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Teachers’ Choice: The Most Popular Books for Every Grade

Check out these top requested books from each grade level!


This post was published in February 2020 and was updated in February 2023.

March is National Book Month, so what better time to uncover our teachers’ favorite books? Check out these five most requested books from each grade level, and learn why you should bring them into your home or classroom.

Grade PreK-2

Mrs. Norris’s goal is to give her students a book that “embodies the sense of love and unity we have in our classrooms, while also having beautiful and engaging artwork to inspire students." In her book Our Class is a Family, Shannon Olsen reminds students that classrooms are places where it’s safe to be yourself, okay to make mistakes, and be a friend to others. The top books on this list remind us all that kindness, self-esteem, and identity are at the heart of learning.

Our Class is a Family by Shannon Olsen
The Name Jar
by Yangsook Choi
I Am Enough
by Grace Byers
The Magical Yet
by Angela DiTerlizzi
The Smart Cookie
by Jory John

Grades 3-5

Mrs. Turner chose Wonder for her 25 students to practice creative and critical thinking. Wonder is a warm, uplifting story that stirs different emotions and teaches students about life, discovery, perseverance, and respect. “I picked this book for our book study because not only can we use it for reading strategies, but also for lifelong lessons.”

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
The Name Jar
by Yangsook Choi
The Baby-sitters Club Graphic Novels
by Ann M. Martin, adapted by Gale Galligan and Raina Telgemeier
Dog Man: The Supa Epic Collection
by Dav Pilkey
The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate

Grades 6-8

A Newbery award-winning graphic novel, New Kid drops students into a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real. Ms. Dempsey loves it because “the realism effortlessly pivots readers and teachers into unexpected and profound topics of conversation. The story may be heartbreakingly accurate as it explores topics such as class, race, microaggressions, and self-identity.

New Kid by Jerry Craft
Brown Girl Dreaming
by Jacqueline Woodson
by R.J. Palacio
The Stars Beneath Our Feet
by David Barclay Moore
Ghost Boys
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Grades 9-12

The Hate U Give has been one of the most requested books on our site for several years. Teachers like Mr. Perkins uses this book to empower their students to discuss shared experiences and envision social change.“ This novel has so many key pieces that they struggle with each day. My hope is to not only find something they can relate with but to allow them to feel comfortable and empowered to share those struggles to empower each other.”

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
by Erika L. Sánchez
Dear Martin
by Nic Stone
They Called Us Enemy
by George Takei

Teachers, today is the perfect day to get these books on your shelves! Create a project and bring these popular stories to your students.

If you want to help teachers put these books in students' hands, support a book project today!

Books as Windows, Books as Mirrors: 6 Lists for Inclusive Reading

Books can take us to new worlds (windows) or affirm our own identities (mirrors). Explore our collection of inclusive reading lists that will bring both to your bookshelves today.

“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you until the day you begin to share your stories. And all at once … the world opens itself up a little wider to make some space for you.” —From The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

When we say books are magic, it’s not just a phrase to throw around. Books have the power to act as windows,  allowing us to see into worlds beyond our own — while just as easily mirroring our experience and reflecting and affirming our identities. DonorsChoose teachers know how essential this level of representation is to every classroom and student, not just for special months but all year-round. 

We pulled together a collection of our best reading lists made for diversifying your bookshelves, featuring stories by and about women and Black, Latino, LGBTQIA+, AAPI, Native American people —and beyond. They’re divided up by grade level for easy shopping. Enjoy!

19 Must-Have Books by Black Authors For Your Class Library

Explore this list: 19 Must-Have Books by Black Authors For Your Class Library

These are stories of Black joy, love, and life for all readers. Explore belonging with young readers in the lyrical The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, or dive into a haunting graphic novel in verse in Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel by Jason Reynolds. Or read the powerful American memoir written to the author’s teenage son in the bestseller Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. 

12 Must-Read Books That Celebrate Hispanic and Latino Voices

Explore this list: 12 Must-Read Books That Celebrate Hispanic and Latino Voices

You can join Alma on an adventure of learning about her name and her family history in Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal, read the story of a pre-teen boy whose family is separated by U.S. immigration policies in the deeply honest Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros. Or you can learn the history of four women fighting for freedom under Trujillo’s dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez. 

9 Must-Read Books That Celebrate the LGBTQIA+ Community

Explore this list: 9 Must-Read Books That Celebrate the LGBTQIA+ Community

Fill your shelves with Pride year-round. You can ride the subway with Julián and his Abuela on a story of self-discovery and acceptance in Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love, read the coming-of-age story of a girl finding herself in the wake of a tornado in Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake, and join the sisters Camino and Yahaira Rios in the novel-in-verse about grief, loss, and love, Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo. 

Must-Read Asian American and Pacific Islander Books

Explore this list: Must-Read Asian American and Pacific Islander Books 

In this list, you’ll discover a lyrical story showcasing the lives of Muslim American women in Under My Hijab by Hena Khan, the moving family saga unfolding during the Japanese occupation of Korea in Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and the Pulitzer-Prize winning tale of an American educated Franco-Vietnamese communist spy in The Sympathizer, a novel by Viet Thanh Nguyen. 

15 Books by Women Authors to Celebrate Women in History

Explore this list: 15 Books by Women Authors to Celebrate Women in History 

Readers of all genders can find a story to appreciate in these selections. Dig into world history with the beautifully-illustrated Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison, read the story of a young girl who must leave her home in Syria to the U.S. in Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga, or travel back to 1937 during the Harlem Renaissance in the American classic Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. 

Native American Reads For Your Bookshelf

Explore this list: Native American Book List

Choose from 9 titles featuring a breadth of stories centering Native peoples’ voices and culture. Go on a journey of adoption and family identity in I Can Make this Promise by Christine Day, learn more about the history of boarding schools in Two Roads by Joseph Bruchac, or read the multi-generational tale all leading up to a California Powwow in There, There by Tommy Orange. 


