Our world is becoming more and more diverse all of the time. With rapid advances in technology comes access to so much more information and so many more types of people. By using text with videos, blogs and audio from various cultures around the world, students can be exposed to more than we could have even imagined just a short decade ago. Here is a list of titles you can use in a diverse cultures unit for middle school students to inspire greater connection across cultures.


Last Stop on Market Street (Grades P-K, Lexile AD610) by Matt de la Pena Teacher Resources ButtonLast Stop on Market Street

Hook your middle school students with this fun read aloud. You’ll take a bus ride through the city and meet people from all walks of life while finding beauty in simple connections. Watch the video “How to Change the World” by Kid President to engage in a discussion about how students can reach out and connect with others who are different from them.




Seedfolks by Paul Fleischman (Grades 5-8, Level W, Lexile 710) Teacher Resources ButtonSeedfolks

An ideal follow up to the picture book ride on a city bus, Seedfolks is another story about people from differing cultures living in close proximity in an urban community. They all share a space, and each bring something unique to enhance their community as a whole. Explore the cultures of the different tenants in the building through this website that compiled resources specifically for the text. Groups of students could pick a character and research their heritage and background creating multi-modal presentations with images, audio and video with sites like Animoto.




The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis (Grades 4-12, Level Q, Lexile HL620) Teacher Resources ButtonThe Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Explore the diversity of the written word with this novel in verse written from the first-person perspective of Amira, a young Sudanese girl growing up during the Darfur genocide of 2003. The Red Pencil is a beautiful exploration of what it means to grow up in a war-torn community, living through tragedy, losing your voice and finding it again. This title spans a wide interest level because of its deceptively simple text. Even though the story is fictional, it is rooted in truth. Students can watch the video “Sarah, a South Sudanese Refugee” or read about the Darfur genocide in this online text, then create a poem connecting their thoughts to what they’ve learned.




14 Cows for America by Carmen Agra Deedy (Grades 1-8, Level S, Lexile AD540) Teacher Resources Button14 Cows for America

This is a story of generosity and universal understanding. After 9/11, one man bridged cultures to bring a message of sadness to his people, the Maasai. They responded with incredible kindness, offering their most sacred possessions to show their compassion. Rich watercolors showcase the landscape of Kenya, the land of the Maasai. While this is a picture book, there are many topics presented with opportunities to learn more about the man who made this act of thoughtfulness happen and about the culture of Kenya. Students can research and present different ways they too can get involved in other communities around the world, or even just how to show generosity in the simplest of ways.



The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (Grades 7-12, Level Z+, Lexile 600) Teacher Resources ButtonThe Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian

If your students are wanting a more mature read, introduce them to Sherman Alexie’s first book geared toward young adults. Arnold Spirit, aka “Junior”, narrates his life as he floats in between the Spokane Indian Reservation in which he lives and the white school he attends in hopes of rising above the fate of his people. This book gives incredible insight into the Native American experience on and off of the reservation, and is narrated by a 14-year-old boy going through the confusing transition of adolescence and attempting to find his identity. Students can learn more about the Spokane Tribe, watch a movie trailer shot on the reservation and hear the author speak about complicated identities. Then they can create their own “absolutely true diary” representing who they are and where they have come from.


The more we read and see about other cultures, the more we realize that we all have core experiences in common, and we can reach across boundaries to start building a better world. Reading can change people. This diverse set of books and their accompanying resources can help your students become more engaged readers, and in turn, more engaged people in this diverse world we live in.

The links mentioned within this article, as well as other outside links for the texts can be found within the teacher resources for the book by clicking on the TR icon. Look for resources for books you already have by searching through our database on Booksource.com.

More Booksource Recommendations for a Diverse Cultures Unit:

Global Settings—Grades 6-8

Latino BiographiesGrades 3-6

Embracing Differences—Middle School (6-8)

Living Between Identities—High School (9-12)