason why. If they are old enough ask: Why don’t you read? What do you like or dislike? What is your favorite thing(s) to do besides reading? This inventory should take 5-15 minutes at a minimum so you can gather stories, experiences, and hear key problems. At the heart of every challenge, there is a core issue and I encourage you or a mentor to dig deep. Also asking about their interests will give you the tools to better understand their learning styles and interests. So if your reader says, “I love playing soccer.” “I love making graphics for Instagram.” “I love being outside.” You can now pinpoint, a soccer player loves movement and is kinesthetics, a social media child loves visuals and technology, and an outdoor kid might love adventure and has a knack for spatial intelligence. You can learn more here about the 8 different learning styles.  

B. Find a mentor Finding a mentor who can hold your reader accountable, checking- in consistently, and sharing their own experiences can be a critical shift. A mentor can bring real-world importance to the importance of reading and how it affects their lives day-to-day. I know that children sometimes lose interest in always hearing their parents “preach” to them. If you do not know where to find a mentor, search for mentoring programs, ask a colleague, ask for a referral from a friend or family member. Believe it or not, adults want to help our youth, and matching your reader with a mentor is possible.   

C. Make Reading Realistic Children go through a variety of developmental stages.

An example about an eleven to fourteen-year-old: What I’m Like: I’m more independent than I used to be, but I’m quite self-conscious. I think more like an adult, but there’s no simple answer. I like to talk about issues in the adult world. I like to think for myself, and though I often feel confused, my opinions are important to me, and I want others to respect them. I seem to be moving away from my family. Friends are more important than ever. To have them like me, I sometimes act in ways that adults disapprove of. But I still need reasonable rules set by adults. However, I’m more understanding and cooperative. I want nothing to do with babysitters—in fact, if I’m mature enough I can often be by myself or watch others.” You can find more about their Stages Description Here.

When your child hits the preteen stage, then their ideas of realism are stronger than before. The best way to make their experiences, “REAL.” Is by identifying the core reasons why your reader does not readExamples

  • Read teen or child magazines-talk about key points
  • Read a series of books that fits their interests.
  • If the booklist is realistic with topics on space, history, technology, and etc, extend that experience to take them to the place, write to the author or an expert, or a virtual visit.
  • Find books where your reader can learn a new skill. Ask them something they would like to do in ??? months. If determined these could be books on sewing, coding, sign language, and this way you could see how they are implementing this vocation and reading.
  • Make a blog, podcast, or private channel in TikTok or YouTube
  • Join a book club or start a book club
  • 1:1 if your reader “HATES” reading, I always encourage parents for every 1 book that YOU like, you will read an ACADEMIC text that is required by your school. Starting off will be painful, but it can work.
  • Of course, read with your child. Take dedicated time where you read your text and your child reads his or her own text.

D. Focus on Skill In the 21st century, learning has taken a new approach. Learning is less about the retention of large amounts of facts and datasets. Learning is about manipulating and utilizing those data sets. As you encourage your child to read they can focus on skills such as vocabulary skills, comprehension skills, fluency skills, phonics skills, and writing skills. Each skill has a unique pathway and keeping this in place. Learning is also about collaboration, and communication to solve future problems in the world they will live in. 

E. Read Consistently Reading should not be a serendipitous task. Reading should be something in your home that occurs on expected days. It can be different where reading is before TV time. Examples: Reading happens 30 minutes after social media check-ins. Reading occurs while eating breakfast. Read while driving in the car or on a bus, and “parent or guardian” will ask a question before leaving the vehicle. There are many opportunities to carve out that time. As a working parent make reading work the best for you. Reading should not be a chore, it should be an integrated experience that makes your household interesting.  

F. Learn a New Language Learning a new language might be difficult. However, learning a new language gives your reader the skills to compare “cognates,” “word structures,” “word orders,” “phrases” and more. Learning a new language takes years and immersive with others who speak the language. However, if your reader is interested in traveling or meeting other people you can use this new learning as a way to keep them engaged with their native language. It will be especially important to make sure there is a balance between reading the foreign language and reading their native language text. For example, I have learned American Sign Language. And ASL has a different structure. Where are you going? GOING WHERE? Reading this sentence alone made me think about how they order and change their sentences around.

G. Learn Storytelling or Spoken Word There are thousands of storytelling and spoken word opportunities for young adults and teens. Storytellers must have the skill of reading, writing, and speaking. There are even a host of competitions that young people can compete for with original spoken art. In your local community, you should look up different groups, but you can find more here at the National Storytelling Network Reading has opportunities, and it will take time to discover what those key opportunities are. Above are a few tips that we are excited to share with you. Feel free to contact us with additional questions.

