Diverse Back to School Books for ELLs

Diverse Back to School Books for ELLs

The beginning of the school year is a great time to read books about starting at a new school, culture, respect, names, and identity. Books with a diverse range of characters allow students to see their own and other cultures represented. It is especially important for ELLs to read and listen to books where they see characters similar to themselves represented.

Here are some great books to use a read aloud at the beginning of the school year. Many of them would make great writing prompts as well.

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Our Class Is a Family Students discover that their teacher and classmates can be like their family. This book is full of diverse characters, shows examples of ways that students can help each other, and take risks when they are at school.

The Magical Yet– This rhyming book has an uplifting message that if a new skill is difficult to keep trying and the power of yet will help you achieve it. It would make a good introduction to a lesson where students think about what they are not yet able to do but are working towards.

I Promise– In this book by Lebron James, children tell promises that they have made to have a successful year. This book would make a good introduction to a lesson on goal setting.


Your Name is a Song– This book tells the story of a young girl that is upset after her teacher and classmates are unable to pronounce her name. Her mother tells her that “your name is a song” and helps her to see how names are unique and special. 

Read about additional books that show the importance of student names.

All Are Welcome– This book describes a classroom and how children work and play. After each description, it gives the refrain “All are welcome here.” The illustrations show kids from diverse backgrounds.

The Big Umbrella– This simple book describes a big umbrella that everyone can fit under no matter their size or how they look. It has diverse characters and simple language.

The Day You Begin– This book is written as a letter giving advice. It describes situations where children feel different and it encourages them to stand proud. It describes feeling different due to language, physical features, or something that you do.

I’m New Here & Someone New– Both books tell the story of kids that are new to the Unite States from the perspective of the new students and from the perspective of the classmates. The books offer “mirrors and windows” into the newcomer experience.


Mariama: Different But Just the Same– In this book follow a girl as she moves from a country in Africa to the United States. She finds everything different and strange. Over time she learns that there are many similarities between the people living in her new country and makes new friends.

Dear Primo– In this book two cousins exchange letters throughout the year. One lives in Mexico and the other in the United States. They both describe their everyday life. Throughout the book are Spanish words. The illustrator labels the pictures with many of the new words.

Yes! We Are Latinos: Poems and Prose About the Latino Experience– This book is a collection of free-verse poems telling the stories of 13 young Latinos. Each speaker starts out telling the same information: My name is___, I am___, I live in___, I am___.  They go on to share information about their life and culture. After each poem is a section that gives more information about the speakers country of origin.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina– In this book, a girl learns to celebrate her uniqueness due to the kindness of a teacher. A Peruvian-Scottish-American girl enjoys the not matching. One day she is persuaded by classmates to try and fit in. In the end, she learns to continue celebrating her differences.

Looking Like Me– In this book, an African American boy uses rhyme and rap to tell about all the different people he is. He introduces each person with I am___ and ends with BAM.

10 Diverse Back to School Books for ELLs

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