Teachers know: Students thrive when they can see themselves in their learning materials. Classroom libraries come to life when the shelves are filled with diverse stories, characters, and authors. Black students especially deserve to see themselves in stories beyond those of suffering; stories by and about Black folks filled with joy, love, and magic are essential for every classroom.
We broke down the data and these are the most popular books by Black authors that teachers request on DonorsChoose. Plus, we added a couple of buzzy new releases to add to your list too. Check out these top picks and find your students’ (or your own!) next read.
Elementary Books by Black Authors
Hair Love, by Matthew A. Cherry
Hair Love tells the story of a Black father who jumps in to style his daughters hair when her mom is away. This heartwarming depiction of a father-daughter relationship was also turned into a 7 minute animated film.
Skin Like Mine, by Latisha M. Perry
Skin Like Mine celebrates the beauty of diverse skin tones. Already love Skin Like Mine? Check out another Latisha M. Perry teacher fave from the Kids Like Mine series, Hair Like Mine.
Sulwe, by Lupita Nyong'o
Sulwe, written by actress Lupita Nyong'o, tells the story of a young girl who wishes her skin were lighter. The 2019 children’s book explores colorism and, ultimately, how to love yourself.
“Sulwe is a book that promotes self-love, and acceptance, while helping children to be proud of who they are and realize they're just as beautiful outside as they are within. This book is a sweet take on ways young children can be helped to confront colorism.” —Mr. Romelle, Self Love
Alvin Ailey, by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Alvin Ailey broke ground when he founded a Black modern dance company in 1958. This illustrated children’s book shows off Ailey’s childhood, choreography, and founding of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson
In her New York Times bestseller, Jacqueline Woodson explores difference and belonging in The Day You Begin. Lyrical and beautifully illustrated, the book speaks directly to young children and can help foster community within a class.
Middle School Books by Black Authors
Clean Getaway, by Nic Stone
Nic Stone’s first novel Dear Martin has already made her a staple in many high school classrooms. Her first middle grade novel, Clean Getaway, follows an 11-year-old on a road trip with his grandmother.
“Clean Getaway by Nic Stone will be the foundation of our project, allowing us to build an understanding of civil rights history through a character that our students can see themselves in.” —Ms. Tuttell, The Pride of Southeast Raleigh
Black Brother, Black Brother, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Jewell Parker Rhodes’s book looks at the school-to-prison pipeline through the story of two biracial brothers — one who presents as Black, and the other who presents as White — and a world that doesn’t treat them equally.
“Providing my readers with the opportunity to read Black Brother, Black Brother as a whole class at home will enable them to view the world through different perspectives, research other connecting events, and have the tough but all-too-necessary conversations required to change the future.” —Mrs. Stegall, Black Brother, Black Brother: A Novel for Racial Equality
Class Act, by Jerry Craft
Class Act is a companion book to New Kid, winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize. The graphic novel shows the lives of middle schoolers as they come to terms with the realities of privilege.
Before the Ever After, by Jacqueline Woodson
Jaqueline Woodson’s novel-in-verse and winner of the Coretta Scott King Author Award Before the Ever After tells the story of a family dealing with the impact professional sports — specifically football — has on Black bodies.
Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel, by Jason Reynolds
Long Way Down is a graphic novel in verse with illustrations by Danica Novgorodoff that centers the story of a boy who witnessed his brother die in a fatal shooting. As he weighs his options for revenge, he’s visited by people from his past.
“Jason Reynolds speaks to my students, especially my young men who struggle to engage with literature. His work offers a different perspective than the classics that we typically find on the shelves at school. Students deserve to read his books.” —Ms. Rausch, Long Way to Literacy
High School Books by Black Authors
Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice, Bryan Stevenson
Lawyer and activist Bryan Stevenson’s book Just Mercy depicts his experience as a young lawyer defending wrongfully incriminated clients in the south. This version, adapted for young adult audiences, shows students a glimpse into the broken US justice system.
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi
This 2018 fantasy novel and #1 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 incorpoerest Adeyemi’s West African heritage in a story of fighting injustice and discrimination.
“Children of Blood and Bone is an amazing read that explores powerful female characters and social issues that are relevant to the world we live in, as well as magic and adventure that keep readers on the edge of their seats.” —Mrs. Majeski-Turner, Help Amazing Young Women Read Children of Blood and Bone
Concrete Rose, by Angie Thomas
Looking for a book like The Hate U Give? Angie Thomas’s new novel Concrete Rose revisits the same neighborhood 17 years prior, exploring Black boyhood and manhood through the story of 17-year-old Maverick Carter.
Punching the Air, by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam
Co-written by award winning novelist Ibi Zoboi and prison reform activist Yusef Salaam of The Exonerated Five, Punching the Air is a YA novel written in verse about a wrongfully incarcerated boy.
“In my 13 years as a professional librarian, [Punching the Air] is one of the finest books I have ever read for young adults. All of us will read the book as a learning community, to discuss and explore.” —Mrs. May-Stein, Punch Out Illiteracy in the Time of COVID-19!
The Weary Blues, by Langston Hughes
Truly no library is complete without Langston Hughes. Written in 1925, “The Weary Blues” is a seminal work of the Harlem Renaissance, and Hughes’s first collection of poetry still resonates today.
Between the World and Me, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Ta-Nehisi Coates’s 2015 nonfiction bestseller weaves personal narrative and history, and is written as a letter to his teenage son. Inspired by the writing of James Baldwin, Coates interrogates the "racist violence that has been woven into American culture."
“Ta-Nehisi Coates makes these real world struggles personal and engaging. What started as a letter to his son, now has grown into a memoir and meditation for all teenagers and adults to understand what others go through.” —Mr. Steinman, Between the World and the Heights
The Nickel Boys, by Colson Whitehead
Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, The Nickel Boys follows the story of two boys unjustly sent to a reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.
“The Nickel Boys promises to be a novel which inspires engaged discussion, thoughtful reflection, and even some soul-searching in the high school classroom. To move forward as a diverse country requires us to examine some of the tragedies of our disparate paths. This book provides the opportunity for readers to do just that.” —Ms. Furlong, A New and Necessary Novel: Colson Whitehead in the Classroom
A Couple New Releases by Black Authors
Do the Work : An Antiracist Activity Book, by W. Kamau Bell and Kate Schatz
Are you looking for new conversation starters and tools to discuss racial injustice in your classroom? This interactive workbook, co-written by DonorsChoose Board Member W. Kamau Bell, challenges readers to think critically and do the work.
Life in Motion: Unlikely Ballerina Young Readers Edition, by Misty Copeland
Life in Motion: Unlikely Ballerina depicts the life of Misty Copeland, the first Black female principal ballerina in the American Ballet Theatre. This young readers edition is a great opportunity for students 3rd - 7th grade to learn about her journey to becoming a history making ballerina.