We Are KidLit 2020 Summer Reading List: Now More Than Ever
The police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and the murder of Ahmaud Aubery by racist vigilantes in Brunswick, Georgia, have galvanized a nation to protest not only these individual events but also the systemic racism that gave rise to them. The fact that Black and Brown people have been disproportionately affected by Covid-19, coupled with the federal government’s incompetence, corruption, and blame shifting, all provide evidence of that racism. So does the spectacle of ordinary people losing their jobs and homes while well-connected big businesses auction pandemic supplies to the highest bidders among the states and loot hundreds of billions of dollars of stimulus funds.
With schools and libraries closed, young people find themselves increasingly isolated. Faced with lack of care at the top levels of society, young people of color need to see themselves in books. They need books that show their lives as joyous and heroic, books that embrace all aspects of their identity — queer, disabled, observing a variety of faith traditions, speaking multiple languages at home. Children who don’t share the same backgrounds and experiences develop empathy from reading these books. We need this empathy. We need everyone to join, to unite, against the hatred and bullying coming from the top and sweeping the country.
The 2020 We Are KidLit Collective — Tad Andracki, Edith Campbell, Laura M. Jiménez, Sujei Lugo, Lyn Miller-Lachmann, Debbie Reese, and Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez — faced huge pandemic-related obstacles to put this year’s list together. Our libraries were closed and materials hard to obtain as a result. Some of us fell ill with the virus or had family members affected. Nonetheless, we continued, knowing the great need for these books with children and teens whose education has been disrupted. Every summer, children lose literacy skills, but most schools closed for in-person instruction in March, making that loss even greater unless children read and their families read with them during the months away from the classroom. Keeping that in mind, the 2020 list contains a larger share of picture books, chapter books for beginning readers, and middle grade titles. Some of these are available in bilingual editions, for families that speak more than one language at home. We also include several graphic novels for middle grade and YA readers (including a graphic novel originally published for general adult readers), as that category has grown in popularity in recent years.
The We Are KidLit Collective is pleased to present the 14 picture books, 6 chapter books for beginning readers (most of them the beginning of a series, so many more follow!), 12 middle grade titles, 7 young adult titles, and 3 books for adult readers, suitable for teens that make up our 2020 list. The full list with annotations is here and you can download the PDF here. Because so many library and school buildings remain closed, this year’s list includes links to videos and other resources for parents and teachers to use at home. Our five past lists (from 2015-2018, known as “We Are the People Summer Reading List”) are available here. Most of those books are still available and are great choices if you missed them earlier or want to reread.
Let’s keep on reading as we work for justice!