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Embracing Black History

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Books that Bring the Black Experience to Life


Mom and son reading outdoors.

When selecting books to read with your child in honor of Black History Month, you'll find an endless amount of options. There are books covering everything from slavery to civil rights, from Langston Hughes to the Little Rock Nine, from Amistad to Arthur Ashe and so much more.

Appreciating black history can also be achieved by reading books written by contemporary African American authors. While some brilliantly focus on a historical theme or honor African American icons of the past, others capture readers' interest by illustrating the magic of everyday life. The joy of a new baby, dancing around a room and sharing meals with family are some of the themes portrayed through these authors' eyes and words.

Whether your book choices focus on African American life from a historical perspective or a contemporary one, you can't go wrong. Either way, children will be better equipped to value and respect each other's differences. And, your shared enthusiasm for any of these books will help bring the black experience to life for your young reader.

Toddler

Welcome, Precious
by Nikki Grimes
A mother and father welcome their "precious" newborn child to the joys of the five senses in his world.
Ages: 0-3
Themes: Family, Feelings, African American
Types: Read Aloud
Please, Baby, Please
by Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee
Parents implore their toddler to behave nicely, but Baby has a mind of her own.
Ages: 1-3
Themes: Family, Multicultural, African American
Types: Read Aloud
Baby Dance
by Ann Taylor
While Mama rests on the couch, Dad dances with his little girl, swinging her to and fro, up and down, and round and round in this rhythmic and rollicking board book.
Ages: 1-3
Themes: Family, Multicultural, Music, African American
Types: Read Aloud
Jazz Baby
by Lisa Wheeler
With a clap-clap-clap and a rat-tat-tat and Granny singing scat, Baby and family make some snappy jazz music.
Ages: 2-5
Themes: Family, Multicultural, Music, African American
Types: Read Aloud

Preschooler

This Jazz Man
by Karen Ehrhardt
This adaptation of "This Old Man" alludes to ten great jazz musicians: Charlie Parker, who "Plays five... plays jive, with a Beedle-dibop! Bebop!;" Mingus, who plays 9 with a "Thimp-thump! Dumple-thump!" and so on.
Ages: 3-6
Themes: Biography, Multicultural, Music, African American
Types: Read Aloud
Bruh Rabbit and the Tar Baby Girl
by Virginia Hamilton
Hamilton retells this familiar tale, using Gullah speech, in which wily Bruh Rabbit uses reverse psychology to outwit Bruh Fox who has set a trap for him with the help of a tar baby.
Ages: 4-6
Themes: Animals, Family, Multicultural, Nature, African American
Types: Read Aloud
The Color of Us
by Karen Katz
A young girl and her mother observe the variations in the color of their friends' skin in this vibrant picture book.
Ages: 4-6
Themes: Concepts; ABC, numbers,Colors, Shapes, Family, Friends, Multicultural
Types: Read Aloud
What a Wonderful World
by George David Weiss, Bob Thiele
A puppet show hosted by children illustrates the lyrics of the song made famous by Louis Armstrong, who is featured among the puppets.
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Multicultural, Music, Nature, African American
Types: Read Aloud

Kindergartner

The Baby on the Way
by Karen English
When a young boy asks his grandmother if she was ever a baby, she shares the story of her birth and her family's folkway traditions.
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Family, Feelings, Multicultural, African American
Types: Read Aloud
The Chicken-Chasing Queen of Lamar County
by Janice N. Harrington
Self-proclaimed Chicken-Chasing Queen sets her eye on catching the plumpest, fastest hen in the flock, but has she met her match?
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Animals, Family, Multicultural, African American
Types: Read Aloud
Just Like Josh Gibson
by Angela Johnson
A grandmother shares her love of baseball with her granddaughter, and tells of the memorable day when she proved to the boys that she could play "just like Josh Gibson."
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Family, Feelings, Multicultural, Sports, African American
Types: Read Aloud
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands
by Kadir Nelson
Through this traditional spiritual, a young boy sees connections among nature, family and friends.
Ages: 4-7/div>
Themes: Art, Family, Friends, Music, Nature, African American
Types: Read Aloud

