Read Across America: Read with intent

This post is authored by Gloria Pereyra-Robertson, a bilingual kindergarten teacher from Medford, Oregon, who sees the real benefits of books that represent an array of experiences and cultures every day in her classroom.  

As a child, I did not have the opportunity to have access to diverse books. Everything I was required to read and what I had access to did not reflect my ethnicity, culture, language, traditions, or heritage. Bottom line, I had difficulties understanding and relating to what I was reading because I couldn’t relate to anything. Why? Because it wasn’t a reflection of myself and my life experiences. This had a huge impact on my life as I tried to assimilate to societal expectations in order to fit in at the cost of suppressing the realities of my heritage.

As an adult and educator, I have realized that the realities of my life experiences reflect the lives of many of the students I teach today. This is why it is important for me to teach with intent and provide my students with opportunities that I didn’t have as a child. I give them access to a world where they can learn more about their own culture, traditions, and ethnicity through diverse books.

Diverse stories also give my students the opportunity to learn about people whose lives are different than their own. As children recognize themselves and others in books, this helps them build and develop new understanding and relationships with people like and unlike themselves. When this happens, mindsets change and empathy, equity, and inclusion begin to grow and flourish.

As an educator, I’ve seen how meaningful it is when a child connects with a book. Yet I know it is often challenging to find great diverse books to share. I spend a lot of time looking for titles that help all my students feel valued and welcome. NEA’s newly rebranded Read Across America highlights diverse authors and books to help educators, parents, and students find great stories to read together and celebrate our nation of diverse readers.

Like NEA, I encourage educators and parents to fill their bookshelves with authentic, diverse books that allow children to explore the world and see themselves and their peers in stories,  empowering them to engage with the world in an authentic way in order to become the global citizens of tomorrow. Read Across America is not just a day to celebrate reading. It’s a way of thinking, reading, and sharing diverse books that create windows and mirrors for all children throughout the year.

Fit reading diverse books into your calendar daily, weekly, or monthly and include big celebrations of reading on March 2 (Read Across America Day) and throughout National Reading Month in March. To get you started on your own Read Across America celebration, here are some of the diverse books I’ll be reading with my students:


I’ve seen how these books ignite and engage readers who are discovering for the first time the way people unlike themselves bring a different experience and beauty to the world. When any child, no matter what their ethnicity, language or lifestyle can say: This story is just like mine; like my family’s; like how I live, it provides educators and parents the opportunity to discuss similarities and differences between all peoples in order to create a window for others to see, learn from, and understand their peers.


This post is authored by Gloria Pereyra-Robertson, a bilingual kindergarten teacher from Washington Elementary School in the Medford School District 549C, Oregon’s 2017 State Teacher of the Year, a recipient of the 2019 National Life Group’s Life Changer of the Year Award, and the recipient of a 2018 NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. Gloria is a passionate advocate for all students who continuously works to ensure students receive instruction that is rigorous and culturally rich. Follow her on Twitter @GloriaOTOY17 to see how she uses diverse books in her kindergarten classroom and visit NEA’s Read Across America for book recommendations for older readers.