Skip to main content

Culturally relevant texts for use in the classroom

What is Culturally Relevant Teaching?

Gay (2000) defines culturally responsive teaching as teaching that connects students' cultural knowledge, prior experiences, and performance styles to make learning more appropriate and effective for them; it teaches to and through the strengthes of these students.

Culturally responsive teaching has the following characteristics:

  • It acknowledges cultural heritages
  • It bridges between home and school experiences
  • It uses a wide variety of instructional strategies that are connected to different learning styles.
  • It teaches student to know and praise their own and each other's cultural heritages
  • It incorporates multicultural information, resources, and materials.

Gay, G. (2000). Culturally Responsive Teaching: Theory, Research, & Practice. New York: Teachers College Press


Cultural Relevance Rubric  

This rubric developed by the ReadWriteThink website encourages students to analyze the text they have just read, or heard, and to make personal connections to its content.

Gathering Evidence of Cultural Relevance

Gathering Evidence of Cultural Relevance is a template suited to middle and high schoolers that helps them to reflect upon their reading and the relevancy it has in the reader's life.



The list below provides suggestion for using culturally diverse texts in the classroom.  Texts such as those listed help students to understand who they are and where they come from because they connect with the students' lives.  I am also including a Culturally Relevant Rubric that will help students to connect the story to their lives.

Please remember, I have not read all of these books myself.  Always preview a text before sharing it with students.

Tejos Star Reading List - A list of award winning culturally relevent books.

Family/ Identity

  I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada

  Pepita Talks Twice/ Pepita habla dos veces by Ofelia Dumas Lachtman - this book touches on an important conflict that many young bilinguals face.

  Big Bushy Mustache by Gary Soto

  My Family/ En Mi Familia by Carmen Lomas Garza

  La Tortillería / The Tortilla Factory by Gary Paulsen

  A Place the Sea Remembers by Sandra Benítez

  Abuelita's Heart by Amy Cordova

  Bitter Grounds by Sandra Benítez - a novel about life on a coffee plantation



  Friends from the Other Side: Amigos del otro lado by Gloria Anzaldua

 The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child by Franciso Jimenez  - Young Adult

  Breaking Through by Francisco Jimenez

  Amelia's Road by Linda Jacobs Altman


Language Struggles

  La mariposa by Franciso Jimenez


Gangs/ Violence

  Buried Onions by Gary Soto

  Parrot in the Oven by Victor Martinez (suitable for middle school and above)


Cultural Twists on Old Favorites

  The Three Pigs: Los tres credos, Nacho, Tito, and Miguel by Bobby Salinas


Social Change and Justice

  ¡Sí, se puede!  Yes, We Can by Diana Cohn




Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez  by Kathleen Krull - An amazing source of expository texts that can be easily differentiated.  Suitable for grades 4 and up.  Many of the articles are even available in SPANISH!


Articles for Teachers

Developing Literacy through Culturally Relevant Texts by Iliana Alanís

Culturally Relevant Books in the ELL Classroom by David Freeman and Yvonne Freeman

Culturally Responsive Literacy Instruction by Tandria Collins