18 Transitional Books to Entice Emerging Readers | We Are Kid Lit Collective

School Library Journal has proudly partnered with We Are Kid Lit Collective to share and promote the group's annual summer reading recommendations. These 18 beginning readers and chapter books are just right for kids starting to read on their own. A PDF of the full list is also available for download.


School Library Journal has proudly partnered with We Are Kid Lit Collective to share and promote the group's annual summer reading recommendations.

This week, SLJ will publish individual posts featuring their recommendations for picture books, transitional books, middle grade, and young adult titles. A PDF of the full list is also available for download.

These 18 beginning readers and chapter books are just right for kids starting to read on their own.

The We Are Kid Lit Collective works to create materials and opportunities to recognize the humanity of Indigenous and People of Color (IPOC) in youth literature. Their work is premised upon the principles of social justice, equity, and inclusion and centers IPOC voices in children’s literature in order to identify, challenge and dismantle white supremacy and both internalized and systematic racism.  

Their intended audience includes educators, librarians, caregivers, and young people. They look for ways to improve the literacies of IPOC children, promote books written by and about IPOC, and encourage gatekeepers to bring a lens of critical literacy to their work.


Black, Sonia W.; illustrated by George Ford. Hanging Out with Mom. (Scholastic, 2000). English.
After a long day at work, a mother takes her son out to spend a lovely afternoon of activities around the park.

Dant, Traci; illustrated by Eric Velasquez. Some Kind of Love: A Family Reunion in Poems. (Marshall Cavendish, 2010). English.
“Must be some kind of love,” begins each poem in Dant’s loving ode to an African American family’s reunion back home in Missouri. Whether fishing, sharing stories, or sharing a bed, the love among family is evident in Velasquez’s painterly vignettes.

Dillard, J.; illustrated by Akeem S. Roberts. J.D. and the Family Business. (Kokila, 2021). English.
African American siblings J.D. and Vanessa work together to build an online presence for their growing businesses in this installment in the “J.D. the Kid Barber” chapter book series.

Ford, Bernette; illustrated by Jennifer Kindert. Hurry Up! (Scholastic, 2003). English.
A young Black boy takes us through his school day in this beginning reader with repetitive word use. Bernette Ford passed away in June, 2021.

Guerra, Jill; translated by Morelia Rivas. When I Breathe Deeply/Cuando respiro profundo. (Self-published, 2020). Bilingual. English; Spanish.
Mindfulness and the power of breathing as tools of healing and liberation are presented through vibrant photographs and simple text in this bilingual book.

Hall, Kirsten; illustrated by Gloria Calderas. Grandma’s House. (Children’s Press, 2004). English.
A girl visits her grandmother’s house and enjoys every activity, game, and single moment she spends with her.

Johnson, R. Kikuo. The Shark King. (Toon Books, 2012). English.
In this graphic novel, Johnson, who grew up in Hawai’i, reimagines a traditional Hawai’ian folktale by centering the story on Nanaue rather than his father, the shape-shifting shark god Kamohoalii.

Lim, Hope; illustrated by Hyewon Yum. I Am a Bird. (Candlewick, 2021). English; Spanish.
Each morning, a little girl and her dad ride his bike to school, passing through the city and parks. The girl admires the birds and nature until one day an old lady catches her attention, and they realize their shared love for birds.

Lyons, Kelly Starling; illustrated by Nneka Myers. Jada Jones: Dancing Queen. (Penguin Workshop, 2019). English.
Mrs. Flowers inspires all the members of student council to be kind. They decide to have a dance to raise money to help their classmates in need. But Jada can’t dance!

McDonald, Kirsten; illustrated by Fátima Anaya. Carlos & Carmen: Over the Fence. (Magic Wagon, 2018). English.
While playing in their backyard, two siblings accidentally toss their hula hoop over the fence, and their imaginations run wild as they plan how to get it back.

Oxtra, Cristina; illustrated by Seb Burnett. Keep Dancing (Kids’ Sports Stories). (Picture Window Books, 2021). English.
Twins Lito and Nenita enjoy learning and practicing Filipino dances, but when boys tease Lito for doing so, his confidence and love for dancing is threatened.

Platt, Christine; illustrated by Sharon Sordo. Ana & Andrew: A Snowy Day. (Magic Wagon, 2019). English.
It’s the first snowfall of the season and siblings Ana and Andrew enjoy a lovely day with their neighbors and even learn how to make snow ice cream.

Ramirez-Stapleton, Lissa D.; illustrated by Shawn Richardson. Black Deaf Lives Matter. (Self-published, 2021). English.
Author Ramirez-Stapleton, a hearing advocate for the D/deaf community, created this interactive nonfiction book, better known as a coloring book, to inform readers about the history and culture of the Black D/deaf community.

Richardson, Charisse K.; illustrated by Kadir Nelson. The Real Slam Dunk. (Puffin, 2005). English.
Marcus dreams of being a professional basketball player, and one day he and his classmates get the opportunity to meet his basketball hero, Jason Carter. Through this meeting, Marcus learns about different ways and opportunities on how to be a star.

Roe, Mechal Renee. I Love Being Me! (Random, 2020). English.
An ode to Black girlhood, self-love and the uniqueness of physical and emotional traits in each of us.

Sheth, Kashmira; illustrated by Jenn Kocsmiersky. Nina Soni: Master of the Garden. (Peachtree, 2021). English.
Nina, a young Indian American girl, and her friend Jay go to work with Nina’s mom, a landscape architect, for Take Your Child to Work Day. As the summer continues, Nina and Jay decide to continue working in the garden, and along the way they learn a little about science, math, and business. Mom’s job isn’t nearly as easy as it seems! This book is part of the “Nina Soni” series.

Taylor-Butler, Christine; illustrated by Nancy Devard. A Mom Like No Other. (Scholastic, 2004). English.
In this early reader, a young Black girl explores all the ways she’s different from her mom and the reasons why she loves her so!

Yamasaki, Katie. Dad Bakes. (Norton, 2021). English.
Dad wakes early each morning to work at the bakery and then comes home after work to bake with his daughter. Using simple text and boldly colored paintings, Yamasaki tells a tender story of a child and her formerly incarcerated parent.

2022 WE ARE KID LIT COLLECTIVE MEMBERS: Sam Bloom, Edith Campbell, Sujei Lugo Vázquez, and Lyn Miller-Lachmann.

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