February is Black History Month, which means it’s a great time to introduce your students to novels written by Black authors. Black History Month is an important reminder to promote authors and experiences that haven’t always had a place to be heard. Reading books by Black authors that feature Black protagonists is beneficial to readers of all backgrounds for that reason.

We’ve curated a list of books that are perfect to either recommend to your students or even discuss in your classroom. We’ve included books suitable for grades 3–12, so you’re bound to find a book perfect for any student!

Books by Black Authors for Elementary School Students

Third Grade: The Real Slam Dunk, Charisse K. Richardson

In this chapter book perfect for the third-grade reading level, Marcus Robinson is excited about his class’s field trip to a basketball arena where he’ll get to meet his hero—basketball player Jason Carter. Considering that Marcus has a tendency to focus only on basketball, he is surprised to hear his hero’s advice about school and sports.

The Real Slam Dunk follows Marcus as he learns the meaning of a “real slam dunk”. Marcus learns how to turn his dreams of becoming a basketball player into a realistic goal. This book is great for young students who enjoy sports and even has a sequel book following Marcus’s little sister, which students are sure to love as well!

Fourth Grade: The Parker Inheritance, Varian Johnson

Candice Miller finds a letter in an attic addressed to her grandmother who left the town of Lamber, South Carolina in shame decades ago. The letter describes a mystery about an injustice surrounding a young woman named Siobahn Washington. The letter offers a fortune to whomever can solve the mystery. With the help of her new friend Brandon, Candice sets out to solve the letter’s mystery, revealing secrets about Lambert’s history and her own family.

The Parker Inheritance follows Candice and Brandon as they attempt to decipher the letter’s clues and find the fortune before the summer is over. A Coretta Scott King Author Honor and Boston Globe / Horn Book Honor winner, this book is sure to have students on the edge of their seats while reading!

Fifth Grade: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, Mildred D. Taylor

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is one of Mildred D. Taylor most known books and even won the Newbery Medal in 1977. The novel follows the Logan family including the nine-year-old protagonist Cassie and her three brothers living in rural Mississippi in 1933. The book features several subplots featuring different members of the Logan family that all deal with racism. By the end of the novel, the intertwined plots merge, resulting in a riveting climax of the story.

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a modern classic in children’s literature, making it a valuable read for fifth-grade students. However, since the novel does deal with serious themes, we recommend researching the plot and subject matter of the book to ensure it is a good fit for your classroom.

Books by Black Authors for Middle Schoolers

Sixth Grade: As Brave As You, Jason Reynolds

Jason Reynolds is a poet and author of children’s and young adult literature. As Brave As You tells the story of brothers Genie and Ernie as they spend a summer in Virginia with their grandparents. The boys want to be brave like their grandfather and run into a few mishaps along the way. While the novel focuses on the brothers’ experiences, it also deals with the complicated relationships within their family.

This novel is a great read for sixth graders, as the brothers are middle-schoolers. Reynold’s writing combines warm-hearted moments with comedic scenes to be both enriching and entertaining for middle-grade readers. Moreover, the themes of family, maturity, and bravery are beneficial for sixth-grade readers to explore.

Seventh Grade: New Kid, Jerry Craft 

Jerry Craft is a renowned author and cartoonist. His graphic novel New Kid won the Newbery Award in 2020—the first time a graphic novel won the esteemed award. New Kid follows twelve-year-old Jordan Banks as he navigates seventh grade in a prestigious art school. While Jordan is excited to have more time to spend on his cartoons, he is one of the only students of color in his grade and feels torn between the worlds of his new school and his neighborhood.

New Kid is a fantastic story for students who aren’t particularly fond of reading already. The graphic novel format makes Jordan’s story enjoyable for all students. Additionally, Jordan’s struggle of feeling out-of-place in his predominantly white school is a great way to introduce this discussion to your students.

