There's been a lot of debate in recent years over what books should be included in students' English curricula, but I think we can all agree that there are some books schools need to teach their students. Reading fiction increases empathy, an all-too-rare quality these days. At a time when hate crimes have reached a five-year high, reading diverse books has become more important than ever.
If we can educate our way to a stronger, more considerate populace, its through our language arts programs in the public school system. Many of the 21 books on the list below are already part of school reading lists, but others speak to important social and political issues currently left untouched in U.S. classrooms. Stories of immigrants, LGBTQIAP+ individuals, Muslim and Jewish communities, and people are disabilities are sorely lacking in the school canon. Often, the so-called diverse fiction on school reading lists is told from a white, male, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied, and/or Christian perspective, as is the case with books like To Kill a Mockingbird and Wuthering Heights.
Don't get me wrong, the books in the canon are there for a reason. But many of the books that aren't included on many high school reading lists have been excluded for reasons like sexism, racism, and homophobia. If we want to eliminate those prejudices in schools — and we do — we have to actively combat the biases that reinforced bigotry through publishing.
Check out the 21 books schools need to teach their students below, and share your juvenile must-reads with me on Twitter!