An essential part of the WITS mission is to help students build at-home libraries and foster a love of reading outside of the classroom. Through the WITS Summer Books initiative, students in our mentorship programs receive four brand-new, culturally diverse books that reflect the lived experiences of our students and provide windows into the lives of others. Below are some of the titles that we’re excited to share in our WITS Summer Books bags this year.
Third Grade Books
Jo Jo Makoons: The Used-to-Be Best Friend by Dawn Quigley, illustrated by Tara Audibert, is the delightful story of Jo Jo, a bold and charismatic seven-year-old who lives on a fictional Ojibwe reservation. Jo Jo’s “home best friend” is her cat, Mimi, but Jo Jo worries she needs more pals at school. This chapter book explores themes of friendship and identity while subtly educating readers about Ojibwe culture.
Young STEM fans will love the Miles Lewis: Whiz Kid series, written by Kelly Starling and illustrated by Wayne Spencer. Miles sees himself as a future scientist and he’s finally able to participate in a regional science competition with his classmates. Will he be able to overcome his self-doubt, collaborate with his team, and emerge as the science whiz he hopes to be?
Narwhal: Unicorn of the Sea is a charming early graphic novel series by Ben Clanton that will make readers smile. Follow the loveable Narwhal and Jellyfish duo as they learn about the benefits of community and friendship on their silly under-the-sea adventures.
Many young readers in WITS mentorship programs are enthusiastic about non-fiction. North Pole / South Pole: Explore the Extreme Environment of the Arctic/Antarctic by Michael Bright with illustrations by Nic Jones, is a flip book that showcases the animals and the geography of these regions, as well as how global warming impacts these extreme climates. Teacher Program Director Daphne Robinson shares ways to encourage children to read non-fiction here.
Books For Fourth Graders & Up
Stargazing, a graphic novel by award-winning author Jen Wang, will elicit both laughter and tears from readers. The book follows Christine and Moon, best friends with vastly different personalities and upbringings, as they grow up in the same Chinese-American community. Will they be able to get past their differences and be there for each other when Moon is admitted to the hospital?
WITS students love biographies that honor the lives of real people. This year, we’ve included Nuestra América: 30 Inspiring Latinas/Latinos Who Have Shaped the United States, by Sabrina Vourvoulias with illustrations by Gloria Félix. This colorful book profiles Latina and Latino educators, laborers, artists, scientists, entrepreneurs, community activists, and entertainers who have made impactful contributions to society.
When Stars Are Scattered, a graphic novel by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed details the lives of Omar and his younger brother Hassan as they grow up in a refugee camp in Kenya. Based on the true story of co-author Omar Mohamed’s experiences as a Somali refugee, this is a stirring and hopeful portrait of the obstacles that displaced individuals face, and the importance of community and education in working to overcome those obstacles.
If you’ve ever felt uncomfortable facing your fears, you’ll identify with Bree, the protagonist of Swim Team, a graphic novel by Johnny Christmas. Bree is looking forward to her first day at a new middle school, but when she realizes she has to take a swimming course, anxiety sets in. Will she be able to overcome her fears and try something new? This powerful novel thoughtfully explores themes of belonging, ability, and racial justice.
Help WITS Promote Book Ownership
Book ownership has been proven to boost literacy rates, reading enjoyment, and educational outcomes across the board. By contributing to WITS Summer Books, you help WITS provide curated sets of brand-new, culturally relevant books to students in order to expand their at-home libraries and cultivate a love of reading.
Additional books included in the book bags are Who is Ketani Brown Jackson? by Sheila P. Moses, The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez by Adrianna Cuevas, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander, and CatStronauts: Mission Moon by Drew Brockington.