Just Read!

Florida reading initiative recommends book list in observance of Black History Month

Published: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 2:31 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, February 20, 2013 at 2:31 p.m.

Parents and the state of Florida share one universal goal: They want children to become avid readers and lifetime learners.

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The list of books recommended by Just Read, Florida! for students in elementary grades is varied. A majority of the books are available at the Alachua County Library District.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian



Pre K-3rd grade
— “I Dream of Trains,” by Angela Johnson.
— “The Moon Over Star,” by Dianna Hutts.
— “Let It Shine,” by Ashley Bryan.
— “Before John Was a Jazz Giant,” by Carole Boston.
— “I’ve Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” Walter Dean Myers.
— “Papa’s Mark,” by Gwendolyn Lavert.
— “In the Land of Words: New and Selected Poems,” by Jan Spivey Gilchrist.
— “Almost to Freedom,” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson.
4th-5th grade
— “Romare Bearden: Collage of Memories,” by Jan Greenberg.
— “Against All Odds: Artist Dean Mitchell’s Story,” by Betty R. James.
— “Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman,” by Nikki Grimes.
— “Only Passing Through: The Story of Sojouner Truth,” by Anne Rockwell.
— “I Have Heard of a Land,” by Joyce Carol Thomas.
— “Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra,” by Andrea Davis Pinkney.
— “The Hunterman and the Crocodile,” by Diakit, Baba Wagu.
6th-8th grade
— “The Legend of Buddy Bush,” by Sheila P. Moses.
— “Days of Tears: A Novel in Dialogue,” by Julius Lester.
— “Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl,” by Tonya Bolden.
— “Dark Sons, by Nikki Grimes.
— “The Road to Paris,” by Nikki Grimes.
— “Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story,” by Ben Carson.
— “Days of Jubilee: The End of Slavery in the United States,” by Patricia C. and Frederick L. McKissack.
— “Locomotion,” by Jacqueline Woodson.
9th-12th grade
— “Copper Sun,” by Sharon Draper.
— “The Magnificent Twelve: Florida’s Black Junior Colleges,” by Walter L. Smith.
— “Fortune’s Bones: The Manumission Requiem,” by Marilyn Nelson.Carver: A Life in Poems, by Nelson, Marilyn
— “Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary,” by Walter Dean Myers.
— “Mississippi Challenge,” by Mildred Pitts Walter.
— “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Freedom Movement,” by Lillie Patters.
“We Beat the Street: How a Friendship Led to Success,” by Sampson Davis, George Jenkins, Rameck Hunt, and Sharon Draper.

So to navigate good reads suitable for all children, the Florida Department of Education Just Read, Florida! is observing Black History Month with a recommended reading list of books by African-American authors on or about African-American history and culture.

Just Read, Florida! is a comprehensive reading initiative established in 2001 by Gov. Jeb Bush.

The 2013 recommended reading list includes nearly 200 books, grouped by grade, including Pre-K to third grade, fourth- to fifth-grade, middle school and high school. The book list is available at http://www.justreadflorida.com/BHM.asp.

"We work with teachers and parents to promote literacy," said Lauren Lee, reading specialist with Just Read. She said the book list includes, but it's not limited to, award-winning books, autobiographies, biographies, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, music and other books, such as read-aloud books, alphabet books and picture books.

"We want to appeal to a wide audience," Lee said.

Cheryl Etters, press secretary of the Office of Communication and Public Affairs at the Florida Department of Education, said the 2013 Black History Month Recommended Reading list has been evaluated by the African American History Task Force, which is composed of African-American educators and history experts and serves as an advocate for raising awareness and implementing the teaching of African American history, culture and contributions.

Etters said task force members are appointed by the Commissioner of Education, but the task force is not part of the Department of Education.

"Reading opens a lot of doors," said Etters. "We want our children to have choices. If they don't read well, their opportunities are narrowed."

Nickie Kortus, spokesperson for the Alachua County Library District, said at the headquarters library, patrons will find Black History Month book displays in the children's and teen areas.

She said books on the reading list may be available in the children's and teen areas in district libraries, especially at library headquarters, Cone Park Branch Library, Library Partnership and Tower Road Branch Library.

Lee, the Just Read reading specialist, shared tips for encouraging children to read.

"The most beneficial is for parents to spend time reading with their children," said Lee, "and engaging the children in discussion."

She recommended pausing to ask questions. She said children like favorite books read over and over, which is good, because the repetition helps them to learn vocabulary. She said reading just 20 minutes a day is enough to improve reading ability and to help improve school performance.

"Reading is a good time for parents and children to bond," Lee said. "Make the experience enjoyable."

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