One of the biggest responsibilities as educators, is to open our students’ eyes to the world. The world of possibilities, the world as it stands, and the world as it once was. This includes getting deep into our history and educating our students about America’s past, both the things we are proud of and the obstacles in which we have learned from. In the month of February, we take time to celebrate and learn about the influential black leaders that helped to shape our great country. American history is black history and what better way to teach about these great men and women, than through picture books for children? I’ve compiled a list of my ten favorite Picture Books for Children to Celebrate Black History in hopes that you find a few new books to add to your collection!
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Picture Books for Children to Celebrate Black History Month
This is a perfect picture book for children that really focuses on inspiring young black students to dream big. This poem, written by Useni Eugene Perkins, is a beautifully simple yet elegant poem that gets us all straight from the heart. Indulging illustrations help to take us deeper into the words of the poem as well. I absolutely love this story and believe every child, regardless of color, needs to hear it!
A wonderfully inspiration story about two young girls who decide to take a problem and create a wonderful solution. It’s time for school, and Ella Mae wants to try on a pair of new shoes, but due to segregation laws, she’s not allowed. She wears her new shoes at school but they make her feel depressed and confused. So Ella Mae and her friend decide to make a change! They work hard to shine and clean up older shoes and open their own shoe store where all children can come and try on shoes. A perfect story to show that even as students, our actions and thoughts can make a big impact on our lives and the future and to never give up! This is also a great story to help tie in growth mindset!
The message in this short story is a beautiful one. A grandfather talks to his grandchildren about all of the amazing things his hands once did and could do, including fighting for civil rights. In his message to his grandchild, this elder passes on his influence, strength, and wisdom to his grandchildren in a simple, yet powerful way. He hopes that the message about his hands would help inspire his grandchildren into continuing the fight against discrimination so that one day their hands could do anything their hearts’ desired.
Looking for a fun activity to do for Black History Month? I’ve got some awesome nonfiction passages that not only focus on some amazing leaders in our country’s history, but also focus on identifying and understanding text features! Make sure to grab these awesome Black History Month Passages!
Have you ever had an itch that you just need to scratch? That’s what happened to Lewis’s dad, Lewis Michaux Sr. He had a vision that if black people had access to books, that they would read and help to change the world. He started with five books and a cart out on the street and worked hard to build his own bookstore in Harlem, known as the National Memorial African Bookstore. This amazing true story shares the passion and vision of this man and his family and how they influenced their community and the country, with just a book.
Probably one of my favorite stories, this books teaches us about one of our more well known black influencers, Booker T. Washington and his story of how he started schools all around the south for black children. The story begins with him as a young boy and his thirst for knowledge and how he began school at the age of 16 himself. We learn how Booker decided he wouldn’t give up until all black children had schools of their own to attend. He saved up every penny he owned to buy the supplies to build his own schoolhouse. This is a perfect read for younger children!
This book is perfect for older elementary students, as the language if very figurative and could be harder for younger students to understand. With amazing symbolism, this book portrays the story of Ms. Rosa Parks and how she stood against what was wrong, despite the consequences. The VOICE in this story is hard to miss and truly helps capture the feels and attitudes of the people involved in the story. The book has a ‘blues’ feel as it tells the story with the antagonist, ‘Jim Crow’. Such a unique twist to this influential story.
This adorable letter, written to the daughters of President Barack Obama, is a beautifully written story that asks his daughters questions about their life and their dreams. In the letter, other American influencers are showcased to help make the point that, they truly can do and be anything that they put their hearts to. The illustrations in this story are breathtaking as well.
Children today take school for granted, but in this beautifully written story, students can see how that was not always the case. Freedom’s School is a story about Lizzie, a young girl with a huge thirst for knowledge, and her fight to go to school and learn how to read. With the end to slavery happening, new opportunities were opening up for blacks, including the opportunity to go to school. However, this too, came with many challenges. This is the perfect story for children of all ages!
This picture book is a celebration of the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement. These four young men, who followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of peaceful protest and dared to sit at the “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter. The illustrations in this story are truly remarkable and help showcase the passion and power behind the people in the story. Definitely a must have for every classroom library!
When you think of the civil rights movement in Alabama, most people think of terrible violence. But in Huntsville, creativity, courage, and cooperation were the keys to working together to integrate their city and schools in peace. This book shows how this amazing city used peace to overcome discrimination over many years.
These are only a few of the amazing picture books for children out there to help celebrate and teach about black history. I hope you found a new book to two to add to your library!
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