Civil Rights Text Set/Reading Ladder


Civil Rights Text Set Ladder

Over the last few months, I have found myself reading some phenomenal texts concerning the Civil Rights movement. I began thinking about how beneficial these texts would be in a classroom setting to help students develop a deeper understanding of the time. The Civil Rights Movement is not just a part of history, it is relevant to current events and pertinent to our students’ lives. Today, I wanted to share with you these connections I’ve made, and I hope that together, we can foster conversations about this important time period.

I picture these texts being used in a couple of different ways.

  • They can be used for a text set for a Civil Rights unit in a social studies or English language arts classroom. This is more of an informal route.
  • They could be used as literature circle texts or in a jig saw (see Ricki’s post on engaging discussions last week for more info on jig saw). Each group might have a different text to read, discuss, and analyze. This would make for a great sharing environment.
  • Teachers might intentionally introduce the texts by the age level they are marketed toward. Read-alouds would provide opportunities for rich discussions about the ways that audience plays a role in complex themes and background knowledge of these texts.

I have organized this list kind of as a reading ladder. (If you don’t know what a reading ladder is, I recommend that you start by reading this book by Teri Lesesne and then visit her collaborative resource database to join in the love of ladders. She also shares slides about reading ladders here). Reading ladders are fantastic because they respond to student reading level needs. As they challenge themselves with increasingly complex texts, they remain on a ladder that uses a common theme, format, or genre to connect the books. This idea is much more complex and is detailed in her book. The ladder I’m sharing is connected with the Civil Rights theme, and based on my evaluation of the texts, I tried to generate a ladder for teachers to use. The ultimate goal of reading ladders is to help students move up texts independently and based on their interests, so some of my whole-classroom ideas above do not fit the goal of ladders.

Picture Books (for grades 3-12)

martin's big sit-in boycott blues SeparateisNever freedom summer seeds of freedom henry aaron

Middle Grade

watsons go to one crazy the lions of little rock brown girl revolution

Young Adult

silence of our friends call me x lieswetell

Click on the book title of any book to view one of our reviews or the Goodreads summary.

You can’t go wrong with these incredible texts, and I recommend all of them for both you and your students!

I know there are many other great books about this topic that I haven’t read. What other titles would you include in a Civil Rights Text Set/Reading Ladder? 


10 thoughts on “Civil Rights Text Set/Reading Ladder”

  1. I see some great titles up there. I love Tonatiuh’s book about Sylvia Mendez. X and Brown Girl Dreaming are also favorites. Boycott Blues and Sit-In are excellent for inspiring discussion too. Thanks for the list.

  2. What a comprehensive list. I am intrigued by the concept of a reading ladder and how a child’s interest in a topic can be used to nudge his abilities and his empathy/awareness at the same time. Great addition!


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