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Poverty Education Center


This is a selection of books for K-12 age levels on poverty and related issues.

Child of the Dark by Carolina Maria de Jesus

"I used Carolina Maria de Jesus's Child of the Dark to discuss poverty. The book shows it all, that poor people suffer, have fewer opportunities - and that they have lives, a sense of beauty. It was always my impression that the diary of Carolina made students see her as a PERSON and a fight against poverty cannot succeed without understanding that." --Barbara Watson

What to Do When Your Family Loses Its Home by Rachel Lynette

Moving is stressful anytime, but when a family is forced to move because they cannot afford to pay their mortgage it is a whole different experience. Tough topics such as having to move into a shelter are dealt with in a sensitive and encouraging manner. This book also gives some ideas of what to expect when a family moves in with relatives while they get back on their feet.

Rachel and Her Children: Homeless Families in America by Jonathan Kozol

Interviews with families detailing the often heartbreaking circumstances and broken social supports that have stranded them in homelessness.

Beatrice's Goat by Page McBrier (Author) and Lori Lohstoeter (Illustrator)

A children's book based on a true story about a family in Uganda that benefitted from Heifer Project International .

The Endless Steppe: Growing up in Siberia by Esther Hautzig, Jean-Francois Podevin (Illustrator)

The story of an exiled girl and her family growing up in poverty in Siberia. Set during WWII

Tenement: Immigrant Life on the Lower East Side by Raymond Bial

A photo essay appropriate for grades 4-8 depicting the life of immigrants in New York City from the 1800s to the 1930s. Historical and more recent photos, and short text passages, provide an eye-opening look at the difficulties of the immigrant experience.

Rights in the Home by Emma Haughton, Penny Clarke

Appropriate for age ranges 10-14, this book examines issues such as homelessness and security in the home from the perspective of human rights.

Let's Talk about Staying in a Shelter by Elizabeth Weitzman

Briefly describes various kinds of shelters for people without permanent homes and discusses how to deal with living in one.

A Framework for Understanding Poverty by Ruby K. Payne

Appropriate for college students. A controversial, widely-criticized, but also widely-read book. Payne's perspective is that people in poverty face challenges virtually unknown to those in middle class or wealth--challenges from both obvious and hidden sources. She claims that the reality of being poor brings out a survival mentality, and turns attention away from opportunities taken for granted by everyone else. She says that If you work with people from poverty, some understanding of how different their world is from yours will be invaluable.

Poverty in America: A Handbook by John Iceland

A fairly comprehensive but concise picture of poverty in America. Iceland shows how poverty is measured and understood and how it has changed over time, as well as how public policies have grappled with poverty as a political issue and an economic reality.

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