Discover Pennez’s services if you would like support to motivate your struggling reader. Here

Virtual Teaching 2021

Virtual Teaching 2021

The ubiquitous field of online teaching and learning has been taken by force. It has been introduced from private institutions, businesses, and many more. Now that hybrid teaching or even 100% virtual learning is in place it is most important to keep youth motivated and connected with learning. With the experiences of virtual teaching we have discovered more challenges of screen fatigue, lack of peer interaction, limited face-to-face interaction, and so many social-emotional opportunities.

We are sharing information from our experiences as well as educators on Twitter who have shared successes with online teaching.


Building trust takes months to build with learners in person. So building trust online with new people that you do not know has even more bigger paradigms. I recommend use the same tools on building trust that you did with your learners pre-COVID: learn about their interests, speak regularly with their family, and share your own personal experiences.

Being vulnerable enough allows learners to see your humanity and expands their own understanding of each person In the virtual environment. The more that you all learn about each other; trust can be given. Another way to increase the power of trust is being willing to be vulnerable and facilitate conversations. Facilitating is where you as the educator “guide” instead of being the convener of the information.


Being unable to see your learner’s work or having a lack of high speed internet is a challenge. However, remaining consistent and intentional about what your learners are responsible for and what you are responsible for is huge. I remember when I told my adult learners to turn in their fieldwork in one week, only 2 submitted their work. However, when I said that if you submit your work and we will schedule 1-on-1 each week with submissions, then 80% of the learners submitted their work.  I discovered that providing this measure of accountability motivated each learner than just asking for a submission. Yes, one-on-ones took time, but I had a team who helped facilitate those 15-30 minute sessions.


Having a positive or encouraging attitude goes a long way than others. Learners still pick up on this and sometimes can feed into it or remain into it. It is most important to remember that your learner has many more things occurring in their lives which they cannot share. However, having a good attitude shift makes a huge difference for your participants.

Be Prepared

Virtual learning takes a new approach to preparedness. Questions, presentations, management, and many other areas. However, it is utmost to be prepared with any lesson opportunity. Learners are now used to this cadence and preparedness making them realize their time.

Build Connections

Just like any classroom, you have to build connections and common ground with your participants. The use of visuals shows the diversity in our world and builds conversations. Another example, ask a participant to be the “DJ.” Where they play a short playlist during your break or thinking times. When we discover someone’s personal interest, connections can be built. 



Facilitation puts learners at the forefront of learning. Instead of delivering the sole instruction, facilitation guides learners to discover learning. In this article, “Mirroring, paraphrasing, and tracking are three tools you can leverage to help you with active listening. Mirroring is when you repeat back the speaker’s words verbatim. It helps the speaker hear what they just said, shows neutrality, and can help establish trust. Remember, with mirroring you’re keeping your tone warm and accepting and you’re using the speaker’s words, not yours.”

Value Pauses

To encourage more discussions, I pose a question and inform them that anyone can speak up. If it becomes uncomfortable, I will say the question in another way and then turn my camera off. Being not visibly there informs the learners their speaking time is encouraged and was effective to push learners to talk without assuming they would receive my opinion.


It will be important to think of creative ways to encourage dialogue. Digitizing learning is still human-centered. Think about all of the ways that you engaged your learners before virtual learning. Thumbs-up, music, clapping, movement, and many more. You can still do these methods it will just be individualized. You can read more in this article from Edutopia.


When it comes to teaching and learning, nothing more is valued than face-to-face and in-person learning. However, we know that there are magnificent human beings who can still propel their children online.

When it comes to teaching and learning, nothing more is valued than the face-to-face and in person learning. However, we know that there are magnificent human beings who can still propel their children online.

If you would like to discuss more, please contact us on the About page.


These teachers summarize what it means to teach. All in all, we thank you educators for amplifying the knowledge and experiences of our youth.




Reading Pictures with Struggling Readers

Reading Pictures with Struggling Readers

Using images to build reading comprehension.


Images add more information to the vocabulary word because they refer to what the word actually is.

Teaching your child how to read is a marathon. You might be feeling overwhelmed at times or even at ease. Whatever the case, it is important to keep pushing and believing that your child will attain the skills to be a successful literate individual. Visuals brought an added feature to the conversation and uplifted stories when I was teaching. The use of imagery can be a critical asset when breaking down complex topics.