First Grader

Yesterday I Had the Blues
by Jeron Ashford Frame
Colors described in rhythmic language identify the many moods within one boy's family.
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Concepts; ABC, numbers,Colors, Shapes, Family, Feelings, Multicultural, Music, African American
Types: Read Aloud
Aunt Flossie's Hats and Crab Cakes Later
by Elizabeth Fitzgerald Howard
Sara and Susan share tea, cookies, crab cakes, and stories about hats when they visit their favorite relative, Aunt Flossie.
Ages: 4-8
Themes: Family, Feelings, Multicultural, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self
Goin' Someplace Special
by Patricia McKissak
Tricia Ann finds that there are many places she cannot go just because of the color of her skin in her segregated city. Then she finds one special, wonderful place, where all are welcome: the public library.
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Feelings, Multicultural, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self
Fishing Day
by Andrea Davis Pinkney
When Reenie and her mother go fishing, Reenie shares fishing tips with their poor white neighbors in this tale set in the Jim Crow South.
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Family, Feelings, Friends, Multicultural, Nature, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self

Second Grader

The Bat Boy and His Violin
by Curtis Gavin
Reginald loves the violin, but when he agrees to be bat boy for the Negro League team his father manages, baseball and music bring father and son closer together.
Ages: 6-10
Themes: Family, Feelings, Multicultural, Sports, African American
Types: Read Aloud
Catching the Moon: The Story of a Young Girl's Baseball Dream
by Crystal Hubbard
An anecdotal tale based on the childhood of Toni Stone; as a girl, she dreamed always of playing baseball and later grew up to play in baseball's Negro Leagues.
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Family, Feelings, Friends, Multicultural, Sports, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self
Wind Flyers
by Angela Johnson
Vivid illustrations lift up this stirring book in which a boy's great-great uncle recounts how he achieved his dream of flying as a Tuskegee Airman in World War II.
Ages: 5-8
Themes: Family, Multicultural, Transportation, African American
Types: Read Aloud
A Pride of African Tales
by Donna L. Washington
This lavishly illustrated collection of stories offers great tales for reading aloud from the oral traditions of various African regions.
Ages: 8-12
Themes: Animals, Family, Fantasy, Multicultural, Nature, African American
Types: Read Aloud
Dear Mr. Rosenwald
by Carole Boston Weatherford
A young girl rejoices as her community comes together to raise money and build a much-needed school in the 1920's, with matching funds from Mr. Rosenwald, president of Sears, Roebuck and Company.
Ages: 7-10
Themes: Education and Development, Literacy, Multicultural, School, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self

Third Grader

Jabberwocky
by Lewis Carroll
Christopher Myers radically reinterprets Lewis Carroll's famous nonsense poem, using vivid, strong colors to create a battle of one-on-one on the basketball court.
Ages: 7-10
Themes: Multicultural, Sports, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self
Precious and the Boo Hag
by Patricia C. McKissack, Onawumi Jean Moss
Left alone at home, Precious follows her mama's advice and outwits the trickster Boo Hag in a tale that is fun to read aloud and just scary enough for its intended audience.
Ages: 7-10
Themes: Family, Feelings, Fantasy, Multicultural, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self
Henry's Freedom Box
by Ellen Levine
After his family is sold to another slave owner, Henry "Box" Brown comes up with a plan to escape slavery by mailing himself to freedom.
Ages: 7-9
Themes: Biography, Family, Multicultural, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self
The Escape of Oney Judge: Martha Washington's Slave Finds Freedom
by Emily Arnold McCully
The fascinating story, based on historical facts, of the young woman who grew up as a slave to the wife of the first president, then escaped to freedom.
Ages: 7-9
Themes: Biography, Multicultural, Nonfiction, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self
Nothing But Trouble: The Story of Althea Gibson
by Sue Stauffacher
Dazzling illustrations help to tell the inspiring true story of how "the wildest tomboy in the history of Harlem" became the greatest female tennis player in the world.
Ages: 7-10
Themes: Biography, Multicultural, Sports, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self
Crossing Bok Chitto: A Choctaw Tale of Friendship and Freedom
by Tim Tingle
In the 1800s, a Choctaw girl is befriended by a slave boy from a plantation across the river, and when she learns his family is in danger, she helps them cross to freedom.
Ages: 8-10
Themes: Family, Friends, Multicultural, African American
Types: Read Aloud
Freedom Summer
by Deborah Wiles
In the summer of 1964, two best friends, one Black and one white, are astonished to learn that the community swimming pool in their Southern town will be filled in with tar rather than desegregated.
Ages: 5-9
Themes: Feelings, Friends, Multicultural, African American
Types: Read Aloud, Read to Self
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