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There are rich resources out there for children of all ages, and we've compiled them in one spot. From literature honorees to classics and new favorites, there are books out there for every age and level of reader. We've included a section of titles and materials for families who want a starting point for tough topics like racism, and are working to develop a collection for health issues (including mental health), and sensitive family matters.
The Undefeated, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Kwame Alexander and published by Versify, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 2, 2019.
Winner of the 2020 Caldecott Medal
A 2020 Newbery Honor Book
Winner of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award
The Newbery Award-winning author of THE CROSSOVER pens an ode to black American triumph and tribulation, with art from a two-time Caldecott Honoree.
Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. Robust back matter at the end provides valuable historical context and additional detail for those wishing to learn more.
New Kid, written and illustrated by Jerry Craft, published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, February 5, 2019.
Winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal,
Winner of the 2020 Coretta Scott King Author Award
Winner of the 2019 Kirkus Prize for Young Readers' Literature
Perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier and Gene Luen Yang, New Kid is a timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, from award-winning author-illustrator Jerry Craft.
Seventh grader Jordan Banks loves nothing more than drawing cartoons about his life. But instead of sending him to the art school of his dreams, his parents enroll him in a prestigious private school known for its academics, where Jordan is one of the few kids of color in his entire grade.
As he makes the daily trip from his Washington Heights apartment to the upscale Riverdale Academy Day School, Jordan soon finds himself torn between two worlds—and not really fitting into either one. Can Jordan learn to navigate his new school culture while keeping his neighborhood friends and staying true to himself?
Dig, written by A.S. King, published by Dutton Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Young Readers, a division of Penguin Random House
“King’s narrative concerns are racism, patriarchy, colonialism, white privilege, and the ingrained systems that perpetuate them. . . . [Dig] will speak profoundly to a generation of young people who are waking up to the societal sins of the past and working toward a more equitable future.”—Horn Book, starred review
“I’ve never understood white people who can’t admit they’re white. I mean, white isn’t just a color. And maybe that’s the problem for them. White is a passport. It’s a ticket.”
Five estranged cousins are lost in a maze of their family’s tangled secrets. Their grandparents, former potato farmers Gottfried and Marla Hemmings, managed to trade digging spuds for developing subdivisions and now they sit atop a million-dollar bank account—wealth they’ve refused to pass on to their adult children or their five teenage grandchildren. “Because we want them to thrive,” Marla always says. But for the Hemmings cousins, “thriving” feels a lot like slowly dying of a poison they started taking the moment they were born. As the rot beneath the surface of the Hemmings’ white suburban respectability destroys the family from within, the cousins find their ways back to one another, just in time to uncover the terrible cost of maintaining the family name. With her inimitable surrealism, award winner A.S. King exposes how a toxic culture of polite white supremacy tears a family apart and how one determined generation can dig its way out.
Additional Prize Winners
Race & Social Justice
(For additional parent/guardian resources, see below)
The books and lists below have been cultivated to help parents and children learn about the racial/social history of the United States as well as current events. Many titles feature main characters of color; they tackle topics of discrimination, racial privilege, protests, and activism. They are meant for all families regardless of race or color, to discuss experiences that people of our communities go through, and to gain a greater understanding of our society. For even more suggestions, please see this list.
These lists are not exhaustive, nor are they meant to be a discouraging, one-dimensional representation of the lives of people of color. Numerous titles celebrate the amazing accomplishments and everyday joys of fictional characters and real-life figures who happen to be non-white. They are included in our summer reading booklist page!
Momma, Did You Hear the News? by Sanya Whittaker Gragg. After a police shooting of an unarmed black man, parents speak with their children. The text is aimed at teaching black children how to interact with the police, but is a useful starting point for all families to understand relationships and tensions between people of color and law enforcement.
Black All Around! by Patricia Hubbell. Implicit biases with race can start early and are rooted in language, with seemingly innocuous connections between blackness (or darkness) and negativity, while praising things that are white ("light" or "fair"). This book celebrates the color black, pointing out that it is found in items all around us. [ages 4-8]
Slavery and 19th century
Brick by Brick by Charles R. Smith, Jr. This book describes the building of the White House and how it took many hands, several of them slaves', who will be remembered throughout history for their extraordinary feat. [PreK+]
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton by Don Tate "...George Moses Horton...taught himself to read and compose poetry, and...lived as a slave in North Carolina until he was sixty-six years old. Tate tells Horton's story, omitting none of the sadness (he is sent away from his family at the age of seventeen to serve his master's son) but still making the story accessible to the young reader and listener." -Horn Book Magazine Review. [K-3]
I Thought My Soul Would Rise and Fly: The Diary of Patsy, a Freed Girl by Joyce Hansen "Set in the days following the Civil War, this novel, written in diary format, traces the thoughts, feeling, and events in the life of 12-year-old Patsy. Like many of the other freed slaves, Patsy remains at Davis Hall plantation to work for her former master for wages. As a joke, she had been given a blank book by Mrs. Davis's niece. Patsy, however, has secretly learned to read and write and now this diary serves as companion as she questions what freedom means". -SLJ Review. [grades 4-8]
In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, Five Black Lives by Kenneth Davis. This well-researched book offers a chronological history of slavery in America and features five enslaved people and the four U.S. presidents who owned them. ... A valuable, broad perspective on slavery, paired with close-up views of individuals who benefited from it and those who endured it." -Booklist Starred Review. [grades 6+]
Mid-20th century Civil Rights Era
Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Written in free verse, this book details how four college students desegregated a lunch counter at Woolworths, using the peaceful protest method of a "sit-in." [K-3]
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles. Depicting the story of the six-year-old who braved angry white mobs to attend an elementary school in New Orleans, this book is a moving tribute to Ruby's dedication and faith. [K-3] For an older child, consider Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges, which is her moving autobiography. Note--it contains offensive language. [grades 4-8]
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia. In the summer of 1968, after travelling from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to spend a month with the mother they barely know, eleven-year-old Delphine and her two younger sisters arrive to a cold welcome as they discover that their mother, a dedicated poet and printer, is resentful of the intrusion of their visit and wants them to attend a nearby Black Panther summer camp. [grades 3-6]
The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinken. This title presents an account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen who were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago explosion. [grades 4+]
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, giving a glimpse into a child's soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson's poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. [grades 5-8/YA]
Social Activism Today
A is for Activist by Innosanta Nagara. "The bestselling ABC book for families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that we believe in and fight for." -Page  of cover. [PK-2]
Woke: A Young Poet's Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne, ed. "What does it mean to be woke? Simply put, "to be WOKE is to understand that equality and justice for some is not equality and justice at all." In this poetry collection, [the authors unpack] the weight of social inequities in 23 standalone poems in a variety of forms...blending the hard lines of fighting and resisting injustice with sweet moments of peace in our shared humanity. ...Each poem offers lyrical strength and resolve that will encourage budding activists to develop an ever-important ethical and justice-oriented muscle." -Booklist Reviews [grades 3-6]
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices by Wade Hudston and Cheryl Willis Hudson, eds. What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak, and prejudice and racism run rampant? With 96 lavishly designed pages of original art, poetry, and prose, fifty diverse creators lend voice and comfort to young activists. [grades 3-7]
The Kid’s Guide to Social Action by Barbara Wise. "Students often feel the need to better their world, but may be overwhelmed when they begin their campaigns. With this simple-to-follow guide, young people, teachers, and parents can plan their course of social action and expect to see results." -SJL Reviews [grades 4-8]
Black Lives Matter by Sue Bradford. Though this title is from 2016, it is a strong entry for its ability to introduce the Black Lives Matter movement to readers with clarity, depth, nuance, and balance. [Grades 6+]
Additional Online Resources for Parents/Adults
10 Tips for Teaching and Talking to Kids About Race (EmbraceRace with MomsRising)
Anti-Racism For Kids 101: Starting to Talk About Race (Raising Luminaries)
Elmo and his dad Louie talk about racism and protesting (CNN Video)
How Silence Can Breed Prejudice: A Child Development Professor Explains How and Why to Talk to Kids About Race by Brigitte Vittrup. The Washington Post July 6, 2015
How to Diversify Your Child's Bookshelves (Brightly)
How to Talk to Kids About Race: Books and Resources That Can Help (Brightly)
These Books Can Help You Explain Racism and Protest to Your Kids By Jessica Grose. New York Times, June 2, 2020.
Kindness, Inclusivity, & Self-Confidence
These books encourage children to accept others not just in spite of, but because of their differences, and encourages them to have faith in themselves. Recommended for birth - 3rd grade.
More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams. "The spontaneity and delight of play is captured perfectly in this trio of multigenerational, multiracial "love stories'' about three pairs of babies and their grown-ups. Natural and unforced, Williams' choices are an accurate reflection of American society, but are noteworthy in their representation in books for this age group." -School Library Journal
All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color/Todos los colores de nuestra piel: la historia de por qué tenemos diferentes colores de piel by Katie Kissinger. This text explains, in simple terms, the reasons for skin color, how it is determined by heredity, and how various environmental factors affect it.
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson. Day after day Maya, the new girl in school, is rebuffed and teased by Chloe and her friends; then one day, Maya is gone. When the teacher leads a lesson on kindness, Chloe realizes she missed an opportunity to connect and may never have it again.
We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobbi Jane Kates. In this title featuring Sesame Street characters, illustrations and simple rhyming text show that while the body parts of various human and Muppet characters may look different, they have similar uses.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers. A book for building self-esteem with an anti-bully message, I Am Enough is accessible to all but particularly pointed toward girls. Byers shares a story of loving who you are, respecting others and being kind to one another.
Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. A young Muslim girl puts on a head scarf and not only feels closer to her mother, she also imagines herself as a queen, the sun, a superhero, and more.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson. Other students laugh when Rigoberto, an immigrant from Venezuela, introduces himself but later, he meets Angelina and discovers that he is not the only one who feels like an outsider.
Unstinky by Andy Rash. "As a stinkbug Bud has problems: despite his best efforts he smells too sweet and flowery--but when April the bee invites him to her hive for a dance party he discovers his true talent."--Provided by publisher.
Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama. "In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. ...[He] sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America's children"--Book jacket.
I Walk With Vanessa: A Simple Story About an Act of Kindness by Kerascoët. This book is filled with images, but no words, allowing a child and guardian to tell the story together. The pictures show how an elementary school girl witnesses the bullying of another girl, but she is not sure how to help. She recognizes that a simple act of kindness--walking by Vanessa's side--can make all the difference. Consider reading along with Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson (above).
The Kindness Book by Todd Parr. Parr's books are bright, colorful, and engaging; this title looks at different ways to show kindness, including choosing kind words, giving compliments, and offering help without being asked.