11 books to read with your kids for Black History Month

by

Laura Falin

posted in Life & Home

In honor of Black History Month, we’ve pulled together a list of books to read with your kids. From tales based on actual historic events to fiction featuring African American kids (who are still grossly underrepresented in children’s literature), here are some books here to get your celebration started.

Like any book list, this one was hard to narrow down. Hopefully this is a jumping-off point for finding more books you and your family can read together!

1. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier — A great introduction of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. for children. The book uses many of King’s own words to share his story and show how he changed the world. The book has beautiful watercolor illustrations and was a Caldecott Medal Winner. 

2. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats — This has been one of our favorites for years…a sweet book about a little boy out investigating his city on a snowy day. The beautiful collage illustrations are bright and unique. It’s a trailblazer as well — according to Horn Book Magazine, this was “the very first full-color picture book to feature a small black hero.” It’s also a 1963 Caldecott Medal winner. Just a perfect book.

3. What’s the Hurry, Fox? And Other Animal Stories by Zora Neale Hurston and Joyce Carol Thomas — Author Hurston, who also wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, traveled through the rural south collecting stories and folktales. Thomas took those stories and re-wrote them to be easier for kids to understand. Discover “Why the Dog Hates the Cat,” and “Why Whitecaps Have Waves,” in this great collection.

4. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson — Full disclosure: I haven’t read this yet. But everyone I know who has just loves it. It’s a longer book, probably for kids 10+, but there’s also an excellent audio recording so you can listen in the car with the younger kids. It’s a collection of poems written by Woodson about her experiences growing up as an African American in the 1960s and ’70s. By the way, if you’re looking for more books for older kids and adults (I still love YA novels), this podcast has some great recommendations.

5. Papa’s Mark  by Gwendolyn Battle-Lavert and Colin Bootman  — Samuel T. Blow participates in the first election where African Americans are allowed to vote. But he wants to write more than an “X” on his ballot — he wants to write his name. And so he turns to his son, who helps his dad participate in this historic event.

6. Please, Baby, Please! by Spike Lee , Tonya Lewis Lee, and Kadir Nelson — Filmmaker Spike Lee and his wife write a hilarious book that’s relatable for both kids and their exhausted parents (“Go back to bed, baby, please, baby, please. Not on your headbaby baby baby, please!…”). We follow the rambunctious toddler through her day, ending with a sweet moment between her and her sleepy mama before bed.

7. This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt and R.G. Roth — “This Old Man” is reworked to include some of the greatest jazz musicians like Satchmo (Louis Armstrong), Bojangles (Bill Robinson), and Charles Mingus. SNAP! BOMP! BEEDLE-DI-BOP! A really fun read.

8. What Color is My World? The Lost History of African-American Inventors by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Raymond Obstfeld, Ben Boos, and A.G. Ford — The basketball star shares the stories of little-known African American inventors who created everything from the ice cream scoop to the cortisone shot. Funny stories that are easy for kids to read or listen to, and that will likely teach adults a thing or two also.

9. Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Store of the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine and Kadir Nelson, tells us the true story of Henry Brown, a slave who sees his entire family sold to a new slave owner, and eventually finds freedom by shipping himself in a wooden crate to a “place where there are no slaves.”

10. Belle, The Last Mule at Gee’s Bend: A Civil Rights Story by Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Bettye Stroud,  and John Holyfield — After Martin Luther King, Jr. visits Gee’s Bend to encourage black people to vote, the sheriff shuts down the ferry that would take them to their polling place. The residents refuse to be deterred and hitch their wagons to mules (including Belle) to head on a long journey around the river instead. Inspired by a true story.

11. Welcome, Precious by Nikki Grimes — This is sweet, lovely book about the arrival of a new baby. The illustrations are wonderful, the writing is poetic — it’s a perfect bedtime story, or a great book for child getting ready for a new little brother or sister.

Do you have any favorite books you’d add to this list? I’d love to know what they are — we’re always looking to expand our reading lists! 

For more kids’ activities and easy recipes, you can find Laura at Peace but not Quiet, and on facebook and Pinterest.

This post was originally published in February, 2017