Teachers know the classroom should be a space where all students can find their mirrors and their windows. Through diversifying our reading with books like those on our lists above, we can all gain a more complete, more honest picture of the world. And that is pure magic. 

Want to see what books public school teachers are currently requesting? Find them here on DonorsChoose.

How The Allstate Foundation Supported Racial Equity in Education

The Allstate Foundation supported more than 4,500 classrooms through their Racial Equity Match Offer.


Over the past three years, the Corporate Social Responsibility sector has blossomed with support for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives — with racial equity campaigns front and center. Thanks to our 23 year history funding teachers’ resource requests and focus on racial equity, DonorsChoose is uniquely positioned to help companies who want to build inclusive, representative classroom environments where teachers and students of color alike can thrive.

The Challenge: Launch The Allstate Foundation’s new racial equity giving pillar through an impactful national campaign

Through the development of their Advance Racial Equity focus, The Allstate Foundation (TAF) sought nonprofit partners who could close the racial opportunity gap for careers with thriving wages. Connecting this area with their existing philanthropic portfolio around Empowering Youth, TAF recognized that combatting the current racial inequities in education is foundational to closing those opportunity gaps later in life.

Inspired by our previous collaboration supporting teachers’ social and emotional learning requests on DonorsChoose, TAF challenged us to build a $1.5 million national campaign that would support teachers of color and help classrooms access diverse and inclusive learning resources.

Our Approach: Two-pronged support to first-time teachers of color and racial justice & representation resources

In addition to tapping into our teacher demographic capabilities, we developed an entirely new subject category to help The Allstate Foundation and other donors support learning resources related to racial equity easily and at scale.

Funding Teachers of Color

Starting in 2019, we invited teachers to optionally share with us demographic information, including their race, gender, and the year they began teaching. Since then, more than a quarter million teachers have shared their information, and nearly 75,000 of them are teachers of color, creating one of the largest databases of teachers of color in the country.

Using this information, we were able to target a portion of TAF’s grant to match individual donations made to projects from first-time teachers of color. In doing so, TAF was able to directly improve the classroom conditions for these teachers of color, while introducing them to our platform for accessing additional classroom resources.

Funding Racial Justice & Representation Resources

When TAF first approached us about supporting projects that bring racially diverse and inclusive learning materials into the classroom, we didn’t have a way to target funding to those projects at scale. Knowing that this desire to support these projects would only grow and was deeply aligned with our equity focus, our team launched a new Racial Justice & Representation project category that teachers can select when creating their projects. 

With this new project category, we’ve been able to match donations to racial justice & representation projects with the same accuracy and speed as we can support Math projects. 


In fall 2021, we launched The Allstate Foundation Equity Match Offer, doubling $1.5 million in donations to project requests from teachers of color who’d never before received funding, and teachers of any background requesting projects in the new Racial Justice & Representation project category. In addition to creating this impact on classrooms, this campaign received an honorable mention in PR Daily’s 2022 CSR & Diversity Awards.

Key Impact:

  • $3 million total impact ($1.5 million from TAF and $1.5 million from donors)
  • 15,000 donors inspired
  • 6,637 total projects funded
  • 4,567 first time teachers of color funding

“Thank you so much for your contributions. My students love the space for their multicultural library. This year, I am teaching 2 groups of ENL students, a group of 5th graders, and a group of 2nd graders. They both love the multicultural library space and use this space to engage with peers on topics like diversity, inclusion and justice. THANK YOU!”

—Ms. Shaw, Grades 3–5, Syracuse, NY, Building a Multicultural Library with Flex Seating

About The Allstate Foundation

Since 1952, The Allstate Foundation has led national programs, partnered with national organizations and offered grants to local nonprofits to create innovative, long-term solutions for those in need. The Allstate Foundation strives to give people the power to achieve their aspirations by empowering youth to be the next generation of leaders, disrupting the cycle of relationship abuse, advancing racial equity and strengthening nonprofit leadership skills.

About DonorsChoose

DonorsChoose is the leading way to give to public schools. Since 2000, more than 5 million people and partners have contributed $1 billion to support 2 million teacher requests for classroom resources and experiences. As the most trusted crowdfunding platform for teachers, donors, and district administrators alike, DonorsChoose vets each request, ships the funded resources directly to the classroom, and provides thank yous and reporting to donors and school leaders.

9 Classics that Kids Still Love to Read

We looked at our top requested books and compiled a list of "classics" that still make students smile.


What was the first book that changed how you see the world? Of the millions of books requested by teachers on DonorsChoose over the last twenty years, these nine stand out for their impact on countless childhoods. And when teachers use them in the classroom, kids are still thrilled.

To create this list, we looked at the books that teachers have requested for their students most frequently and got the teacher skinny on what they consider “classics”.

1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

It’s no coincidence that when you search for “books about friendship” on Google, Charlotte’s Web is the first result. The bond between Charlotte and Wilbur taught a lot of us about compassion, empathy, and selflessness. White writes for children without talking down to them, treating young kids as individuals capable of understanding deep emotional moments.

“[It’s] been amazing to see how excited they get about the story! I am sure we all got the chance to read this classic story about kindness and friendship and I am so excited to share this with my students for years to come!” - Ms. Burel, 2nd Grade, on Charlotte’s Web

2. Holes by Louis Sachar

The curse on Stanley Yelnats is only slightly less powerful than the hold Sachar’s book has had on readers for more than 20 years. At boys’ detention center Camp Green Lake, there’s only one goal: dig holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. With more questions than answers, Stanley and his fellow wards look to dig up the truth and change their own fates.

3. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Through the eyes of 10-year-old Annemarie, we experience the rescue of Danish Jews during World War II. This suspenseful, deeply human account is still must-read in classrooms across the country (along with Lowry’s other modern classic, The Giver). Lowry is the thoughtful, skilled writer you remember, but make no mistake — both books are riveting, unabashed page-turners.

4. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume

Few books have inspired more laugh-out-loud fun than this classic, beloved by grade-schoolers everywhere. The tale of Peter’s relationship with his brother, Fudge, helped countless of reluctant older siblings come to terms with the idea that the little monsters monopolizing our parent’s attention would not, in fact, be returning to the hospital but would instead be a constant presence of the rest of our lives.

5. A Wrinkle in Time by Madelene L’Engle

If all the books on this list have one thing in common, it’s that their writers understand that the best children’s literature can handle adult topics. Madelene L’Engle certainly doesn’t shy away from big themes and ideas: A Wrinkle in Time is about nothing less than a cosmic battle between good and evil. She takes a stand for individuality over conformity and thinking over mindlessness. Most of all, she tells every reader: “Be yourself.” A timeless message indeed.

6. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is a classic coming-of-age novel. Narrator Esperanza Cordero grabs you by the hand and wades with you through the waters of her life. Each vignette is an invitation to explore the rich cultural and historic contexts that shape our lives and, at times, collide with our desire to be known and seen as our truest, most authentic selves. It’s no coincidence that Esperanza means hope; this luminous swirl of autobiography and fiction leaves every reader with plenty.

7. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen

Brian Robeson survived a plane crash – with nothing but a hatchet and a windbreaker with which to face an unwelcoming wilderness. Such begins an epic tale of survival, family, and discovery that has given decades of young readers a taste for adventure and gratitude for home.

8. Frindle by Andrew Clements

What happens when a kid invents a new word, his classmates love it, and his teacher hates it? Meet Nick Allen, mastermind behind ‘frindle’ whose curiosity and well-meaning experiment with words takes on wildly unexpected consequences. Clements creates a one-of-a-kind student-teacher dynamic with a twist ending that will forever bind clever, uncontainable students and the teachers who stand by them.

9. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

An unforgettable read, Roll of Thunder follows the Logan family as they navigate Depression-era Mississippi. Taylor manages to fill the pages with laughter, grade-school high-jinks, and the comfort of a close-knit family without undermining the racism and turbulent national history that permeate the lives of her characters. Now more than ever, we need this big-hearted book.

Of course, we know this list is far from comprehensive — and we want to hear from you! What was your favorite as a kid? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

Help give the next generation of kids access to life-changing books! Support a classroom book project today.

Panda Cares Supported their Employees’ Communities through DonorsChoose Hyperlocal Giving

More than 25,000 classroom projects funded near Panda Express locations


For the growing number of companies with workforces spread across the country, supporting employees’ hometowns isn’t as simple as writing a check to that one local charity. When Panda Cares, the philanthropic branch of Panda Express, wanted to support schools surrounding its 2,200+ Panda Express locations, they knew they needed a nonprofit that had a national reach and the ability to target donations to the communities they care about.

Teachers at 86% of all US public schools have used DonorsChoose to request learning resources for their classrooms, and at any given moment, there are 50,000–100,000 resource requests seeking funding on our site. Through our platform, donors give any amount to the resource requests that inspire them, and we’ve designed mechanisms specifically for partners who want to target their classroom support to select hyperlocal geographies.

The Challenge: Engage Panda Associates by supporting the schools around each of Panda Express’s 2,200+ locations

Year-round at every Panda Express location, you’ll find Panda associates fundraising for Panda Cares, the philanthropic arm of Panda Restaurant Group. Panda Cares uses those funds raised at point of sale to serve Panda Express communities by supporting organizations that benefit the health and education of youth in the community as disaster relief support. Panda Cares empowers employees to give back, inspiring morale and pride.

Panda Cares wanted to deepen and personalize their associates’ engagement in Panda philanthropy by funding local public school classrooms across the country — our reach combined with our ability to support schools by zip code made us a natural fit.

“Panda and DonorsChoose is a win-win partnership where in-store donations made by our guests and associates are poured back into their communities nationwide,” said Winnie Chan, Director of Panda Cares Foundation. 

Over our three years of partnership with Panda Cares, their team has inspired us to further hone our hyperlocal funding mechanics so Panda associates know that the funds they raised at their location are going right back into their neighborhood schools.

Our Approach: We worked closely with the Panda Cares team to develop iterative campaign models to target funding with more nuance

Year by year, we honed our approach for local funding based on what we’d learned in the previous year, and our growing capacity for supporting hyperlocal giving. For all campaigns, qualifying projects were from schools where most students are from low-income households to ensure the funding would make the biggest impact.

Year 1: Zip code funding

We started off with our bread and butter of local giving — funding teacher requests based on the zip code of their school. All resource requests from schools within 10 miles of Panda Express zip codes had their projects fully funded.

Year 2: Radius-specific match offers

For the second year, we dove a little further into the nuance. Instead of fully funding all projects, we launched tiered match offers. Projects from schools within a 5-mile radius of Panda Express zip codes had donations tripled, while projects from within a 5- to 10-mile radius had donations doubled. 

Year 3: Zip code funding allocated by local POS fundraising

This year, we made giving the most specific yet. We returned to a direct project funding model, this time tying the amount fundraised at each Panda Express location to the funding for those local schools. This local funding connection inspires even more employee engagement, as locations who raise more at point of sale can support even more resource requests.

To further deepen these connections, we helped to facilitate Panda associates delivering Panda Express meals to the local schools they supported through their campaign during Teacher Appreciation Week — to everyone’s absolute delight!