Ultimatly, we live in a visual world, and integrating visual literacy skills can assist your struggling reader to read. Think about all of the people who use visuals in their lives: Deaf or Hard of Hearing, painters, photographers, software developers, UI/UX professionals, and so many more. Images support these individuals everyday. So when you are transitioning from books with many images to a few, think about how you can continue utilizing images to make your reader blossom.

I am sharing information from this study ,Avgernou & Petterson (2011), Toward a Cohesive Theory of Visual Literacythey describe visually literacy as: Visual Perception, Visual Language, Visual Learning, Visual Thinking, and Visual Communication.


Images are produced from the artist’s perception. So a visual reader needs to learn how to describe, explain, and provide evidence for their thinking. The intent on teaching visual literacy is to use vocabulary, awareness about the image, and connections to the world around them.

Planning Theory into Practice

Start by being comfortable and using materials that interest your reader.

For example if your reader enjoys comic books then agree to read 1:1.

  • For every comic book, then the other book has to be an academic text. This way you can see how your child is applying their knowledge from their personal books.

With visual literacy it is key that your reader acquires this skill so that they can interpret visuals on other places. Visuals come from the artist’s perspective, their culture, and even intent. Remember to keep this in mind as well.

1. Visual Perception

Prior experiences and image context support visual perception.

  • Tell me what you think about____?
  • What does the caption on the text say to support this image?
  • What is the image (video or image) telling you?

2. Visual Language

Visual language is about explaining the meaning and having a clear understanding about what they see.

  • Explain what you understand about this image?
  • Detail the lines, colors, or graphics
  • How do the colors affect the images?

3. Visual Learning & Visual Communication connected

Visual Learning is where a reader is motivated to interact with images. They communicate with images.

  • How are the scenes and characters interacting?
  • How is the time period portraying????
  • How do the illustrations relate to the text?
  • What themes are being constructed as you read?
  • Can you show me???

4. Visual Thinking

Linked with visual thinking. Visual thinking includes more image specific vocabulary.

  • Do the images make you change your mind?
  • How are images framed?
  • What are the elements that make this image critical?
  • Vocabulary: foreground, background, contrasts, lighting, borders, size, scale?

You can find more in Reading the Visual: An Introduction to Teaching Multimodal Literacy (Language and Literacy Series) 







Teen Stories: Booklist Inspired by Jerri Craft’s Graphic Novel “New Kid”

Teen Stories: Booklist Inspired by Jerri Craft’s Graphic Novel “New Kid”

“New Kid” by Jerry Craft is a graphic novel that shares the drama and experiences of Seventh Grader Jordan Banks. Banks lives in a New York neighborhood. He lives amongst Black youth and enjoys his time with them. When it is time to get back to school, his parents surprise him into enrolling into a private school. This school is in a different neighborhood, and Jordan is even escorted by a wealthy classmate in their limo. As a Black teen, Banks had to adjust to the expectations of his school where his school had predominantly white students. 

He experienced bias, discrimination, and prejudice amongst his peers and teachers. Right away, he just did not fit in with students nor classmates. His teacher said that saying the word “Dawg” is not nice and that he is a human being. Whenever he challenged his teacher, she never saw his side. 

What Jordan realized was that this school required him to play in his first organized school sport. This experience gave him a new experience and insight about his school culture. Over time his attitudes remain the same and some change. This graphic novel visually shares the joys and constraints that this teen lives of living in two different worlds. 

1. New Kid, by Jerry Craft

Below are additional books where teens have to manage transitions, friendships, and self-discovery. 

2. blended, by Sharon M. Draper


3. Twins, by Varian Johnson
A Graphic Novel

4. The Usual Suspects, by Maurice Broaddus

5. Public School Superhero by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
A Graphic Novel

6. Genesis Begins Again, Alicia D. Williams

7. Ghetto Cowboy, by G_Neri
Illustrated by Jesse Joshua Watson

8. For Black Girls Like Me, by Mariama J. Lockington

9. Middle School, The WORST Years of My Life,
by James Patterson and Chris Tebbetts
A Graphic Novel

10. The Long Ride by Marina Budhos

How to Teach A 4th Grader to Read a Picture

How to Teach A 4th Grader to Read a Picture

A lesson on how to read a picture with a 4th grader. 

Reading images might be complicated, but using real world examples and discussions makes it easier to read images. 

