I absolutely loved seeing all the Black History posts on social media last month! Seriously, it was one of the best parts of my morning checking #teachersofinstagram and seeing Black History “Real Life Wax Museums”, Kindergarteners sharing about important Black movers and shakers, anchor charts about Black Lives Matter, etc. However, with February ended (and also now a national health pandemic), those posts are slowly stopping one-by-one. 

Some of you may already know this, but I’m here to tell you BLACK HISTORY DOESN’T NEED TO STOP WHEN FEBRUARY STOPS! Yes, Black History is American History, which means, it is not (and should not be) confined to just one month. Consider adding a book into your learning routine to continue these conversations about Black History. To help, here are ten picture books and three young adult chapter books to extend Black History month in your classrooms, libraries, and homes:

Picture Books

Child of the Civil Rights Movement, by Paula Young Shelton and Raul Colón 

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-9 years

Paula Young Shelton, the daughter of Civil Rights Movement activist Andrew Young, authors this book about her experiences as a child within the Civil Rights Movement. It brings a new perspective to the Civil Rights Movement that children can easily connect with because of the age of the protagonist. We have used this book in my classroom to launch our discussions about the Civil Rights Movement. It is also perfect to break into sections and read over many days. 

March On!: The Day My Brother Martin Changed the World, by Christine King Farris

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 8-12 years

Christine King Farris, the sister of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote this book about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the powerful March on Washington. It details the work that went into the March on Washington that bolsters the power and amazement behind that event. 

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashiti Harrison

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Dependent on the Chapter

Age Range: 8-12 years

I love this book (and the one below as well)! Vashiti Harrison is a brilliant artist and writer. Each couple of pages focuses on an important woman in Black history with a breathtaking illustration and short blurb about their life’s work. Many teachers and families read one per day and focus on discussing that leader with their kiddos.  

Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History, by Vashiti Harrison

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Dependent on the Chapter

Age Range: 8-12 years

Vashiti Harrison followed up Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History with this book! In each chapter of Little Legends, she focuses on one brilliant man in Black history. She illustrates them and writes a little blurb about what they did in history. 

The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop, by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Exploration

Age Range: 4+ years

This book tells the origins of rap and hip-hop music through rhythm and rhyme. Every student will love exploring this book about the history of one of the most beloved music genres in the world. 

The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-10 years

Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson are a dream author-illustrator team that produced this picture book. The Undefeated is a poem that acts as a “love letter to Black America”. It references the obstacles and triumphs that have happened in Black history and would be a good introduction to start a whole unit about Black history. 

Young, Gifted, and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present, by Jamia Wilson

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Dependent on the Hero

Age Range: 7-10 years

This book dedicates each page to a new Black hero that has changed the world in some way. Jamia Wilson writes a little blurb about that hero’s life, while Andrea Pippins adds vibrant colors through her illustrations of that hero. 

28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World, by Charles R. Smith, Jr.

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Mostly Conversation

Age Range: 6-10 years

One of the many reasons I chose this book is because it is illustrated by my favorite illustrator, Shane W. Evans! This picture book briefly tells readers about 28 days in Black History. Charles R. Smith, Jr writes a quick sentence that summarizes the event, but then goes into detail about it in a blurb below. I believe 28 Days would be perfect to teach little ones about Black History because of the engaging illustrations and content, which can be modified for length by choosing if you want to read all or some of the blurb below the summarized sentence. 

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race, by Margot Lee Shetterly 

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years

Margot Lee Shetterly transformed her New York Times bestseller into a kid-friendly, picture book. In this book, Margot Lee Shetterly tells the story of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden, four Black mathematicians who were behind some of NASA’s greatest successes. Hidden Figures shows how they had to overcome sexism and racism in their STEM careers. It will be a true inspiration for any budding mathematician or scientist!

When Marian Sang, by Pam Muñoz Ryan

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 7-10 years

I almost did not include this book because I wanted to include books that would uplift Black authors and illustrators specifically. However, out of all my Conversation books that I work with during Colorful Pages presentations, this book has been chosen the most times by educators to share with the group because of the shock-value. This book tells the story about Marian Anderson, a Black singer who is known for her 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The shock value for educators in my presentations comes from their realization that Eleanor Roosevelt, the “White wife of the most powerful man in the USA”, tried to uplift Marian Anderson’s voice and even got pushback (which is detailed in the picture book). Therefore, I love this book because of the ability to start a Conversation about racism and how insidious it is with even adults. It would be a good book to talk about racism and white allyship through the lens of an amazing singer!

Young Adult Chapter Books

I Have a Dream: Writings and Speeches That Changed the World, by Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 10+ years

This is a collection of writing and speeches authored by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It would be very powerful to have students analyze the actual words from a vital period in Black history. 

A Black Women’s History of the United States, by Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult

Take a deep dive into the history of Black Women in our country with this chapter book! Daina Ramey Berry and Kali Nicole Gross are two historians that have compiled the histories of Black Women past and present. 

Bad Boy: A Memoir, by Walter Dean Myers

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: Young Adult

This memoir details Walter Dean Myer’s experiences in Harlem during the 1940’s and 1950’s. With every chapter, readers are able to see his journey of becoming a writer and the obstacles of classism and racism that he had to overcome. 

One thought on “Taking Black History Beyond February: 13 Picture Books and Young Adult Lit

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