The DonorsChoose team designed, curated, and mailed customized thank-you packages so that all 2,201 Panda Express locations received thank-you notes directly from supported students, a flier sharing an overview of our partnership, and a letter announcing our next campaign. In all, we shared more than 8,800 thank-you notes to 2,201 Panda Express stores.

The Impact: Deep impact, engagement from Panda associates, and happy teachers

Over the past three years, Panda Cares has had a remarkable impact on their communities through these hyperlocal initiatives, funding more than 25,000 classroom projects and reaching thousands of public schools in their target zip codes.

Employee engagement surrounding Panda Cares remains high, with 84% of associates feeling that Panda is committed to supporting the communities in which it operates — compared to 70% overall benchmark.

“I receive a great sense of honor knowing that I work for a company that does so much for the community.” —Panda Associate, 2022 Associate inspiration Measurement (AIM) Survey

Teachers flocked to social media to share their gratitude for the campaign across social media.

Want to learn more about how we can target funding to support schools in the communities you care about most? Reach out to us!

19 Must-Have Books by Black Authors For Your Class Library

Check out these top picks and find your students’ (or your own!) next read.


Teachers know: Students thrive when they can see themselves in their learning materials. Classroom libraries come to life when the shelves are filled with diverse stories, characters, and authors. Black students especially deserve to see themselves in stories beyond those of suffering; stories by and about Black folks filled with joy, love, and magic are essential for every classroom.

We broke down the data and these are the most popular books by Black authors that teachers request on DonorsChoose. Plus, we added a couple of buzzy new releases to add to your list too. Check out these top picks and find your students’ (or your own!) next read.

Elementary Books by Black Authors

Hair Love, by Matthew A. Cherry 

Hair Love tells the story of a Black father who jumps in to style his daughters hair when her mom is away. This heartwarming depiction of a father-daughter relationship was also turned into a 7 minute animated film.

Skin Like Mine, by Latisha M. Perry 

Skin Like Mine celebrates the beauty of diverse skin tones. Already love Skin Like Mine? Check out another Latisha M. Perry teacher fave from the Kids Like Mine series, Hair Like Mine.

Sulwe, by Lupita Nyong'o

Sulwe, written by actress Lupita Nyong'o, tells the story of a young girl who wishes her skin were lighter. The 2019 children’s book explores colorism and, ultimately, how to love yourself.

Sulwe is a book that promotes self-love, and acceptance, while helping children to be proud of who they are and realize they're just as beautiful outside as they are within. This book is a sweet take on ways young children can be helped to confront colorism.” —Mr. Romelle, Self Love

Alvin Ailey, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Alvin Ailey broke ground when he founded a Black modern dance company in 1958. This illustrated children’s book shows off Ailey’s childhood, choreography, and founding of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson

In her New York Times bestseller, Jacqueline Woodson explores difference and belonging in The Day You Begin. Lyrical and beautifully illustrated, the book speaks directly to young children and can help foster community within a class.

Middle School Books by Black Authors

The cover of "A clean getaway" by Nic Stone

Clean Getaway, by Nic Stone

Nic Stone’s first novel Dear Martin has already made her a staple in many high school classrooms. Her first middle grade novel, Clean Getaway, follows an 11-year-old on a road trip with his grandmother.

Clean Getaway by Nic Stone will be the foundation of our project, allowing us to build an understanding of civil rights history through a character that our students can see themselves in.” —Ms. Tuttell, The Pride of Southeast Raleigh

Black Brother, Black Brother, by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Jewell Parker Rhodes’s book looks at the school-to-prison pipeline through the story of two biracial brothers — one who presents as Black, and the other who presents as White — and a world that doesn’t treat them equally.

“Providing my readers with the opportunity to read Black Brother, Black Brother as a whole class at home will enable them to view the world through different perspectives, research other connecting events, and have the tough but all-too-necessary conversations required to change the future.” —Mrs. Stegall, Black Brother, Black Brother: A Novel for Racial Equality

Class Act, by Jerry Craft

Class Act is a companion book to New Kid, winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize. The graphic novel shows the lives of middle schoolers as they come to terms with the realities of privilege.

Before the Ever After, by Jacqueline Woodson

Jaqueline Woodson’s novel-in-verse and winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award Before the Ever After tells the story of a family dealing with the impact professional sports — specifically football — has on Black bodies.

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel, by Jason Reynolds

Long Way Down is a graphic novel in verse with illustrations by Danica Novgorodoff that centers the story of a boy who witnessed his brother die in a fatal shooting. As he weighs his options for revenge, he’s visited by people from his past.

“Jason Reynolds speaks to my students, especially my young men who struggle to engage with literature. His work offers a different perspective than the classics that we typically find on the shelves at school. Students deserve to read his books.” —Ms. Rausch, Long Way to Literacy

High School Books by Black Authors

Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice, Bryan Stevenson

Lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy depicts his experience as a young lawyer defending wrongfully incriminated clients in the south. This version, adapted for young adult audiences, shows students a glimpse into the broken US justice system.

Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

This 2018 fantasy novel and #1 New York Times Bestseller by Nigerian-American novelist Tomi Adeyemi has become a fast classic. First in the Legacy of Orisha series, Children of Blood and Bone incorpoerest Adeyemi’s West African heritage in a story of fighting injustice and discrimination.

Children of Blood and Bone is an amazing read that explores powerful female characters and social issues that are relevant to the world we live in, as well as magic and adventure that keep readers on the edge of their seats.” —Mrs. Majeski-Turner, Help Amazing Young Women Read Children of Blood and Bone

Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas

Looking for a book like The Hate U Give? Angie Thomas’s new novel Concrete Rose revisits the same neighborhood 17 years prior, exploring Black boyhood and manhood through the story of 17-year-old Maverick Carter.

Punching the Air, by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

Co-written by award winning novelist Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of The Exonerated Five, Punching the Air is a YA novel written in verse about a wrongfully incarcerated boy.

