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Regardless of your political preferences or perspectives, it is undeniable that we are entering into a time of great economic distress. More and more of our students are going to be dealing with poverty, hunger, and housing insecurity. The financial difficulty often leads to additional stresses at home, including parents working multiple jobs and domestic abuse.


The thing about poverty is that it is not always readily apparent, and it usually brings with it a great deal of shame. 


Many families will be entering into a time of true need for the first time ever. They may be wearing the nice clothes they had before their parents lost their jobs, they may be picked up in a nice vehicle that they still own, and they may still have a fancy cell phone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to a secure home with a fully stocked kitchen.


As poverty increases, more of our students will be latch-key children with no one at home to care for them until late at night, much less reinforce their learning or make sure they do their homework. Many of them will now be babysitters, filling in for parents while they are at work.


For other students, this is nothing new. 


But now community resources are stretched even more thin than they have been previously.


While reading can serve as an escape, it can also be very discouraging to only see characters who are privileged in movies, TV shows, and books.


It can be incredibly comforting and liberating for students to read about young people who are experiencing similar struggles but manage to survive or even overcome. If it hits a little too close to home, consider teaching stories that take place in a different setting or in which a character dealing with poverty is just one of the many characters in the story.


Another benefit is exposing students who are privileged to the experiences of living in poverty. They may never have considered the shame and pain that they are causing by talking about their most recent grand vacation, showing off new clothes, or bragging about birthday and Christmas presents. 


Not to mention snide comments about off-brand shoes, generic lunches, or stained and holey clothing.


If nothing else, add some of these titles to your classroom.


As with all content, you should make sure that you have properly vetted, studied, and received approval for any piece before teaching it or even adding it to your classroom library.


Please add your favorite titles in the comments!

Children’s Books

A Different Pond, Bao Phi


Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, Susan Hood


Coat of Many Colors, Dolly Parton


If the Shoe Fits, Gary Soto


Maddi’s Fridge, Lois Brandt


Malaika’s Costume, Nadia Hohn


Still a Family: A Story about Homelessness, Brenda Reeves Sturgis


The Can Man, Laura Williams


The Hard-Times Jar, Ethel Footman Smothers


The Magic Beads, Susin Nielsen-Fernlund


Those Shoes, Maribeth Boelts


Yard Sale, Eve Bunting

Chapter Books

Crenshaw, Katherine Applegate


Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan


Front Desk, Kelly Yang


Hold Fast, Blue Balliett


How to Steal a Dog, Barbara O’Connor


Just Under the Clouds, Melissa Sarno


Okay for Now, Gary Schmidt


Out of the Dust, Karen Hesse


Paper Things, Jennifer Richard Jacobson


Seedfolks, Paul Fleischman


The Bridge Home, Padma Venkatraman


The Hundred Dresses, Eleanor Estes


The Same Stuff as Stars, Katherine Paterson


Towers Falling, Jewell Parker Rhodes


Trash, Andy Mulligan

Junior High

Discovering Wes Moore, Wes Moore


Free Lunch, Rex Ogle


Genesis Begins Again, Alicia D. Williams


Homecoming (series), Cynthia Voigt 


Lizzie Flying Solo, Nanci Turner Steveson


No Fixed Address, Susin Nielsen


No and Me, Delphine De Vigan


Sorta Like a Rock Star, Matthew Quick


Stand Up, Yumi Chung!, Jessica Kim


The Benefits of Being an Octopus, Ann Braden


Tyrell, Coe Booth

High School

1984, George Orwell


A Love Hate Thing, Whitney Grandison


Educated: A Memoir, Tara Westover


Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J. D. Vance


Hired: Six Months Undercover in Low-Wage Britain, James Bloodworth


How to Build a Heart, Maria Padian


Inventing Victoria, Tonya Bolden


Jackpot, Nic Stone


On the Come Up, Angie Thomas


Ordinary Girls, Blair Thornburgh


Pemmican Wars: A Girl Called Echo (graphic novel series), Katherena Vermette


Roam, C. H. Armstrong


Surviving the City (graphic novel series), Tasha Spillet 


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie


The Other Wes Moore: One Man, Two Fates, Wes Moore


This Place: 150 Years Retold (graphic novel), Kateri Aklwenzie-Damm & 20 others


Tightrope: Americans Reaching for Hope, Nicholas Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn


When My Heart Joins the Thousand, A. J. Steiger


Where the Heart Is, Jo Knowles


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