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50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now


50 Books About Race For Kids Of All Ages To Read Right Now

The past week has made it clear that systemic, institutionalized racism is monster that needs defeating in 2020 America. Two tools that can arm us in that fight are empathy and knowledge – both of which can be gained by reading these outstanding books about what it means to be black in our country today. We are all called to listen to the voices of BIPOC. These 50 books give readers a place to start. 

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Picture books

1. Daddy, There’s A Noise Outside 

by Kenneth Braswell and illustrated by Joe Dent and Julie Anderson

Books About Race_Daddy, There’s A Noise Outside _ Amy's Bookshelf

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Two children, Samantha and Brandon, are awakened by the noise of a protest outside. In the morning, their parents explain to them different forms of protest, including marches, protests, and civil disobedience. A great primer on different forms of activism. 

2. Black All Around 

by Patricia Hubbell and illustrated by Don Tate

Black All Around_ Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

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In the dominant culture, the color black is often associated with the negative (black cats, for example, or the black market or a blacklist). This book aims to dispel that notion by showing how the color of black is beautiful and all around us.

3. Momma, Did You Hear the News? 

by Sanya Whittaker Gragg and illustrated by Kim Holt

Momma, Did You Hear the News? Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

A young black boy hears about the police shooting an unarmed man. His parents decide it is time to have a conversation with their son about what he should do in an encounter with the police to make sure he comes home alive. The parents teach their son a catchy rhyme to help him remember, and the book makes it clear that not all police are bad. 

4. The Undefeated

by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

The Undefeated _ Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This book received the 2020 Caldecott Medal and the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award. The text of this picture book is a poem that is an ode to black Americans. It references many great black leaders, including MLK and Gwendolyn Brooks, and is a testament to the grit and grace of the black community. 

5. Show Way

by Jacqueline Woodson

Show Way _ Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

A Show Way is a map stitched into a quilt showing slaves the way to freedom. In Show Way, Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of one family through various generations as the quilt is handed down from one to the next. The quilt passes through the time of slavery to segregation to the civil rights era to today.

6. A Kid’s Book About Racism

by Jelani Memory

A Kids Book About Racism by [Jelani Memory]_Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This book is exactly what it says it is. It introduces children to the topic of racism. Young readers are given a definition of racism and tools to recognize it when they see it. This is very helpful for parents looking to talk to their children about racism. 

7. Antiracist Baby

by Ibram X. Kendi and illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf_ Antiracist Baby

Get it HERE.

Kendi gives children and their parents 9 steps to follow to build an anti-racist society. It’s particularly helpful in developing a vocabulary of anti-racism to use with young children.

Middle grade novels

8. New Kid

by Jerry Kraft

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

New Kid won the 2020 Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Award. When his parents announce he will be switching schools, seventh-grader Jordan wants to go to art school. Instead, he ends up as a new kid in a school with very few kids of color. This is a graphic novel. 

9. Genesis Begins Again

by John Steptoe

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Genesis, the 13-year-old girl at the heart of this story, keeps a list of things she doesn’t like about herself. Number 95 on the list – the color of her skin, which she tries to lighten with lemons and fancy creams. When her gambling addict father loses the rent money, Genesis moves in with her grandmother and actually likes her new school. Genesis learns to overcome her own internalized racism to be proud of who she is. 

10. A Good Kind of Trouble

by Lisa Moore Ramée

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Twelve-year-old Shayla wants to follow the rules, but after some kids at school start wearing armbands in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, Shayla finds that some rules are worth breaking. 

11. Ghost Boys

by 

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

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A 12-year-old black boy, Jerome, is shot and killed by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. In the aftermath of the shooting, Jerome, now a ghost, narrates the aftermath unleashed on his community after the unjust killing. Jerome meets another ghost, Emmett Till, who helps Jerome understand what’s happened. 