“In my 13 years as a professional librarian, [Punching the Air] is one of the finest books I have ever read for young adults. All of us will read the book as a learning community, to discuss and explore.” —Mrs. May-Stein, Punch Out Illiteracy in the Time of COVID-19!

The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes

Truly no library is complete without Langston Hughes. Written in 1925, “The Weary Blues” is a seminal work of the Harlem Renaissance, and Hughes’s first collection of poetry still resonates today.

Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 nonfiction bestseller weaves personal narrative and history, and is written as a letter to his teenage son. Inspired by the writing of James Baldwin, Coates interrogates the "racist violence that has been woven into American culture."

“Ta-Nehisi Coates makes these real world struggles personal and engaging. What started as a letter to his son, now has grown into a memoir and meditation for all teenagers and adults to understand what others go through.” —Mr. Steinman, Between the World and the Heights

The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead

Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Nickel Boys follows the story of two boys unjustly sent to a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.

The Nickel Boys promises to be a novel which inspires engaged discussion, thoughtful reflection, and even some soul-searching in the high school classroom. To move forward as a diverse country requires us to examine some of the tragedies of our disparate paths. This book provides the opportunity for readers to do just that.” —Ms. Furlong, A New and Necessary Novel: Colson Whitehead in the Classroom

A Couple New Releases by Black Authors

Do the Work : An Antiracist Activity Book, by W. Kamau Bell and  Kate Schatz 

Are you looking for new conversation starters and tools to discuss racial injustice in your classroom? This interactive workbook, co-written by DonorsChoose Board Member W. Kamau Bell, challenges readers to think critically and do the work. 

Life in Motion: Unlikely Ballerina Young Readers Edition, by Misty Copeland

Life in Motion: Unlikely Ballerina depicts the life of Misty Copeland, the first Black female principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre. This young readers edition is a great opportunity for students 3rd - 7th grade to learn about her journey to becoming a history making ballerina.


Spot a book you’d love your students to read? Create a project today: www.donorschoose.org/teachers

Teacher TikToks That Make Us Smile

No one has gotten creative on TikTok quite like our nation’s teachers. See which TikToks and reels are making our followers smile.


What’s better than a video that warms the heart or makes you burst into laughter? Among other things, teachers use TikTok to shine a light on the hilarious and sweet sides of teaching. Here are some teacher-created TikToks guaranteed to make you smile. 

You can’t watch this video without getting the warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Check out what happened when this teacher showed her class who her favorite student was.

While student safety is always of the highest importance, sometimes teachers can’t help but chuckle when students make a minor tumble.

Every teacher has their own vibe when arriving at school in the morning.

They could be the early bird arriving before the custodians. They might even be the hallway mayor saying “good” morning to everyone they pass.

Every teacher knows that feeling when the weekend goes by in the blink of an eye. This video almost feels too relatable. 

Pause… did you say a classroom with snacks and a diverse library of books? We all could use an environment like that. Sign us up!

Teachers might be responsible for teaching students the basic operations of arithmetic, but that doesn’t mean they can’t use tools to make their day simpler.

Looking for more TikTok videos to brighten your day? Follow us on Instagram.

5 Black Thought Leaders on The Impact of Black Teachers (and More!)

From Amanda Seales to W. Kamau Bell, these public figures share why supporting Black teachers is a crucial part of Black History Month.


We asked, they answered! These Black philanthropists, celebrities, and thought leaders are talking about the importance of supporting public school teachers and the impact that Black teachers and Black history have had on their lives.

Who are these 5 amazing leaders?

Why do you support public school education? 

Sharif El-Mekki: Public education is an integral part of democratic ideals, an educated citizenry is safer, less racist, and enables and empowers. Chief Seattle once noted that the next generation doesn’t inherit the earth from us, we borrow it from them. To return it to them justly, we must provide the education that will prepare them to receive what we’ve borrowed.

Dr. Travis Bristol: Strong public institutions are the bedrock of a thriving democracy. Our public schools have the potential to help us learn about our unique histories, in service of forming that elusive more perfect union. 

Amanda Seales: I support public school education because it is the most equitable method to providing the much needed educational resources that all children need and deserve!

W. Kamau Bell: I have been lucky to know many teachers in my life. Not just teachers who taught me in school, but I have had many teachers as friends. Every teacher that I’ve known has at some point reached into their own pocket in order to find money to provide necessary resources for their students. And the less funded the school is, the more times the teachers have to reach into their pockets. I support public education, because not only should we pay teachers more, but equally importantly, we should also let them keep the money that we pay them.

What's your favorite piece of Black history? 

Sharif El-Mekki: My favorite piece of Black history has always been centered on educators and youth activists. Their love for humanity, and their creativity and courage in the pursuit of equity and justice inspires me to no end.

Dr. Travis Bristol: The hope that one day Black History will become American History. 

Amanda Seales: My favorite part of Black History is the unearthing of hidden figures in our history. Learning about unsung heroes of our people and culture"

W. Kamau Bell: I love that Black History Month began as Black History week. I love that Black people must have said, “We’re going to need the whole month.”

Did you have a Black teacher in school? If so, what impact did they have on your learning and your life?

Carol Sutton Lewis: I was very fortunate to have several Black teachers over the course of my K-12 public school education.  One of my favorites was Mrs. Portia Paterson, my third grade teacher.  I was placed into her classroom several weeks after the school year began, as I was moved up from second to third grade when it was determined that the third grade work would be more appropriately challenging for me.  Joining the grade weeks after school began and being younger than all of my classmates could have made for a difficult year.  But Mrs. Paterson welcomed me, encouraged the rest of the class to do so as well, and made sure that I felt comfortable in class and with the work.  She was kind, supportive and a great teacher, whom I’ve had the pleasure of staying in touch with over the years. 

