Today I am sharing a list of books you can read to your children in honor of #BlackHistoryMonth! As someone who feels that black history was glossed over in their own education, it is very important to me to celebrate Black History Month with my children. Here are the books I’ve read with my own children…
» Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
When Little Mae was a child, she dreamed of dancing in space. She imagined herself surrounded by billions of stars, floating, gliding, and discovering.
She wanted to be an astronaut.
Her mom told her, “If you believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible.”
Little Mae’s curiosity, intelligence, and determination, matched with her parents’ encouraging words, paved the way for her success at NASA as the first African American woman to travel in space.
Recommended age rage: 4 – 7 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use?: Yes! This would be a great book to read during a library storytime or in a preschool or Kindergarten classroom.
This picture book was inspired by Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space. Mae dreamed of being an astronaut as a young child, and finally made that dream a reality in 1992. This is such an inspiring little book that encourages children, especially girls, that “if you dream it, believe in it, and word hard for it, anything is possible.”
» Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton
In this Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, Paula Young Shelton, daughter of Civil Rights activist Andrew Young, brings a child’s unique perspective to an important chapter in America’s history. Paula grew up in the deep south, in a world where whites had and blacks did not. With an activist father and a community of leaders surrounding her, including Uncle Martin (Martin Luther King), Paula watched and listened to the struggles, eventually joining with her family–and thousands of others–in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.
Poignant, moving, and hopeful, this is an intimate look at the birth of the Civil Rights Movement.
Recommended age rage: 6 – 8 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use? I wouldn’t recommend this for a library storytime – it’s too long & too complex for a younger audience. It would be a great book for a K -2nd grade classroom setting to introduce the Civil Rights Movement to children.
Child of the Civil Rights Movement is a look at the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of a child, more specifically, the eyes of the author as a child during the Civil Rights Movement. Another fun fact? She was the daughter of Civil Rights Activist, Andrew Young. Andrew Young was a colleague & friend of Martin Luther King Jr. I think the author did a great job of describing the CRM and what it was like to see these events unfold as a young child. This book touches upon topics/events such as the Freedom Riders, Jim Crow Laws, the Selema to Montgomery marches, and The Voting Rights Act of 1965.
» Martin Rising: Requiem For a King by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Brian Pinkney
In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King’s life — and of his assassination — through metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning.
Andrea’s stunning poetic requiem, illustrated with Brian’s lyrical and colorful artwork, brings a fresh perspective to Martin Luther King, the Gandhi-like, peace-loving activist whose dream of equality — and whose courage to make it happen — changed the course of American history. And even in his death, he continues to transform and inspire all of us who share his dream.
Wonderful classroom plays of Martin Rising can be performed by using the “Now Is the Time” history and the 1968 timeline at the back of the book as narration — and adding selected poems to tell the story!
Recommended age rage: 9 – 12 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use? This book would not work well in a library storytime setting because it is told in verse and targeted to an older audience. Plus it is pretty lengthy. I am not even sure I’d use it in a classroom setting… possibly for older kids (5th – 7th grades) but the teacher would definitely need to go passage by passage to help ensure the kids were understanding the text.
Told in verse, Martin Rising is an ode to Martin Luther King Jr & his final days. Personally, I think books told in verse are hard for most children to understand, so if you are giving this one to a middle grade child, you may want to read with them. If you are a fan of books told in verse or a Jaqueline Woodson fan, I’d recommend this one to you.
» Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story From the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by a Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author and a Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist.
Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday — his first day of freedom.
Recommended age rage: 4-7 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use? I think this book is best utilized as a one-on-one read. Emotional books like this should be read in a more intimate setting. I do think you could use this book in a classroom setting – probably 1st or 2nd grade – to talk about slavery.
This book definitely tugs at your heart strings. The emotional content paired with the powerful illustrations, makes for a stunning story. The absolute best part of this book was that Henry was a real person! You’ll never believe how Henry won his freedom…
» Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.
They participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.
In this illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as “colored computers,” and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.
Recommended age rage: 4-8 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use? It is too long to utilize in a storytime settting, but would work well in a classroom setting for #BlackHistoryMonth OR #WomensHistoryMonth. This book would probably would work best for younger kids one-on-one, and in 1st through 3rd grade classrooms.
What amazing role models to young girls everywhere! I’ve read the adult version of Hidden Figures AND have seen the movie. These women & their stories are so inspirational. It blows my mind what they were able to accomplish as black women in a time where racism, segregation, and sexism were so prevalent. The illustrations in this book are absolutely stunning as well.
» Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson
I couldn’t play on the same playground as the white kids.
I couldn’t go to their schools.
I couldn’t drink from their water fountains.
There were so many things I couldn’t do.
In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world.
Recommended age rage: 4-7 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use? This book COULD be used in a storytime setting as it is written in a way that younger children can understand, HOWEVER there is content that may be disturbing to young children: children being sprayed by hoses by the police, children being arrested for marching, children behind bars, police brutality, etc. This may be a better book to read one-on-one to allow an open dialogue with younger children. This book could absolutely be used in a classroom setting on a unit on the Civil Rights Movement.