12. The Crossover

by Kwame Alexander

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

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Josh Bell, 12, has nothing but basketball and beats on his mind. He’s got skills on the court and tells his story in verse. Everything’s going great until Jordan, Josh’s twin brother, meets a girl and the bond between twin brothers is threatened. 

Young adult novels

13. Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Will’s brother has been killed in an act of gang violence, and Will is determined to enact vengeance. He grabs his brother’s gun and gets in an elevator. On the journey to the lobby, the elevator stops several times. Each time, a ghost gets on – a ghost who has been killed in connection to gun violence. The entire story takes place in 60 seconds and is told in verse.

14. All-American Boys

by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely 

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Teenaged Rashad stops by the convenience store for a bag of chips. Here, a police officer mistakes him for a shoplifter and uses brutal force to subdue Rashad. Rashad’s classmate, Quinn, who has been raised by the officer, witnesses the attack. Soon, the local high school is taking sides and Quinn is forced to reckon with what he saw. Two award-winning authors write share the storytelling.

15. The Poet X

by Elizabeth Acevedo

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

This novel in verse is about a teenaged Afro-Latina woman named Xiomara who writes slam poetry but would rather let her fists do the talking than share her poems with anyone. She learns that her words can speak louder than anything. The Poet X won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.

16. With A Fire on High

by Elizabeth Acevedo

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

This book follows Emoni Santiago, an Afro-Latinx teen mom in Philadelphia. Emoni dreams of being a chef, but she struggles to balance teen responsibilities of school with her single mom parenting duties. Acevedo includes recipes created by the protagonist and inspired by her Puerto Rican heritage. 

17. Dear Martin

by Nic Stone

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE..

Justyce, a black teenager who is top of his class and heading to an elite school, finds himself on the wrong end of racial profiling and ends up handcuffed by the local police even though he has done nothing wrong. Discouraged, Justyce looks to the teachings of Martin Luther King, Jr. for advice and begins to write him letters to better understand the systemic racism in the world today. 

18. The Hate You Give

by Angie Thomas

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

A list of the awards this book has won would take more space than available here. That’s because this book is a must-read for all ages. Starr Carter is in the passenger seat when her best friend is pulled over by the police. He’s shot and killed in front of her. She’s the only witness. Khalil’s death becomes a national news story. Starr knows she should speak up, but she’s afraid. This is an excellent examination of police brutality. 

19. On the Come Up

by Angie Thomas

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Sixteen-year-old Bri Thomas wants to be one of the world’s greatest rappers, just like her father. But when she pours her frustrations about a racial profiling incident into a song, the song goes viral and the media paints Bri as an angry black girl who is inciting violence. This is Angie Thomas’ follow-up to The Hate You Give and it’s set in the same neighborhood. 

20. Piecing Me Together

by Renee Watson

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Jade is determined to get out of her poor neighborhood no matter what, so she rides a bus to a prestigious private school where she is offered the opportunity to join a mentorship program called Women to Women. Jade resents being identified as “at risk” just because she’s black, and she knows it’s no coincidence that her mentor is a black woman who graduated from the same school. 

21. Monday’s Not Coming

by Tiffany D. Jackson

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Claudia and Monday Charles are more than best friends – they are soul mates, sisters, closer than blood. So when Monday stops coming to school, stops calling, and disappears from Claudia’s life, Claudia is sure something went wrong. She relentlessly hounds teachers, parents, school nurses, and police officers to look into Monday’s disappearance, but no one will take her seriously.

22. Monster

by Walter Dean Myers

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Sixteen-year-old Steve is accused of standing as a lookout during the murder of a drugstore owner. As an amateur filmmaker, he copes with the trauma of his trial and time in the prison system by turning his trial into a screenplay. 

23. I’m Not Dying with You Tonight

by Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

I’m Not Dying with You Tonight is an examination of privilege and race in modern America. Two girls, one white, one black, both attend a Friday Night Football game when a riot breaks loose. The girls, who do not know each other and who come from vastly different backgrounds, have to depend on each other to make it home safely.

