A late success over West Brom last month and a brace from Adam Le Fondre in a 2-2 draw against Chelsea in midweek had seen the Royals make a great start to 2013 and, thanks to Kebe, that continued at Sunderland's expense.
Kebe struck twice in a game which had little quality on show as the Berkshire club opened up a two-point cushion on the Barclays Premier League bottom three. A first-half Craig Gardner penalty looked for a long time like it would be enough for the Black Cats to claim a point but Martin O'Neill's side left the Madejski Stadium empty-handed.
Reading took the lead with the first meaningful attack of the game when Jobi McAnuff reached the byline before pulling the ball across to an unmarked Kebe, who controlled well before firing past Simon Mignolet.
The visitors failed to test Adam Federici in the Reading goal until the 24th minute. Alfred N'Diaye brushed off a couple of challenges before shooting low at the Australian, who could only push the ball into the path of Sebastian Larsson before keeping out the follow-up.
Sunderland did not have to wait long to be gifted a chance to draw level. Captain John O'Shea was chasing a clearance as Pavel Pogrebnyak slid in and brought the former Manchester United man down inside the area. Gardner thumped the resulting penalty past Federici.
It was the home side who returned from the interval as the brighter team with Ian Harte's low free-kick palmed into the path of Pogrebnyak by Mignolet and the Russian striker crossed towards Alex Pearce, who could not get his header on target.
Brian McDermott replaced Garath McCleary with in-form forward Adam Le Fondre. New signing Nick Blackman replaced Pogrebnyak with a little over 15 minutes remaining to partner Le Fondre but it was Adrian Mariappa who almost put Reading back in front but his header came back off the crossbar.
Sunderland's debutant Danny Graham was the next player brought on to try to find a winner - but it was N'Diaye who should have given the visitors the lead with just 10 minutes left, only to fire wildly wide after he had been played in by Adam Johnson down the right flank.
Sunderland were now looking the most likely to score a dramatic winner but Reading have made it their trademark of late and they struck again with five minutes remaining. The visitors' defence again could not deal with a Harte free-kick and Kebe rose to head in the winner.