A parent, N.J., provided a visual-literacy lesson with her daughter in December 2020. In her original social media post, she wrote:  “My daughter and I are studying Frida Kahlo as a well as imagery and symbolism (mainly using poetry.) One of her activities today will be to visit the Museo Frida Kahlo and survey some of her paintings via Google’s Arts and Culture link. “



You can find her lesson connected to the common core standard-enhance her daughter’s reading comprehension and visual literacy. This visual Common Core Standard indicates CCSS. ELA-Literacy.CCCRA.R7, “Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.”

Implementing a visual literacy standard indicates that you are viewing lines, colors, objects, patterns, animations, interactions, and more. The viewer is searching for cues to better understand what they are viewing.

Literacy Ideas states, “We can think of visual literacy as involving the similar processes of interpreting images and creating images. In a fast-moving world, with ever-increasing diagnosis of attention deficit disorders, we increasingly rely on images to quickly convey meaning.”

Reading images has a place for reading, comprehending, and understanding. When a young person reads a text with many pictures, you can use that time to-ask questions about the images, relate images to the real world, show examples, and build a conversation about what you see.


Below you can view more about N.J’s lesson at home.



We started reading a book about Friday. I asked opened ended type questions “What Do You Think?”


As we progressed, the book discussed the names of her paintings and the concept of surrealism. As an observation/art activity I printed one of work and asked, “What do you think she was feeling?” or “What makes you think…” “How does the color in the background make you feel that?” (Many of Kahlo’s paintings Hancock vibrant backgrounds.)

On a notecard, I asked her to write what she thinks each object represents. Later we discussed why.


We transitioned a bit into Shel Silverstein, Maya Angelou and Nikki Grimes. We focused on illustrations and poem titles to predict what the poem was discussing or how the author was trying to communicate the point of you.

I allowed her to visit a museum and eventually select a painting to observe.


N.J’s at home activities allowed her daughter to think about the words and images. As you are at home with your children, what is working well in your home?

Black History Facts about Civil Rights Leaders

Black History Facts about Civil Rights Leaders

As we look into celebrating Martin Luther King’s holiday, we should remember the individuals who fought alongside him to bring African Americans justice, equality, jobs, freedom, and so much more. Unknown organizers, freedom riders, activists, and marchers participated. Notably though, A. Philip Randolph, Bayard Rustin, Fannie Lou Hamer, and “Bob” Moses, are a select few of the individuals who were leaders in different ways during the Civil Rights era. The selfless efforts of these leaders and Martin Luther King,  earned African Americans freedom in the 1970s.

Learn more about each individual below.

1. Asa Philip Randolph (1889-1979)

Born in Crescent City, FL. Moved to NYC at 22 years old. 1915 Randolph started a political magazine called The Messenger which challenged labor policies, politics, black leadership, the war, and more. Randolph wanted to shift the narrative for laborers. So in 1925, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union for Black railroad car workers, formed. Randolph’s work did not come easy, he was arrested, saw lynchings, and was born 24 years after the Civil War Ended. He influenced President Roosevelt to pass an Executive Order banning discrimination. By 1963, worked with Bayard Rustin to serve as a director for the March on Washington.

A Philip Randolph, Labor Leader Here

Rising from the Rails: Pullman Porters and the Rising of the Black Middle Class

2. Bayard Rustin (1910-1987)

Born in West Chester, PA. As a young person wrote poetry, played sports, and even sit-ins. 1936, Rustin joined the Young Communist League, but left early on. Worked closely with A. Philip Randolph to march for jobs and freedom to the U.S. government. Rustin was sadly beaten by Tennessee police for refusing to get off of a bus in 1942. 1947 spent 22 days on CHAIN GANG, and published his experience. He was active to end racial injustice in India, South Africa, and even advised Martin Luther King. Rustin stood for gay rights because he identified as a gay man during his lifetime.

We Are One, The Story of Bayard 

Troublemaker for Justice


Leaders Like Us: Bayard Rustiin

3. Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)

Born in Mississippi. At six years old, Hamer worked in the cotton fields. Early on, her father was a successful land owner but angry white citizens poisoned the animals. 1962, Hamer and 17 others rented a bus to register to vote. Hamer’s group was denied to register and arrested. Hamer worked as a sharecropper as an adult, and because she tried to vote, she was fired. 1963, Hamer and SNCC started voter education training sessions. Group was arrested and Hamer had permanent kidney damage. 1964, Hamer formed Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party challenging delegation of all-white members. Hamer was a voice for the oppressed, and was unafraid to use it for change.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer

 Brave Black First: 50+ African American Women Who Changed the World

4. Robert Parris Moses (1935- )

Born in New York City and earned a master’s degree from Harvard in 1957. Was a high school math teacher for a short period of time. 1964, organized the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project recruiting northern college students to increase Black voter registration. Moses worked with Hamer on the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and attended the Democratic National Convention in 1964. Moses believed that local people must develop their own leadership rather than depend on civil rights leaders. Moses is co-author of the book Radical Equations-Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project. Moses started “The Algebra Project to improve the math skills of young people.

