10 kids' books to celebrate Black History Month
A selection of great reads for children of all ages.
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In 1969, at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, a small group of black students and educators proposed a celebration of Black history. One year later, in 1970, the first Black History Month took place. Officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in 1976, our nation has been proudly recognizing the heritage, achievements, and contributions of Black citizens and communities every February since.
What better way to explore Black history with your own family than through the magic of books? From poetry, to biographies, to graphic novels, there are literally hundreds of quality books available to help kids of all ages celebrate Black history. Crack one open, not just in February, but every month of the year.
1. The Story of Rap
Recommended for: Up to age 2
Hailed on Twitter by Missy Elliot as “sooooo adorbs!,” this board book uses playful imagery and language to engage little ones in their first lesson on the history of rap music. A brief timeline and key vocabulary around the art form are provided, as well as an introduction to some the biggest names in the rap industry. Grandmaster Flash, Tupac, and Biggie are just a few of the GOATs spotlighted in The Story of Rap. But be careful, a parental advisory on the books warns caregivers that it “may cause toddlers to develop excessive amounts of swagger.”
2. A is for Activist
Recommended for: Ages 3 to 7
F is for “fairness” and “freedom.” I is for “indigenous” and “immigrant.” A is for Activist is an alphabet book like no other. Colorful pictures and alliteration are used to introduce young readers to the celebrations and struggles of Black America. It's never too early to begin teaching our children about such important ideas, and a whimsical black cat hides on each page just waiting to be found.
3. Whoever You Are
Recommended for: Ages 4 to 7
Not specifically focused on Black culture, Whoever You Are explores the similarities of the human experience across all cultures. This vibrant picture book pushes the reader to look past the things that make us different and look at all the things that make us the same. We all play. We all cry. We all love. Whoever You Are delivers a sweet message of diversity and acceptance.
4. Let the Children March
Recommended for: Ages 6 to 9
Set in 1963 Alabama, Let the Children March provides an account of the thousands of Black children who took part in a march for civil rights after hearing the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The book details how these children used their young voices to change the world. Poetic prose and profound illustrations help to bring these historical events to life.
5. Your Name Is a Song
Recommended for: Ages 5 to 10
This is a powerful tale about the heritage that can be found in a name. Your Name Is a Song celebrates the culture behind African, Black American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names by detailing the challenges surrounding a young Muslim girl and her name. Ultimately a story of empowerment and pride, this book explores the musicality and beauty that is found in these very special names.
6. What Color is My World? The Lost History of African American Inventors
Recommended for: Ages 8 to 12
Penned by NBA superstar Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, this lively book explores some of the lesser-known Black inventors and innovators throughout history. Explore the humble beginnings of the ice cream scoop or the wet and wild history of the Super Soaker with this fun read. Features such as “fast facts” and “lift-the-flap” make for an engaging and enlightening reading experience.
7. Brown Girl Dreaming
Recommended for: Ages 10 to 13
A selection from the President Obama “O” Book Club, Brown Girl Dreaming is a poetic memoir of the author, Jacqueline Woodson. The book explores memories of family, friends, beliefs, and religion through the lens of a young black girl. Woodson's poems span a period in the sixties and seventies as she resided in first, South Carolina and then, New York. Though marketed towards young adults, audiences of all ages will be touched by the emotion found in Woodson's words.
8. Ghost Boys
Recommended for: Ages 10 and older
Ghost Boys is a fictional novel that explores the true-life events around the murder of 14-year-old Emmet Till in Mississippi in 1955. Till's story is paralleled with a modern-day fictional tale of another young black boy, Jerome, involved in a police shooting. As ghosts, both Emmet and Jerome process the tragedies and recognize how historical racism may have led to the events.
9. Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America
Recommended for: Ages 14 and older
Black Enough takes a contemporary look at the successes and struggles of young Black people in America today. Acclaimed Black authors such as Jason Reynolds, Nic Stone, and Kekla Magoon are contributors to this collection of short stories. Topics such as social status, socio-economic status, and budding sexuality are all explored within the pages of this poignant collection.
10. A Blade So Black
Recommended for: Ages 14 and older
This gritty fantasy is a modern interpretation of Alice In Wonderland, with an urban twist. The heroine of the tale, Alice, is a fierce, Black female dealing with the loss of her father. His death unleashes a series of nightmares and fears which Alice must overcome.
While elements of fantasy are definitely prevalent, real issues—such as generational trauma—are also explored throughout the novel. A Blade So Black is the first of two installments in the series from McKinney.
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