24. Anger Is a Gift

by Mark Oshiro

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Moss Jacobs feels trapped in his mind, where he suffers panic attacks after his dad was killed by police. He feels trapped inside the walls of his high school, which feels more like a detention center than a school. When Moss decides to push back against school administration, tragedy strikes. This novel delves deeply into police brutality and systemic racism in a raw and brutal fashion.

25. When I Was the Greatest

by Jason Reynolds and Michael Frost

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Ali stays out of trouble, but his best friend, Noodle, sure doesn’t. Noodles’ brother Needles has Tourette syndrome, which causes him to blurt things out, but everyone in the neighborhood knows him and accepts him. One night, the “three musketeers” head to an underground party and Noodles seeks out trouble one time too many.

26. If You Come Softly

by Jacqueline Woodson

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Brooklyn teen Jeremiah feels out of place in his new prep school, where black kids don’t exactly fit in. But during his first week in his new school, Jeremiah meets Ellie, a young Jewish girl. It’s love at first sight in this modern star-crossed story.

27. This is My America

by Kim Johnson 

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Tracy Beaumont’s father is on death row, and she’s running out of time. Every week for years, she has been writing letters to Innocence X, an organization she thinks may be able to help. Things get a lot worse when the police accuse her brother of the alleged murder of a white girl. Tracy digs into her brother’s case and unearths a dark, racist underbelly in her town. 

28. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

by Maya Angelou

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Originally published in 1969, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings is as relevant today as it was 50 years ago. Dr. Angelou’s memoir about growing up as a black child is unflinching and yet deeply hopeful. 

Nonfiction

29. Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower

by Brittney Cooper

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

Brittney Cooper looks at righteous rage from black women and shows how it is not the destructive force it can be construed to be but is instead a powerful tool to be harnessed in the fight against systemic racism.  

30. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

After Trayvon Martin’s killer was not convicted, Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi co-founded the Black Lives Matter movement. This book is a call to action to demand accountability in the criminal justice system. 

31. Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America

by Ibram X. Kendi

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

In this incredibly powerful book, Ibram X Kendi covers the entire history of American racism. He does this through the narratives of five historical figures: Puritan minister Cotton Mather, Thomas Jefferson, abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, W.E.B. Du Bois, and activist Angela Davis.

32. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning 

by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

Paraphrasing Nic Stone’s blurb on this book, in this remix of Kendi’s Stamped, Kendi breaks down the history of racism and Jason Reynolds makes it easy to understand. Teens are the audience for this book, though it’s highly readable for adults, too. It should be in every classroom in America this fall. 

33. How to Be Less Stupid About Race: On Racism, White Supremacy, and the Racial Divide

by Crystal Marie Fleming

Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

Fleming looks at the way we discuss race across our culture, from politics to media to movies to yes, the classroom. She shows that basically, racial politics today is a bunch of garbage – half-truths, misconceptions, misunderstandings, and denial. Then, Fleming gives readers tools to educate themselves so that our new knowledge can be used to shape cultural change.

34. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood

by Trevor Noah

Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

Trevor Noah, the host of The Daily Show, grew up during the final days of apartheid in South Africa. This is the comedian’s memoir, but it is also a tender and funny look at what it means to be a black man in America.  

35. Invisible No More: Police Violence Against Black Women and Women of Color

by Andrea Ritchie

Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

Invisible No More looks at how BIPOC experience racial profiling, police brutality, and systemic racism in modern-day America. This book delves into mass incarceration as well. 

36. Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women a Movement Forgot

by Mikki Kendall

Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

In Hood Feminism, Mikki Kendall looks at the intersection between basic needs and the feminist movement, arguing that things like access to safe neighborhoods, food, and a living wage are issues that feminism needs to tackle.

37. Amazons, Abolitionists, and Activists: A Graphic Novel History of Women’s Fight for Their Rights

by Mikki Kendall and A. D’Amico

Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This book does not limit its focus to racism but instead looks into the lives of women throughout history who have worked toward a more liberated future. Topics covered include civil rights, suffrage, reproductive rights, and more. 

