It’s no secret that teachers spend a lot of their own coins on classroom supplies — sometimes racking up to thousands of dollars.

So when it comes to more expensive items, like books, educators turn toward crowdsourced funds to help fill in their classroom bookshelves and make sure their libraries are curated, engaging, and reflect their students.

“My students have already begun to fall in love, with some already reading the majority of my library,” Mr. Joyner, a middle school teacher in New Jersey, wrote on his DonorsChoose project page looking to vary his offerings so students can connect to the stories on a personal level. 

For some students, their classroom or school library is the only place they can access reading materials. Out of the 97,568 public schools in the United States, 82,300 had school libraries in 2019, according to the American Library Association. 

That’s why it’s so important for teachers to have books in their classrooms. And, with the connectivity of a classroom, teachers are able to personalize the collections, making it more likely for students to find things that interest and engage them.

Here are the top books Black teachers are requesting for the 2023-2024 school year.

Top Requested Books by Elementary School Teachers

The elementary years are key for students to gain literacy skills. Third grade is often considered the make-or-break year, where students are no longer learning to read, but reading to learn.

So it’s really critical for students to have books they engage with and enjoy.

In her third-grade classroom in North Carolina, Ms. Pines knows that her students are in a “vital time” for reading, and is requesting books to stock her classroom library. Her list includes the “Pete the Cat” collection and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series.

“My plan is to fill our library with popular titles and series,” she wrote on the project page. “Having access to more chapter books will continue to grow their love of reading and build reading stamina. Having books [in] a series will allow them to continue reading books they love.”

Mrs. O’Keefe in Massachusetts is requesting the National Geographic Readers so her students can research specific animals and habitats as part of the project-based learning curriculum. 

“With these materials, our students will be able to dive even deeper into animals and their habitats by researching and creating their own enclosures for animals to not only make sure they survive but thrive,” she wrote on the project page.

In New York, Ms. Lennon’s third- through fifth-grade students need books for independent reading time. She wants to bring them the popular “Fly Guy” series.

“What I most love about my students is their ability to recommend their favorite books to classmates,” Lennon wrote on the project page. “I often see them pause at a funny part of the book they are reading to show the page to the classmate next to them. Watching young readers giggle and point to a sentence warms my heart.”

Top Requested Books by Middle School Teachers

Students’ reading levels and interests are all over the place in middle school, meaning middle school teachers request series ranging from “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” to “The Elsewhere Chronicles” to sets of author Jerry Craft’s books, including “New Kid” and “Class Act.”

In Hillside, New Jersey, Mr. Joyner is the only English/Language Arts teacher at a brand new school, meaning he’s low on resources. He wants to make sure his classroom is stocked with books for students to not only have options, but ones that interest them.

“With these new book collections, my students will be able to choose from a variety of genres, characters and themes that will allow them to read independently and connect to them on a personal level,” he wrote on the project page.

Mrs. Jackson wants her sixth-graders in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to become life-long readers — even though she teaches math.

“Challenging scholars to read everyday in every class allows scholars to develop consistent, sustainable reading habits,” she wrote on the project page. “Inspiring a new generation of life-long readers will directly affect the ability of my scholars to become more proficient in mathematics.”

And Mrs. Hines wants to “cater to different interests and abilities, ensuring that all students can find something to read,” she wrote on the project page.

“Access to a wide range of books can motivate students to develop a love for reading, fostering a positive reading culture within the classroom,” she wrote.

Top Requested Books by High School Teachers

Around the country, high school teachers are facing problems getting their students to read. From not reading on grade level to “hating” reading to only having outdated books, these teachers are hoping that refreshed shelves catered to their students will make an impact.

In New Orleans, Mrs. Davis wants to help her 9th and 10th graders build confidence with their reading skills. She wants to expand their access to young adult literature that “engages and empowers them to be stronger readers, more critical thinkers, and more efficient communicators,” she wrote on the project page

Further west in the state in Baton Rouge, Mrs. Givan says her students find books boring because they don’t reflect their realities. 

“The stories that my students want to read are stories about people who look and behave like them,” she wrote on the project page. “Students want to read books with relatable characters. When we enjoy what we read, we comprehend the story better and increase fluency, increase comprehension and you increase achievement.”

For Mr. Griff in the Bronx, it’s a simple wish but more complex task: He wants to help students get lost in books. He’s making independent reading a requirement for his students, and he wants to make sure the classroom library has plenty of choices.

“By the time kids get to high school, students who enjoy reading for pleasure are a rarity, or so it seems,” he wrote on the project page. “I have shifted through the lists of classics, contemporaries, comics and requests and hope to restock my library once again. My current, former and future students will be able to check and borrow books from my class to expand their love of reading.”

Get Word In Black directly in your inbox. Subscribe today.

Maya Pottiger is a data journalist for Word in Black. She was previously a data journalist for the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism at the University of Maryland, where she earned both her BA and Master of Journalism. Her work has been featured...