Part of our series, 5 Million Voices.
I grew up speaking Spanish, and I didn't start learning English until I was in preschool. When it came to books, I struggled — like many ELL students — to connect with characters that didn't look like me or speak my language.
To this day I have yet to pick up a copy of Anne of Green Gables.
It wasn't until Ms. Rueckert handed me a biography of Diego Rivera in the fourth grade that my relationship with books changed forever. I started to read for fun and not for a grade.
Research shows that reading comprehension in ELL students gets a boost when kids are exposed to culturally relevant books.
"Story is both individual and collective," says Candis Grover, director of literacy and Spanish development at ReadyRosie, an educational web site.
She says students need more than just a few scattered stories: "We need to give them a large literary room of characters to connect with."
So, in that spirit, we've reached out to experts and scoured the blogs and asked authors what books they'd put in that big room. Here are five great examples: