Best Picture Book Reads For Black History Month

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Best Picture Book Reads For Black History Month

If you’re like me and desire for your little one to learn about the contributions, history, and cultures of many, you’re always searching for great reads for your child to learn and develop an understanding of others. 

While February marks the beginning of Black History Month, highlighting voices and leaders in the African-American community, Black history truly is American history in which all children can benefit. Whether you’re looking for representation for your child, exposure to diverse voices and authors, or themes of perseverance and empathy, this list is for you!

Shades of People by Shelley Rotner & Sheila M. Kelly

A celebration of the diversity of everyday life, this exploration of one of our most noticeable physical traits pairs simple text with vibrant photographs. At school, at the beach, and in the city, diverse groups of children invite young readers both to take notice and to look beyond the obvious. Combining lively action shots and candid portraits, Shelley Rotner’s photographs showcase a wide variety of kids and families–many shades, and many bright smiles.

We All Sing with the Same Voice by Philip Miller

First featured as a song on the widely popular Sesame Street, the beloved educational children’s television show, We All Sing with the Same Voice is a joyous read-aloud that embraces the notion that no matter where children live or what they look like, they’re all the same where it counts—at heart! With colorful illustrations from Geisel Honor-winning artist Paul Meisel, this celebration of love and respect has been noted by many teachers and parents as a top pick for teaching empathy. This hardcover edition comes with a CD of the song.

The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights

Since the earliest days of slavery, African Americans have called on their religious faith in the struggle against oppression. Carole Boston Weatherford’s powerful free-verse poem that traces the African American journey from slavery to civil rights. Tim Ladwig’s stirring illustrations showcase a panorama of heroes in this struggle, from the slaves shackled in the hold of a ship to the first African American president taking his oath of office on the steps of the United States Capitol. Readers of all ages will find this a book to return to again and again for encouragement and inspiration.

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.
 

Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh

Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Méndez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. An American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, Méndez was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Hispanic community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California.

A Taste of Colored Water by Matt Faulkner

You could blame Abbey Finch. If she hadn’t come back from town with tales of a fountain bubbling with “colored” water, LuLu and Jelly would not have needed to go see for themselves. But it’s not Abbey’s fault. It’s the early 1960s and colored water isn’t the fruit-flavored Technicolor wonder that LuLu and Jelly are expecting. And having a drink doesn’t come without a price.

The Case for Loving by Selina Alko

For most children these days it would come as a great shock to know that before 1967, they could not marry a person of a race different from their own. That was the year that the Supreme Court issued its decision in Loving v. Virginia. This is the story of one brave family: Mildred Loving, Richard Perry Loving, and their three children. It is the story of how Mildred and Richard fell in love, and got married in Washington, D.C. But when they moved back to their hometown in Virginia, they were arrested (in dramatic fashion) for violating that state’s laws against interracial marriage. The Lovings refused to allow their children to get the message that their parents’ love was wrong and so they fought the unfair law, taking their case all the way to the Supreme Court – and won!

We Shall Overcome by Debbie Levy

It only takes a few words to create change. It only takes a few people to believe that change is possible. And when those people sing out, they can change the world. “We Shall Overcome” is one of their songs. From the song’s roots in America’s era of slavery through to the civil rights movement of the 1960s and today, “We Shall Overcome” has come to represent the fight for equality and freedom around the world. This important book, lyrically written by Debbie Levy and paired with elegant, collage-style art by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, pays tribute to the heroic spirit of the famous song that encompasses American history.

One Love by Cedella Marley 

Adapted from one of Bob Marley’s most beloved songs, One Lovebrings the joyful spirit and unforgettable lyrics of his music to life for a new generation. Readers will delight in dancing to the beat and feeling the positive groove of change when one girl enlists her community to help transform her neighborhood for the better. Adapted by Cedella Marley, Bob Marley’s first child, and gorgeously illustrated by Vanessa Newton, this heartwarming picture book offers an upbeat testament to the amazing things that can happen when we all get together with one love in our hearts. 

Sit In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down 

This picture book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary 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. 

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes was a courageous voice of his time, and his authentic call for equality still rings true today. Beautiful paintings from illustrator Bryan Collier accompany and reinvent the celebrated lines of the poem “I, Too,” creating a breathtaking reminder to all Americans that we are united despite our differences.

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport

An extraordinary picture-book biography, Martin’s Big Words consists of Rappaport’s own words interwoven with quotes from Dr. King…all powerfully brought to life by Collier’s striking, glorious art. 

These titles aren’t just special because of the time periods or the celebration of voices of color. These titles are also special because of the themes embedded within them, and the reminder that we can cherish and share these stories beyond Black History Month. With all children. All year round.

“Empathy may be the single most important quality that must be nurtured to give peace a fighting chance.”

–  Arundhati Roy

 

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