Books About Peace

Books About Peace

Our nation is in turmoil and we need to think about the wonderful things that we have. Below is a list of books that builds discussions on acceptance, acts of kindness, gratitude, togetherness, mindfulness, and overcoming challenges for peace. We have listed books for PreK-5th grade readers about Peace. 

Pre-K-2nd Grade

1. Can You Say Peace? By Karen Katz


A picture where you can see the lives of children living in India, Africa, America, and other parts of the world. You learn what the word peace sounds in different countries. You can have a rich discussion on what peace sounds like and looks like in different countries.

2. We Share One World, by Jane E. Hoffelt

Beautiful images demonstrating the environment and lifestyles of children living in different parts of the world. Images are illustrated  to find the beauty in everyone’s community. Book is written to demonstrate how we are all connected on the planet.

3. I Am Human, by Susan Verde
A Book of Empathy

A book of affirmations about a little boy. “I find joy in friendships.” “I am a Human.”

4. Peace is an Offering, by Annette LeBox

Sharing experiences on what peace looks like. Peace can be showing gratitude, caring for insects, words one uses, and even caring for others. Many people want peace, but the author and illustrator simplify those experiences showing that peace occurs through someone’s actions and experiences.

5. All Are Welcome Here, by Alexandra Penfold

Children at school are playing during recess, in the cafeteria, in their own classroom and other parts of their school. The pictures support the message detailing “All are welcome here.” Children are from different cultures, ethnicities, religions, and physical appearances. The message is clear that no matter who you are and where you are from, you are welcome.

6. The Seed of Compassion by 14th Dalai Lam

“There are many simple ways to bring more happiness to this world.” The 14th Dalai Lam shares how he was chosen into his role and the teachings that his mother taught him. This story is for children to apply lessons on their own lives. He teaches that you must protect and nurture your seed (mind).

3rd-5th Grade

7. Grandpa Stops A War, by Susan Robeson

Paul Robeson was an actor, athlete, singer, and activist, April 9, 1898 – January 23, 1976. He was a man who stood over 6 feet tall. Robeson was unafraid to speak against white supremacy. This story demonstrates Robeson’s ability to use his gifts to change the hearts and minds of people living in turmoil. During the Spanish Civil War, Robeson traveled to Spain and visited men on the battlegrounds. On the mike, he sang and soldiers stopped fighting to hear the sound of Robeson. Robeson lived during complicated times, and believed that artists had the responsibility to speak about injustices. He used his gifts to do that.

8. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker, by Robbie Robertson

A rich narrative about an American Indian named Hiawatha. He sought revenge because  an evil Chief desecrated his home and killed his family. One morning,  a spiritual man traveled across the land carried a message called “The Great Law.” He changed the heart of Hiawatha, and he agreed to journey alongside him. Hiawatha spoke this message for the Peacemaker connecting different Nations so that tribes could form peace. Each time they visited different tribes, others joined. Hiawatha proclaimed, “Together we paddled as [one] nation.” On their visit to the evil warriors tribe, Tadodaho, the Peacemaker sought healing over darkness. So he healed Tadodaho’s body, and Five Nations were formed.

9. A Bowl Full of Peace, by Caren Selson

Story based on a true experience where a Japanese family lived before their city of Nagasaki was bombed. Before the war, food was abundant, and families gathered around Grandmother’s bowl. When war struck, food was scarce but Grandmother’s bowl still offered food to warm the family’s heart. When Nagasaki was struck, millions perished. However members  of Sachiko’s family survived and used Grandmother’s bowl to eat ice chips. Unfortunately due to radiation, Sachiko’s family members died. However, the bowl now was used to remember what happened. Despite the hardship, Grandmother’s bowl is a reminder of the times of prosperity, famine, war, and reconciliation. Sachiko tells her story to restore peace.