38. Say Her Name

by Zetta Elliott and illustrated by Loveis Wise

Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This book of poetry pays tribute to women who have lost their lives due to police brutality movement as well as activists instrumental to the Black Lives Matter movement. It is inspired by the African American Policy Forum’s #sayhername campaign. 

39. We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices

edited by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

A question is asked to 50 preeminent children’s authors and illustrators: In this divisive world, what shall we tell our children? This book contains the stories, art, poems, and other works that are their answer. 

40. Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America

by Ibi Zoboi, Liara Tamani, et al.

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

This book features stories from a red carpet list of today’s black writers for teens including Renee Watson, Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, Justina Ireland, Tracy Baptiste, and many more. There are many ways to be black in America, and each one is black enough. 

41. The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race

by Jesmyn Ward

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

This is a collection of essays and poetry about contemporary racism in America. It’s edited by Jesmyn Ward and is a response to James Baldwin’s 1963 essay collection titled The Fire Next Time. 

42. So You Want to Talk About Race

by Ijeoma Olup

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

Get it HERE.

This book guides people through what can be sometimes-fraught conversations about race. We know we need to talk about it to fix the system, but not everyone is sure exactly how to go about talking about race. Ijeoma Olup shows us how.

43. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

by Michelle Alexander 

Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This modern-day classic was first published in 2010; in 2020, a tenth-anniversary edition was published. It’s hard to overstate the impact this book has had on the criminal justice reform movement. This is a good starting place for anyone wanting to learn more about race in America. 

44. This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work

by Tiffany Jewell and illustrated by Aurelia Durand

Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This book covers a lot of territories, but it’s the perfect one to grab if you want to buckle down and work on yourself right now. Tiffany Jewell is an anti-racist activist and educator and she will give you the tools you need to be an advocate.

45. How to be an Antiracist

by Ibram X Kendi

Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This book offers an excellent primer on the term anti-racist and paints a picture of what the world could look like if some truly visionary ideas were put into place. It helps readers suss out racism all around us and offers tools for change.

46. Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption

by Bryan Stevenson

Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This is Bryan Stevenson’s memoir. Stevenson founded the Equal Justice Initiative, an organization dedicated to defending the wrongly condemned. In the early days of his career, Stevenson defended Walter McMillian, a black man on death row in the deep south. McMillian was accused of murder, a crime he did not commit. This book deals with racism, hatred, and true evil in the criminal justice system.

47. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria

by Beverly Daniel Tatum

Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This book takes a deep dive into the psychology of racism and looks at how it shapes individual identity as well as group dynamics. This book was updated in 2017 with new references and resources, making it very applicable in our current political climate. 

48. Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice

by Mahogany L. Browne, Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood

Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

Woke is a collection of poems written by women fighting on the front lines for social justice. Young readers will be inspired to get involved in activism of their own. 

49. IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All

by Latoya Council, Carolyn Choi, et al.

Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

This unique book advocates for inclusion by taking nine interconnected women and describing their backgrounds and their unique lives in a book that is both a celebration of differences and a look into ways our lives are collectively intertwined.   

50. Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations

by Mira Jacob 

Books About Race_ Amy's Bookshelf

Get it HERE.

In this graphic novel memoir, Mira Jacob recounts trying to answer her precocious younger brother’s questions during the 2016 election. Many of the questions – and the relatable and honest conversations that result – are about race. They are answered with love. 

Other book lists from Amy’s bookshelf you’ll love: 

50 Books About Race For Kids & Young Adults to Read Right Now

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AuthorAmy

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I am an unrepentant lover of words - and lucky me, I spend all day, every day immersed in them. When I'm not teaching, I'm reading. Or writing. Or teaching eager (and sometimes not-so-eager) adolescents about the power of the written word. I live on the scenic Oregon Coast with my dog, two cats, and five-year-old son.

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