This is a wonderful picture book portrays The Birmingham Children’s Children’s March of 1963. This book would be an excellent resource for teachers doing a unit on the Civil Rights Movement. Not only do we see an important event in black history, but we see how children were a part of this movement. I really think students would love to learn that children were a big part of this march, and the movement as a whole. The best part about this book is the ending. Despite the heavy content, it ends on such an uplifting note.
» Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
The Barnes & Noble Review
Acclaimed author Doreen Rappaport and Coretta Scott King Award winner Bryan Collier, who previously collaborated on Freedom River, have pooled their talents yet again in a stunning tribute to civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. An extraordinary picture-book biography, Martin’s Big Wordsconsists of Rappaport’s own words interwoven with quotes from Dr. King…all powerfully brought to life by Collier’s striking, glorious art.
Rappaport’s spare, gripping text and Collier’s distinctive collage-and-watercolor illustrations depict King’s life journey with reverence and dignity — beginning with his childhood experience of seeing “White Only” signs throughout his hometown, presenting his efforts as a civil rights crusader, and ending abruptly with his assassination. The front cover of the book immediately conveys King’s power and spiritual strength, consisting entirely of a lifelike portrait of him — the title and the author’s and illustrator’s names are relegated to the back cover. As Collier says in his illustrator’s note, he “tried to push [the imagery] to an emotional level that allows the reader to bring his or her own experience to it, without actually losing the intensity or the intention of the story.” His technique is utterly effective.
By using simple, direct language — much of it King’s — the text offers young readers an accessible yet profound introduction to King’s legacy. It explains that as a child, he listened to his minister father’s “big words” and vowed to inspire others with such words when he grew up. The book’s final sentence: “His big words are alive for us today,” testifies to King’s success — and to the timeless importance of this great leader’s ideals. As further inspiration for interested readers, Martin’s Big Words includes a list of significant dates as well as a bibliography of resources for them to explore. (Jamie Levine)
Recommended age rage: 5-8 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use? I would say yes, you could use this in a library storytime setting to celebrate Black History Month or Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I think it is written in a way that is both understandable to young children and appropriate. It could also definitely be used in a classroom setting in the kindergarten through 2nd grade range.
I adored this book. What a lovely tribute to such a powerful individual in our history. The author did an amazing job getting King’s messages across in a way that even young children can understand. I also liked that direct quotes were used throughout the story. The illustrations are very unique & complimented the story well.
» My Name is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner
Here is the remarkable true story of how former slave Isabella Baumfree transformed herself into the preacher and orator Sojourner Truth, as told by acclaimed author Ann Turner and award-winning illustrator James Ransome. An iconic figure of the abolitionist and women’s rights movements, Sojourner Truth famously spoke out for equal rights roughly one hundred years before the civil rights movement.
This beautifully illustrated and impeccably researched picture book biography underwent expert review by two historians of the period. My Name Is Truth includes a detailed historical note, an archival photo, and a list of suggested supplemental reading materials. Written in the fiery and eloquent voice of Sojourner Truth herself, this moving story will captivate readers just as Sojourner’s passionate words enthralled her listeners.
Supports the Common Core State Standards
Recommended age rage: 6-9 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use? I don’t think this would work well in a library storytime. This is best experienced one-on-one, but could also be used in a classroom setting as well.
I remember having to do my first biography when I was in grade school. I chose Sojourner Truth after coming across her “Ain’t I A Woman” speech. My Name is Truth is a wonderful overview of her life. She is such an inspirational figure that stood up for human rights despite the danger it put her in.
» Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
She had not sought this moment but she was ready for it. When the policeman bent down to ask “Auntie, are you going to move?” all the strength of all the people through all those many years joined in her. She said, “No.”
A picture book account of Rosa Park’s historic choice.
Recommended age rage: 4-8 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use? This story is too long to use in a storytime setting, but could be used in a classroom setting.
Another wonderful book highlighting the brave story of Rosa Parks. Not only does this book portray Rosa’s famous refusal to relinquish her seat on a bus, but it also highlights other important events in the Civil Rights Movement.
» Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass
Explore a little-known story of the Civil Rights movement, in which black and white citizens in one Alabama city worked together nonviolently to end segregation.
Mention the Civil Rights era in Alabama, and most people recall images of terrible violence. But something different was happening in Huntsville. For the citizens of that city, creativity, courage, and cooperation were the keys to working together to integrate their city and schools in peace. In an engaging celebration of this lesser-known chapter in American and African-American history, author Hester Bass and illustrator E. B. Lewis show children how racial discrimination, bullying, and unfairness can be faced successfully with perseverance and ingenuity.
Recommended age rage: 5-8 years
Recommended for Classroom or Storytime Use? Again, another book too long to be used in a storytime, but could be utilized in the classroom.
Seeds of Freedom is a look at historical events that occurred in Huntsville, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement.: sit-ins, boycotts, the releasing of balloons with messages of hope at the courthouse, the integration of black students into white-only schools.
Have you read any of these books to your children? If so, what did you think?
If you are a teacher, have you utilized any of these books in the classroom?
Do you have any picture book recommendations to celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth?
Comment below & let me know!