Sharif El-Mekki: My Black teachers, including and especially my mother and my PK-6 grade teachers were numerous and they emphasized community, love, and servant leadership. The example that they set as they started and led schools, taught with racial and educational justice in mind and actions, and their unwavering belief in collective responsibility and accountability helped me choose teaching as the form of activism I wanted to live by. Their heart work is imprinted in me and at a young age I vowed to be a part of the community that lifted as they climbed to serve others. I’m forever grateful to be able to honor my teachers through my work.

Dr. Travis Bristol: From PK - 6th grade I attended an Afrocentric school in Brooklyn, New York. All of my teachers were Black. One teacher, Ms. Marshall, stands out. In the first grade Ms. Marshall introduced me to Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Crispus Attucks. In the first grade I wrote letters to the South African government to free Nelson Mandela. 

Amanda Seales: Yes, several. Many of them made sure to highlight perspectives that are typically overlooked by white teachers which gave a more comprehensive and accurate understanding of history. They also understood the cultural nuances of being a Black child in America and went above and beyond to protect us. 

W. Kamau Bell: I think the only Black teacher I had in high school was my Black History teacher. I’m pretty sure she didn’t teach any other classes at the school. And while I’m happy they didn’t assign that class to an unqualified white teacher, I also know my school needed more Black teachers.

How the Utah State Board of Education Delivered $12 million in Federal COVID Funding to Teachers in 2 Weeks

Education Leaders

By putting purchasing power directly into teachers’ hands, state departments of education can efficiently disperse funding to support the precise needs of their public school teachers and students.

The Challenge: Enable Utah teachers to select the COVID-relief resources that would most support their students’ learning

During the pandemic, state departments of education had to quickly decide how they would allocate COVID relief funding, like ESSER and GEER, to help teachers support their students recovering from learning loss caused by the pandemic. Utah, like many other states, wanted to allocate that funding in a way that would meaningfully support student outcomes — and when every student had a different COVID experience, a one-size-fits-all solution wouldn’t cut it.

With the variety of student needs, the Utah State Board of Education intrinsically knew they wanted to give local control to teachers by allowing them to select resources that would make the biggest impact in their classroom. As they started conceptualizing how to build such a system, the logistical concerns and questions began stacking up.

  • How would they receive and review teachers’ applications? 
  • How quickly would DOE staff be able to review teachers’ projects, recognizing that many projects were timely and related to a particular unit or activity?
  • Who would collect and review price quotes and receipts? 
  • What would happen if teachers needed to return an item?
  • Who would teachers call or email with questions? 
  • How fast would DOE staff be able to respond to hundreds or thousands of emails?

The State Board of Education realized they either needed to make a massive investment of both time and money, or find a partner that already had the ability to receive and fulfill teacher requests at a grand scale.

The Solution: A Turnkey Teacher Support Campaign through DonorsChoose 

DonorsChoose is a nonprofit that gives public school teachers the ability to request resources that will help their students learn. Since our founding in 2000, 5.6 million donors have contributed $1.4 billion, bringing more than 2.5 million resource requests to life.

Sydnee Dickson, the Utah State Superintendent of Public Instruction, learned about DonorsChoose through our Teachers Support Campaign with Nevada, where we distributed $8 million in ESSER funding to Nevada teachers over 10 weeks. Our team worked closely with Utah State Board of Education leaders to launch a similar campaign for Utah teachers, while meeting the Board of Ed’s specific requirements for what teachers could request, as well as the Board's federal reporting needs.

The Utah Teacher Support Campaign launched as students returned to school in January 2022. Using the messaging and communications support provided by our team, the Board let teachers across the state know they had the opportunity to receive funding for one DonorsChoose project, up to $1,000 per teacher.

The Results: Record-Breaking Deployment Speed and Public Praise

Immediately after the campaign was launched, Utah teachers flocked to DonorsChoose, writing detailed descriptions of how the resources they requested would benefit their students’ learning and pandemic recovery. Once projects were vetted and approved by the DonorsChoose team, funding was instantly applied, and requested resources began arriving into teachers’ classrooms in as little as two days.

Within just two weeks, the entire $12 million grant was distributed to 13,355 public school educators — half of all Utah public school teachers. 

The campaign also garnered the Utah State Board of Education positive local press surrounding their support of teacher-selected resources, while teachers shouted out their gratitude across social media.

Interested in partnering with DonorsChoose for a statewide teacher support campaign? Learn more and reach out to us.

How BUILD.org Scaled its Impact through a Partnership with Comcast NBCUniversal and DonorsChoose

By meeting teachers where they are, BUILD was able to equip educators with an entrepreneurship program designed for high school students.


Your team may have the perfect educational program or resource — but with more than 98,000 public schools across the country, how do you get that learning tool into the hands of teachers and students?

The answer: we need to meet teachers where they are! Teachers are always looking for more resources, and by offering them the learning tools and incentives, we make it easier for them to take on new and innovative projects that keep their students motivated and engaged throughout the school year.

Educators at more than 86% of public schools have used DonorsChoose to request resources for their students and classroom. Thanks to our 23-year history of helping teachers do what they do best, we know how to inspire and activate some of the country’s most innovative and dedicated educators.

Through a unique partnership between DonorsChoose and BUILD.org — supported by Comcast NBCUniversal — BUILD was able to equip educators with an entrepreneurship program designed for high school students. Teachers who participated in and completed the program were given DonorsChoose funding credits as an incentive.  

“Thanks to the partnership with DonorsChoose and their highly engaged teacher community, BUILD.org was able to grow the footprint of its programming and inspire the next generation of problem solvers and entrepreneurs,” said Dalila Wilson-Scott, EVP and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation. “We are grateful to support this collaboration through Project UP, our $1B commitment to advance digital equity and build a future of unlimited possibilities.”

