Great Summer Books For Black Girls


Whether a parent or teacher, if you have had to spend more than 30 minutes in the presence of an adolescent girl, I’m sure you’ve heard these words…”I’m bored…” or “It is soooo boring…” or “It’s nothing to do…”

Well, there is no better time than the “nothing to do” days of summer to encourage our girls to lose themselves in a book adventure.

If getting them out of our hair is not motivation enough to put a book into their hands, perhaps realizing how an unfocused summer can pose a threat to their development will be the reason.

While it is certainly a time for leisure and relaxation, summer is also the season when children from disenfranchised communities experience a detrimental loss of learning. In fact, The Center for Summer Learning shared a report which states young people can lose up to three months of learning during their summer vacation.  Irrespective of income level, if young people are not as academically stimulated during summer as they are during the school year, they will not retain what they ended the school year knowing.

That alone is reason enough for me to compile a Summer Hot Reads reading list for Girls Like Me… that and my absolute love of reading. Now I admit, I have a selfish motive, too. I mean, for me there is nothing more appealing than sitting curled up with a book in my hand. I want so desperately to inject the reading bug into all girls…after all, I truly believe reading is power.

Still, not every girl will independently choose turning pages over uploading pics to Instagram, creating dancing vids for YouTube, giggling on stoops and porches with their friends, or hanging at the air conditioned malls. Yet, I am confident if we add some engaging, culturally relevant titles to their reading elixir, they’ll be captivated by stories that hold a space for characters they identify with and connect to.

So without further ado, here is the Girls Like Me Project, Inc. Great Summer Books For Black Girls reading list:

5-8th grade

One Crazy Summer,” Rita Williams-Garcia
Buy “One Crazy Summer” HERE

The Skin I’m In,” Sharon G. Flake
Buy “The Skin I’m In” here.

Standing Against the Wind,” Traci L. Jones
Buy “Standing Against the Wind” HERE

The House on Mango Street,” Sandra Cisneros
Buy “The House on Mango Street” HERE

Ninth Ward,” Jewell Parker Rhodes
Buy “Ninth Ward” HERE

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina,” Misty Copeland
Buy “Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina” HERE

Last Summer with Maizon,” Jacqueline Woodson
Buy “Last Summer With Maizon” HERE

Girls Like Us,” Gail Giles
Buy “Girls Like Us” HERE

8-12th grade

Brown Girl Dreaming,” Jacqueline Woodson
Buy “Brown Girl Dreaming” HERE

Americanah,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Buy “Americanah” HERE

Purple Hibiscus,” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Buy “Purple Hibiscus” HERE

Rayla 2212,” Ytasha Womack
Buy “Rayla 2212” HERE

Ship of Souls,” Zetta Elliott
Buy “Ship of Souls” HERE

Cornered, 14 Stories of Bullying and Defiance,” edited by Rhoda Belleza
Buy “Cornered: 14 Stories of Bullying and Defiance” HERE

I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings,” Maya Angelou
Buy “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” HERE

Upstate,” Kalisha Buckhanon
Buy “Upstate: A Novel” HERE

Assata: An Autobiography
By “Assata: An Autobiography” HERE

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
Buy “The Bluest Eye” HERE

The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood
Buy “The House at Sugar Beach: In Search of a Lost African Childhood” HERE

On the Line,” Serena Williams
Buy “On the Line” HERE

The Other Side of Paradise,” Staceyann Chin
Buy “The Other Side of Paradise: A Memoir” HERE

Everything I Never Told You,” Celeste Ng
Buy “Everything I Never Told You” HERE

To make sure girls are getting the most out of their reading experience:

Have girls perform scenes from their book! Or record an video summary and upload to YouTube like like this one:

  • Reading is a great activity to share with you the girl you mentor! Make visits to the library a part of your engagement time.
  • And be encouraged to start a book club with a few of the girls on your block, or youth members of your church/community center.

Happy reading!

P.S. Please share any other hot read recommendations in the comments. Thanks a million!

La’Keisha Gray-Sewell is a nationally-recognized urban girls advocate, media literacy expert and speaker. As the founder of Girls Like Me Project, Inc., she delivers transformative programs and trainings that empower girls to navigate beyond stereotypes and become global legacy builders. La’Keisha’s most fulfilling life assignment is wife and mommy of four (two humans and two furry babies). This piece appeared first on the Girls Like Me blog.

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  1. Hi! I would LOVE one of these for tween boys.

    • A while ago I tried to come up with a list for boys–it’s clear the publishing industry does not think Black boys read. Anyway, some of these might work for a tween boy:

      Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
      Malcolm X A Graphic Novel by Andrew Helfer
      The Silence of Friends by Mark Long
      March: Books 1 and 2 by John Lewis
      Autobiography of Malcolm X
      Fences by August Wilson
      Native Son and Black Boy by Richard Wright
      Twelve Years a Slave by Solomon Northup
      A Lesson Before Dying Ernest J Gaines
      The Watsons Go To Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
      Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
      Sag Harbor by Colson Whitehead
      Monster by Walter Dean Myers
      Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
      Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
      Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
      Blues People by Amiri Baraka
      Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison
      The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
      A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
      Miles: the Autobiography by Miles Davis
      The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood by Ta-Nehisi Coates

      • Thanks for this, Mia. I’ve just spent the past day hunting around for books for my 8-yr-old son, who reads 5th grade level. I’ll hang on to the list you’ve compiled for later, since most of these are too mature for him now.

        In case others are interested, I found the following that are all well-reviewed and promising. All are by black authors with black main characters, unlike virtually everything written for boys this age. My son leans towards fantasy/magical/sci fi stories, so some of these fit in that vein. Many would appeal to girls, too.

        Feathers, by Jacqueline Woodson
        47, by Walter Mosley
        Ninth Ward, by Jewell Parker Rhodes
        Game World, by Christopher Farley
        Kinda Like Brothers, by Coe Booth
        The Marvelous World series (The Marvelous Effect, and Olivian’s Favorites), by Troy CLE
        The Firestone Crystal, by Linda David (this one has a female protagonist)

        This was the most helpful site I found, which has other good suggestions for tweens:

  2. Any summer reading list for Black girls is incomplete without Nnedi Okorofor’s work. Either Akata Witch or Zahrah The Windseeker. Added bonus? Fully realized, positive, platonic, heart warming relationships with a male character.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing this! I’m a teacher who is [finally] taking summer vacation and created the challenge of 50 books for the summer to keep my mind active. Awesome job by breaking it by age group.

    Be blessed,

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