What a year 2020 has been, especially for kids. School looks like never before, and the days of sleepovers and birthday parties are a fond memory at the moment. But this is also a year when kids who never thought they liked to read, found a book that changed their mind. And a love of reading will last them far beyond the days of masks and isolation.
It's been fun to look back at all of our favorites that released this year, and select the Best Children's Books of 2020, including our No.1 pick, All Because You Matter, a beautiful and important picture book written by Tami Charles and illustrated by Caldecott Honor Winner Bryan Collier.
Looking at all these wonderful new titles makes me excited to recommend them all over again (and in the case of a few December releases, for the first time). So without further ado, here's a look at this year's top pick for each age range, and you can see them all on the Best Children's Books of the Year page.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky
No.1 pick for Baby to Age 2
Best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi's simple text speaks volumes, and in this board book (also available as a picture book) he shares nine steps to creating a racially just world. Smart, wise, and hopeful, one of my favorite moments of the book is a reminder that children are born without racism, and it's up to us to keep it that way.
What Will You Dream of Tonight? by Frances Stickley, illustrated by Anuska Allepuz
No.1 pick for Ages 3 to 5
With all the hallmarks of a classic bedtime book, Stickley's imagining of all the things a child might do in their dreams is something special, especially for little ones who may have trouble going to sleep. Stickley's soothing text and Allepuz's softly muted color palate pair perfectly for a reassuring story that can be read night after night.
All Because You Matter written by Tami Charles, illustrated by Bryan Collier
No. 1 Best Children's Book of the Year, and No. 1 for Ages 6-8
This beautiful picture book is an ode to all children, telling each one that they matter from the time before they were born, and throughout their lives. For children who face injustice, who may question their place in our world, this book reminds them that the answer is a resounding yes: you matter, you belong, and you are part of something bigger. A conversation starter, a love letter to our kids, All Because You Matter is an important and moving book that needs to be shared.
Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia
No. 1 for Ages 9 to 12
A spine-tingling fantasy that pulls a science-minded tween and her best friends into adventure and danger as they face off against what they thought was superstition and myth, the Mexican legend of La Llorona (the Crying Woman). Paola Santiago is a protagonist to root for, and young readers may relate to her struggles to understand her mother's protective ways. A fun and clever read for middle graders who will clamor for the next installment.
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard and Oge Mora
No. 1 for Nonfiction Children's Books
The Oldest Student published back in January of this year, but it has stayed high on the radar through all the months that followed. An inspiring picture book biography of Mary Walker, a woman born into slavery, freed at age 15, and who saw monumental change in our country in the ensuing decades. And at the age of 116, Mary Walker learned to read. Oge Mora's collage illustrations add an extra layer of visual detail to this true tale of perseverance that encourages kids to follow their dreams.
A bright spot of this year has been the number of kids who have picked up a book and discovered that reading is actually fun. 2020 has had a lot of great books to keep them going—here are the ones we think are the best of the best.