Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed.By Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed. • February 27, 2024 •

Access to books by Black authors highlight the importance of diversity, representation, education, cultural awareness, and historical accuracy in learning environments. Some of these reasons include the following.

  • Representation and Inclusivity: Books by Black authors provide representation for Black students, offering them stories and characters with whom they can identify with. This fosters a sense of belonging and inclusivity in school and models valuing of diverse voices and experiences for all students and families.
  • Cultural Awareness and Understanding: Reading books by authors from different racial and ethnic backgrounds promotes cultural awareness and understanding among all students. All students learn to appreciate the richness of diversity, understand different perspectives and build empathy toward people from different backgrounds than their own.
  • Educational Equity: Providing access to a diverse range of books, including those by Black authors, supports educational equity. It ensures that students from all backgrounds can see themselves reflected in the curriculum and to learn about the contributions and experiences of all people, not just those from dominant cultural narratives.
  • Historical Accuracy and Perspective: These books often offer perspectives on history that are overlooked or marginalized in mainstream narratives. They can provide more accurate, nuanced views of U.S. history, including the history of slavery, civil rights movements, and the ongoing struggle for equality. All students develop a more complete understanding of history and the complex factors that shape our society.

Critical Thinking and Openness: Exposure to diverse authors and perspectives challenges students to think critically about their own views, the views of others, and the world around them. It encourages openness to new ideas and fosters a learning environment where questioning and critical analysis are valued. These skills are necessary to navigate a diverse and complex world.

See some book suggestions below along with resources for finding Black-authored books and Black-owned bookstores. (Award-winning books are marked with an asterisk.*)

Books for Elementary School Students

Last Stop on Market Street,* by Matt de la Peña: This beautifully-illustrated book tells the story of a young boy and his grandmother’s bus ride, showcasing the beauty and wonder in everyday life. (Newberry and Caldecott Winner)

The Snowy Day,* by Ezra Jack Keats: A classic, this book captures the adventures of a young boy named Peter as he explores his neighborhood after the first snowfall. (Caldecott Winner)

Sulwe,* by Lupita Nyong’o: Written by the Academy Award-winning actress, this story focuses on a young girl who learns to embrace and love her dark skin. (Corretta Scott King Book Winner)

Books for Middle School Students & Young Adults

Opposite of Always, by Justin A. Reynolds: This debut author delivers a hilarious and heartfelt novel about the choices we make, the people we choose, and the moments that make a life worth reliving.

The Dividing Sky, by Jill Tew: Serpent & Dove meets Arcane in this dystopian romance debut that follows a cunning memory merchant who deals a little extra happiness on the side and the handsome rookie officer on her tail.

Fake ID,* by Lamar Giles: This book is a mystery/thriller novel where the narrator and main character is Nick Pearson, a 15-year-old who has just moved to Stepton, Virginia, becoming a Black student in a predominantly white setting.

Books for High School Students

Just Mercy,* by Bryan Stevenson (adapted for young adults): A true story of the fight for justice, by a lawyer and activist, depicts his experience as a young lawyer defending wrongfully incriminated clients in the South.

Parable of the Sower,* by Octavia Butler: Racial justice and environmental science combine in this novel featuring a 15-year-old Black girl who builds a powerful cohort of young leaders to fight for survival and discover a new vision for humanity.

Children of Blood and Bone,* by Tomi Adeyemi: This 2018 fantasy novel and New York Times Bestseller by Nigerian American novelist Tomi Adeyemi has become a fast classic. First in the Legacy of Orisha series, Children of Blood and Bone incorporates Adeyemi’s West African heritage in a story of fighting injustice and discrimination.

Resources for Finding Black-Authored Books

For middle school and high school students looking for books written by Black authors, there are several online resources where you can find a diverse range of books suitable for these age groups.

Reading Middle Grade offers a list of over 60 Black middle-grade books by Black authors, including contemporary, historical, and fantasy genres. Some of the highlighted books include Lasagna Means I Love You, Figure It Out, Henri Weldon, and Pizza My Heart: A Wish Novel. features a collection of middle-grade books by Black authors. Notable titles include Some Places More Than Others, The Crossover: A Newbery Award Winner, and The Season of Styx Malone.

Resources for Black-Owned Booksellers

AfriWare Books is a Black-owned bookstore and resource center located in the Chicago Suburb of Maywood. Since 1993, AfriWare Books has served the community by providing a platform to showcase authors, artists and advocates who infuse us with a sense of cultural pride.

Ashay At the Bay is the California Bay Area’s leading Black children’s bookstore, offering a diverse range of African American and multicultural books.

Kindred Stories is a Houston-based Black woman owned bookstore. Opening in 2021, they carefully curate books that community members are eager to read and have become an art and cultural hub in Houston’s historically Black third ward neighborhood.

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