The Challenge: Expand teacher participation in the BUILD Design Challenge

Since 2020, Comcast NBCUniversal has fueled BUILD.org’s Design Challenge to empower 7th–12th grade students in underserved areas to take action by developing innovative solutions for their communities. Thanks to this funding, teachers are trained to guide students through 10 hours of Design Thinking instruction, during which students identify a problem within their community, and prototype and test a solution with the end goal of developing young entrepreneurs.

Within its first years of operation, the BUILD Design Challenge was a big success among teachers who participated. BUILD wanted to expand on this impact and was looking for avenues to introduce the Design Challenge to educators in new schools. They sought a partner with a large network of teachers to spread the word about the benefits of participating in the Challenge and to encourage adoption.

Our Approach: Activate the DonorsChoose teacher community through classroom funding incentives

The DonorsChoose team instantly saw the value of BUILD’s project-based, youth entrepreneurship program for teachers, and we had a sense that educators would be excited to facilitate the Challenge with their students. 

To encourage teachers to learn more about the program, we offered qualifying educators a DonorsChoose funding credit for attending a 1-hour webinar, and additional credits for completing the challenge. DonorsChoose funding credits are highly motivating for teachers, who understand the value of the resources they represent for their students. (In a 2014 Harvard Business School supervised study, teachers offered DonorsChoose funding credits were 14 times more likely to help their students’ progress through a math course than a comparable group encouraged to achieve the same milestone with no such credit!) 

All DonorsChoose funding credits were backed by Comcast. Teachers had the ability to use this funding towards their next DonorsChoose project request, helping to fill their classroom with learning materials while engaging students in hands-on learning.

The Results: We hit the numbers and teachers were happy

Our ongoing partnership is on track to exceed goals around webinar attendance and Challenge completion this year!

  • 938 teachers attended the design challenge training webinar, providing BUILD.org with a robust email list of new teachers to further engage 
  • More than 130 teachers have already completed the Design Challenge, and we’re on track for an additional 160 teachers to participate by the end of the school year, exceeding our goal of 200 new teacher participants

Teachers were thrilled to be served this opportunity and were especially grateful to receive classroom funding for engaging in content that was relevant to them and their work.

Asset-Framing in Email Fundraising

We teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to test the effectiveness of asset framing in email fundraising and encourage donors to help students reach their goals. 

Education Leaders

How many of us have heard “underserved youth” or “violent inner-city schools” in situations that describe students of color or students from low-income households? What could happen if we focused on what’s possible instead of what’s lacking? While focusing on what’s missing might sometimes work to open wallets, it can often stigmatize the students at the heart of our mission and reinforce damaging bias. This type of deficit-framing language positions students as the problem, while ignoring the systems that created and perpetuated the problem.

As an organization that fundraises on behalf of teachers and students, we recognize our power to create and reframe narratives about education to the public. By using asset-framing, we can challenge stigmatizing cultural narratives around students, and encourage the public to help those students reach their goals and aspirations. 

“Asset framing is defining people by their aspirations and their contributions, then acknowledging the challenges that often extend beyond them, and investing in them for their continued benefit to society.”
—Trabian Shorters | Founding CEO, BMe & DonorsChoose Board Member

We teamed up with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to test the effectiveness of asset framing in email fundraising 

Through a series of donation appeal email experiments, we tested different framings (asset, deficit, neutral) in combination with different content themes. To control for the effect of match offer campaigns on donor behavior, every email included a promo code doubling the recipient’s donation, backed by a $500,000 grant from the Gates Foundation.

Experiment 1: Can asset-framing compete with deficit-framing when asking for donations ?

Pervasive nonprofit lore holds that the best way to inspire action is to elicit guilt and sadness by highlighting the pain and suffering of constituents. But does this assumption actually hold water? First, we needed to test if asset-framing could ever outperform this deficit-framing language. 

We sent 6 different versions of a fundraising appeal — 2 asset-framed, 2 deficit-framed, and 2 neutral-framed — to a random selection on 511,000 DonorsChoose donors.

Experiment 1 Results

Top performing email: neutral-framed description of the time of year

An image of a DonorsChoose email that says, "Heidi, It's hard to believe, but October is almost over! Will you donate this month to a classroom near you?  This teacher has a request for their students. While funds last, enter promo code OCTOBER at checkout and your donation will be doubled. The DonorsChoose Team

Tied for second: asset-framed description of student attributes associated with learning and deficit-framed description of student experiences associated with a lack of supplies

Image of a DonorsChoose email that says, "Teachers need the right supplies to match their students’ creativity and potential. Will you donate this month to a classroom near you?   This teacher near you has a terrific idea for their students. While funds last, enter the promo code OCTOBER at checkout and your donation will be doubled. The DonorsChoose Team"
Asset-framed description
A screenshot of a DonorsChoose email that says, "Heidi, Across the country, classrooms are finally filled with future astronauts, artists, and community leaders. Will you donate this month to a classroom near you?   You can give these students the supplies they need to keep exploring and learning. While funds last, enter the promo code OCTOBER at checkout and your donation will be doubled. The DonorsChoose Team"
Deficit-framed description

While the neutral framing won out overall, we were happy to see that the asset-framed and deficit-framed messages performed similarly. This finding indicates that asset-framed appeals can be as compelling as deficit-framed appeals, and are worthy of further experimentation.

After analyzing the results of experiment 1, we were particularly curious to explore the other factors that contributed to engagement rates — specifically, how different themes of content interplay with different types of framing. 

Experiment 2: What content themes make asset-framed appeals most effective? 

For the next tests, we ran an even more granular experiment, sending 15 emails to 1.2 million donors. We created five content themes and wrote three emails (asset, deficit, neutral) for each theme. 