Eighth Grade: Not Without Laughter, Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes is one of the most influential American writers, being the leading voice of the Harlem Renaissance. While Hughes’s poetry is the biggest source of his critical acclaim, his debut novel Not Without Laughter is a captivating read nonetheless. The coming-of-age novel focuses on the life of protagonist Sandy throughout his childhood and adolescence.

Although Sandy is young, he faces many serious obstacles throughout the novel as he and his family deal with racism. Not Without Laughter is a great addition to an eighth-grade classroom during Black History Month, as it can introduce students to important conversations through the story of a protagonist their age. Additionally, Hughes’s poems, such as the iconic “I, Too, Sing America”, offer valuable material to cover as well.

Books by Black Authors for Young Adults

Ninth Grade: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

A former English teacher, Elizabeth Acevedo is one of the most notable current young adult authors. Her first novel, The Poet X, has earned many significant awards, such as the Michael L. Printz Award and the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. The novel is written entirely in verse, making the story perfect for students who enjoy poetry in particular.

The Poet X is about Xiomara, a fifteen-year-old Dominican girl living in Harlem. The novel is written from her perspective as she tells her story through her poems. She struggles to find her voice as she grows and clashes with her mother’s strict rules. Constantly feeling compared to her twin brother, Xiomara turns to poetry to express herself and find her own voice.

Tenth Grade: Legendborn, Tracy Deonn

Tracy Deonn’s debut novel Legendborn won the Coretta Scott King–John Steptoe Award for New Talent in 2021. The urban fantasy novel is about sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews as she grieves her mother’s death at a pre-college program at the University of North Carolina. However, her life is quickly uprooted after she witnesses a magical attack on campus. After a mage attempts to wipe her memory of the attack and the secret society of magical students who defended the campus, Bree’s own magic is unlocked along with a memory that connects her mother’s death to the strange society.

Legendborn is a gripping tale for students who enjoy stories with fantastical elements. Bree’s story deals with intergenerational trauma, problems caused by colonization, and racism within education. Bree must deal with these issues all while diving headfirst into Deonn’s magical world.

Eleventh Grade: The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas

Angie Thomas made her debut with the critically acclaimed young adult novel The Hate U Give. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, the novel follows sixteen-year-old Starr Carter as she deals with the aftermath of witnessing her childhood best friend’s death at the hands of a police officer. Starr must navigate the traumatic experience at both her predominately white up-scale private school and her turbulent hometown.

This novel is perfect for high school students as it follows an eleventh-grader protagonist and is a modern story written for teens. Starr’s story highlights themes of identity, race, and police brutality—all important topics for students to consider and learn about. This novel has also been adapted into a movie, which students would surely enjoy viewing as well.

Twelfth Grade: Dear Martin, Nic Stone

Nic Stone’s debut novel, Dear Martin, made its way onto the New York Times bestseller list and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut YA Award.

Similar to Starr, high school senior Justyce McAllister is one of the only Black students attending his prestigious private school. Despite the contempt of both his former and current peers, Justyce is at the top of his class and headed for the Ivy League. However, Justyce’s promising future means nothing to an officer who puts him in handcuffs. When Justyce and his friend are caught in the crosshairs of racist police violence, Justyce turns to the teachings of Martin Luther King. He writes letters to MLK in an attempt to make some sense of his circumstances.

Improve Reading Comprehension with Piqosity

We hope you enjoyed this list of books and found the perfect novel to share with your students during Black History Month. Regardless of grade level, all students can benefit from reading from diverse perspectives. Be sure to check out our list of free Black History Month classroom activities as well for more ways to celebrate Black History Month!

You can find more reading and language resources in our full-length ELA courses! Our courses include reading comprehension passages on an extensive variety of topics suitable for each grade level. Each passage is accompanied by questions with explanations that test students’ comprehension and analysis of each passage. These courses are available online through our app and can be purchased separately or received for free when bundled with our ISEE test prep courses.

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