10. Seeds of Change by Jen Cullerton Johnson

Wangari is taught to enjoy the delicious fruits in her Kenyan Village. Wangari is a part of the Kikuyu people. During Wangari’s childhood, many girls did not attend school. However, her parents gathered the money to enroll her. When it was time for Wangari to attend secondary school, she had to leave the village and attend school in the city. Her family told her to remember the mugumo tree and to protect it. Wangari loved science and studied photosynthesis. She ended up migrating to the states to further her studies. After graduation, Wangari went back to Kenya to do something for her village. Villagers laughed at her for empowering women to work and educate themselves. However, Wangari did not stop calling her work the “Green Belt Movement.” Wangari’s movement threatened a corporation so she was jailed. Luckily her supporters on the outside fought for her freedom. Wangari eventually became a minister of the environment and continued planting trees.

11. Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone

A book about young women across the world. These girls are speaking out, protesting, and fighting for the rights to give other girls an equitable future. The author and photographers documented their stories in person to show how they live. These girls have inspiring stories that are pushing to challenge the tremendous challenges in their communities. If any of these girls solve problems, peace and hope can impact our future.

Oral Reading Fluency

Oral Reading Fluency

Reading can be a joy for some and a chore for others, and that largely depends on a reader’s skill and ability. If you aren’t a strong reader, you might not enjoy reading as much as someone who has strong reading comprehension skills or who read a lot when they were younger. But the only way to build those skills is to practice, which is why building these skills during a child’s formative years (ages 0-8) is imperative for long term reading success. During these years, children undergo rapid cognitive, social, emotional and physical development, making it a prime time to learn the skills necessary to develop lifelong literacy skills. One of these necessary skills is oral reading fluency.

Oral reading fluency consists of three primary components/skills: accuracy, speed, and vocal expression. With those three components in mind, oral reading fluency is the ability to read connected text quickly, accurately, and with emotional expression. In doing so, there is no noticeable cognitive effort that is associated with decoding the words on the page. These skills lay the groundwork for reading comprehension, with readers who master oral reading fluency being much more likely to better comprehend the information offered to them from literature. 

In order to teach these skills, it is important that students understand the reasoning and process behind learning each piece of the pie. A great breakdown of these skills is explained in the blog post, “Teaching Oral Reading Fluency”, from the website “Teaching with a Mountain View”. The post breaks the process of oral reading fluency into five parts: accuracy, expression/prosody, punctuation, pace, and comprehension. 

Below is a breakdown of each skill and what success looks like in developing strong oral reading fluency:

  1. Reading accurately means that young readers are not eliminating or skipping over words when reading text, nor are they adding in words that are not included in the text they are reading. 
  2. Reading with appropriate expression requires students to inflect their voice at appropriate points when reading, without over exaggerating the content.
  3. A key follow up to reading with expression is paying attention to punctuation. Encouraging comprehension of punctuation teaches readers to understand the author’s intended interpretation of text by recognizing what the use of exclamation points, commas, italics, or bolded words mean.
  4. Proper pacing when reading means that students are not reading too fast, to the point where they are not comprehending the words on the page, but are reading at a pace equal to the flow of a natural conversation.
  5. The final building block of oral reading fluency is comprehension. This means that readers understand the text they are reading and are reading to learn, not just to check a task off a list or say they completed it.

In an article posted by The International Literacy Association, experts recommend that rather than encouraging students to read alone, silently, or to themselves, reading out loud or with groups helps to facilitate stronger oral reading fluency abilities. This can be listening to others read aloud, performing readings and books as plays to engage students, and making sure to acknowledge not only a student’s skills that need additional support, but also the skills they have mastered or shown growth in. This is why it is vital to read to children at a young age, by reading aloud and modeling strong reading fluency, children learn what accurate and proper reading looks and sounds like, helping them to do it themselves.       

To support the development of oral reading fluency in young readers, Pennez has developed a web application, Read2Think, which is intended to provide support as young readers work to build these skills. Read2Think is a web application that assesses a child’s oral reading skills. Stories are written for Kindegarten-Sixth Grade Readers. They are written on, above, and below. Read2Think utilizes Natural Language Processing software and is designed to be responsive, listening to the child, and adapting to their reading needs. Read2Think was created not only with the intent of providing evaluation of a child’s reading skills, but also to provide teachers and parents with a resource to better understand where a child is in their literacy education. Reading aloud, either with friends, teachers, family, or with Read2Think, empowers young readers to build their literacy skills to not only be able to understand the text in front of them, but to comprehend the meanings and intent behind those words as well.