Experiment 2 Results

Content theme 1: Describing constituents 

An image of a DonorsChoose email that says, "Jennifer, Students who walk into classrooms filled with learning resources are creative, curious, and primed for success. Donate today to this classroom near you. Bonus: One of our partners wants to end a hand! Starting today and while funds last, use the promo code FEBRUARY at checkout. Your donation will be instantly doubled. The DonorsChoose Team"
Asset-framed student descriptions
An image of a DonorsChoose email that says, "James C, Students who walk into empty classrooms without the right resources are vulnerable  and less likely to succeed. Donate today to this classroom near you. Bonus: One of our partners wants to end a hand! Starting today and while funds last, use the promo code FEBRUARY at checkout. Your donation will be instantly doubled. The DonorsChoose Team"
Deficit-framed student descriptions

In our emails using adjectives to describe students, asset framing drove the highest engagement, but deficit framing drove more overall donations.

Content theme 2: Scoping the need

Asset-framed numbers
Deficit-framed numbers

In our emails sharing the number of teacher resource requests, asset framing again had higher engagement rates and a higher conversion rate, while deficit framing inspired more overall donations.

Content theme 3: Passing the mic

An image of a DonorsChoose email that says, “When I entered this room, it was empty. I am asking you to help these children who don't have as much as others.”  — Mrs. S, Wisconsin  Athena,  There’s a teacher like Mrs. S in every neighborhood. Donate today to this classroom near you. Bonus: One of our partners wants to end a hand! Starting today and while funds last, use the promo code FEBRUARY at checkout. Your donation will be instantly doubled. The DonorsChoose Team"
Deficit-framed teacher quote

In our emails quoting teachers, deficit-framed teacher quotes won on nearly all factors, though asset-framed teacher quotes led to a higher average donation size (but less funding overall).

Content theme 4: Humanizing the issue

An image of a DonorsChoose email that says, "Renee, Imagine a student walking into their classroom tomorrow morning. They say hello to friends and plop down in their chair — class is about to begin. This student will spend the whole day in school. As a DonorsChoose donor, you can shape what that day will look like. Donate today to this classroom near you. Bonus: One of our partners wants to end a hand! Starting today and while funds last, use the promo code FEBRUARY at checkout. Your donation will be instantly doubled. The DonorsChoose Team"
Neutral-framed student story
An image of a DonorsChoose email that says, "Steven, Imagine a student walking into their classroom tomorrow morning. It has few pencils, no notebooks, no math manipulatives — very little of what they need to learn. This student is vulnerable and not ready to learn. As a DonorsChoose donor, you can make this right. Donate today to this classroom near you. Bonus: One of our partners wants to end a hand! Starting today and while funds last, use the promo code FEBRUARY at checkout. Your donation will be instantly doubled. The DonorsChoose Team"
Deficit-framed student story

In our emails telling stories about students, neutral and deficit framing performed similarly, with neutral framing driving slightly more conversions and deficit framing driving slightly more donations.

Content theme 5: Explaining systemic factors to inequity

An image of a DonorsChoose email that says, "Steven, Public schools aren’t created equal, and students’ futures are up to us. Donate today to this classroom near you. Bonus: One of our partners wants to end a hand! Starting today and while funds last, use the promo code FEBRUARY at checkout. Your donation will be instantly doubled. The DonorsChoose Team"
Neutral-framed statement on inequity

In our emails stating that public school funding is inequitable, neutral framing prevailed in almost every metric.

Donor Trends

In analyzing these results, interesting trends around donor responses emerged.

  • Donors who were already highly engaged in our platform (multiple past donations) seemed most responsive to asset framing on a whole. This leads us to believe that higher engagement correlates to a better understanding of the core problem our org seeks to solve, making them more responsive to a vision of a better future.
  • Donors who had not given to our site in more than 2 years converted at similar rates across framings, with a slight lean toward neutral framing. These donors likely have the least connection to us and our cause, and presenting our problem statement the most objectively seems to be a promising approach.
  • Donors who are averagely engaged were split evenly between asset and deficit framing, and responded least to neutral framing.

While no single “silver bullet” fundraising appeal rose to the top, this set of results showed us that asset-framed appeals can be at least as effective as deficit-framed appeals, when deployed with the right content and to the right audience. 

Early Recommendations

We have so many more questions and experiments we want to run and are greatly inspired by our early learnings. Based on our first year of experimentation, we’ve developed the following list of recommendations for other nonprofits looking to implement asset framing in their donor fundraising emails.

  1. When garnering donations & engaging audiences, the following asset-framing approaches are shown to be effective & are a terrific starting point:
    a. Describe the people who will benefit with accurate, positive attributes
    b. Frame data to show the proactivity of the people who will benefit (in addition to the need)
  2. Donors who are already engaged with your mission may be the most receptive to asset framing
  3. Use a variety of approaches, and don’t rule out neutral framing!

Looking to the future, we want to try out more content approaches, branch out beyond email to SMS and ads, test imagery, along with learning from industry peers taking a similar approach.


Interested in partnering with DonorsChoose to support teachers? Contact us!

Free Resource: Valentine’s Affirmations for Your Students

Download these special cards as-is or customize our Canva template, then print, and share with your kiddos to remind them that they are kind, clever, creative, brave, and so much more.


Looking for a special way to celebrate Valentine’s day with your students this year? 

Affirmations can help students build a growth mindset, increase their resilience, and foster a love of learning. By sharing affirmations with your students, you are sending a message of love and support, and helping to build their confidence in themselves and their abilities.

Download these special cards as-is or customize our Canva template, then print, and share with your kiddos to remind them that they are kind, clever, creative, brave, and so much more.

Teachers, thank you for pouring your hearts into your work, providing a safe and supportive learning environment for students. 

Happy Valentine's Day!

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