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Black History Month
February 5, 2018 • By Michelle Ioannou

In recognition of Black History Month, here is a list of wonderful books to share with your children, this month and every month. Stories of real people and historical events, evocative tales of everyday life, many with beautiful illustrations – these stories are meaningful, thought provoking, and entertaining; and all of them are great read-alouds.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena

This Newbery Award Medal winning book captures the diversity of city life as a young boy travels on a city bus with his grandmother. She teaches him that poverty can be more about attitude than material wealth. This is a book about both real life experiences and counting one’s blessings.

 

I Am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer

Part of the Ordinary People Change the World series, this book tells the story of Rosa Parks, and her fight to change the world. This tells her story, her experiences in the segregated South, and her fight for civil rights, all brought to life in a way that children can understand.

 

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

This is the true story of a slave who mailed himself in a crate to freedom. The illustrations powerfully convey his arduous journey.

 

Firebird by Misty Copeland

The story of a young girl who questions her ability to be a dancer and reach the heights that her hero has reached. Encouraged by her hero, she discovers that through faith in herself and hard work, she too can become Firebird. Author and ballerina Misty Copeland was the PCHP’s 2014 Literacy Champion.

 

This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt

A jazz version of “This Old Man”, what a wonderful way to make an old children’s song new! This book features swinging, rhythmic text, and introduces jazz greats such as Louis Armstrong and Charlie Parker.

 

Tar Beach by Faith Reingold

This allegorical tale features a young girl who imagines flying from her rooftop over 1939 Harlem. Rich culture and history permeate the text and illustrations of this book.

 

A Chair for My Mother by Vera Williams

This classic award-winning book tells the story of a young girl, her mother, and her grandmother, saving up their coins to buy a comfortable chair for all of them to enjoy. Written by the late Vera Williams, who gave a wonderful talk at the PCHP Annual conference a number of years ago.

 

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

Grace loves all sorts of stories, and dreams of playing the part of Peter Pan in the school play. But all the other children at school tell her she cannot play the part because she is a girl and she isn’t white. But with family support and the opportunity to watch a ballet that features a Trinidadian dancer, she pursues her dream – and shines through her audition.

 

Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti by Gerald McDermott

This Caldecott Honor Book is based on an Ashanti folktale. Its illustrations include traditional African motifs, and the text is based on authentic Ashanti language rhythms.

 

The Quilt by Ann Jonas

A magical tale of a girl’s quilt, in which every square tells its own story. The quilt comes to life through beautiful, brightly colored illustrations.

 

Bigmama’s by Donald Crews

This lovely story is told through the lens of memory. Four children take a 3-day train journey with their mother to spend the summer at their grandmother’s house in rural Florida – “Not that she was big, but she was Mama’s mama.”

 

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

This is a great first biography of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for children. The text has his own words woven throughout, accompanied by beautiful watercolor illustrations.

 

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

Six-year-old Ruby Bridges is off to school as part of an effort to desegregate schools in the South. This true story has vivid pictures and recounts the bravery and perseverance of Ruby and her peers.