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14 Must-Read Children's Books for Black History Month

Carolyn writes about children's literature for library, preschool, or homeschool settings. She has a BA in English Literature.

14 must-read picture books for Black History Month

14 must-read picture books for Black History Month

14 Children's Books for Black History Month

Children's books for Black History Month include black characters in stories of fantasy, family and identity, and overcoming hard things. You will find autobiographies of people who reach for the stars, poets who speak with voices that are uniquely their own, and books about facing racism, bullying, and other very hard things.

There has been an incredible explosion of fantastic children's literature published by black authors in recent years. These authors are changing the narrative of Black history and adding a hopeful and positive voice to the body of children's literature around this topic. Most of my selections are winners or honorable mentions of the Coretta Scott King Awards, but there are a few oldies-but-goodies in the lineup too.

This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges is a personal account in her own words about her first grade experience with integration in New Orleans.

This is Your Time by Ruby Bridges is a personal account in her own words about her first grade experience with integration in New Orleans.

This Is Your Time by Ruby Bridges

This Is Your Time is a letter from 65-year-old Ruby Bridges to the young peacemakers of America. In this important and moving book, she tells her story of being the first child to go to an all-white school in New Orleans. She had to be escorted to school by four federal marshals under the order of the president of the United States. She says, "I did not know that I had stepped into the history books. . . . Going into and coming out of school every day, I walked through crowds of people, screaming threats, throwing things, at 6 year old me." This account in Ruby's own voice, is an absolute must-read for every student.

I Too Am America adapted from the Langston Hughes poem by Brian Collier.

I Too Am America adapted from the Langston Hughes poem by Brian Collier.

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes

Bryan Collier won the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award in 2013 for I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes. This picture book adaptation of Langston Hughes' poem "I, too, Sing America." The modern pictures add a stunning backdrop to an already stirring work by one of America's greatest poets. This book is short enough to read to preschoolers, but easily could be used in a high school curriculum too.

Don't Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller

Don't Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller

Don't Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller

Don't Touch My Hair, by Sharee Miller, celebrates differences while acknowledging that people's curiosity can be invasive. I like that this story's protagonist has a positive self-concept and really celebrates herself, but she doesn't want people to touch her hair. This is an important book to pair with the widely acclaimed I Love My Hair by Natasha Tarpley.

I Choose to Try Again by Elizabeth Estrada

I Choose to Try Again by Elizabeth Estrada

I Choose to Try Again by Elizabeth Estrada

I Choose to Try Again by Elizabeth Estrada is a read-aloud promoting perseverance. Everything is difficult at first, but there are easier roads ahead, Kiera's friend advises her. This is an excellent book when talking about doing hard things.

Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keats

Pet Show by Ezra Jack Keats

Pet Show! by Ezra Jack Keats

I love the gentle message of kindness that permeates Pet Show! by Ezra Jack Keats. His books are set in Brooklyn neighborhood he lived in, and his characters come alive on the page. Archie is excited to join the fun at the neighborhood pet show, but his cat is nowhere to be found. After looking in vain for the missing cat, he comes up with a clever solution. But when an old lady arrives with his missing cat in tow, she is awarded a blue ribbon! What does Archie do? He presents an invisible germ in a mayonnaise jar, and wins an award as well. When the pet show is over, the old lady says, "This is your cat, isn't it?" And when she tries to give him the blue ribbon that is rightfully his, he says, "nah, you keep it." This is the magic of the realistic fiction of Ezra Jack Keats, which shows a world both as it is, and as it should be.

The Me I Choose to Be by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

The Me I Choose to Be by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

The Me I Choose to Be by Tarpley and Bethencourt

The Me I Choose to Be by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and Regis and Kahran Bethencourt is an exuberant, poetic, and confident exclamation of self-worth depicting young children in fantastic costumes. The poetic text claims creativity, dignity, and resilience in this amazing and one-of-a-kind book. The refrain of the book is, "My creativity and curiosity flow without end, and if I meet an obstacle, I just begin again." The illustrations are all full-color photographs that could be easily displayed in an art museum.

Not Quite Snow White by

Not Quite Snow White by

Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin

On stage, Tameika felt like she could be anyone or anything, but when she auditions for the lead role of "Snow White," the other kids say she's too tall, too chubby and too brown. Will Tameika buy into the kids' remarks and quit trying, or will she ignore them and get the lead role?

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López

Children are encouraged to reach outside their comfort zones and claim their uniqueness, even when they feel they are on the fringe in The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López. "There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you, until you share your stories." A girl named Angelina watches her sister all summer while her friends go on exciting vacations to exotic places. What could she possibly have in common with them? It turns out, a lot. This book has much wisdom for young and old alike.

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed and Stasia Burrington

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed

Mae Among the Stars is the inspiring story of the first female black astronaut, Mae Jemison. The young Mae's parents encourage her dream of being an astronaut, "If you can dream it, believe it, and work hard for it, anything is possible." This is a fascinating true story that is appropriate for younger kids with a biography at the end of the book that it appropriate for 2nd graders.

Look Up With Me by Jennifer Berne and Lorraine Nam is about the life of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Look Up With Me by Jennifer Berne and Lorraine Nam is about the life of astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson.

Look Up With Me by Jennifer Berne

Look Up With Me by Jennifer Berne is the biography of Neil DeGrasse Tyson, world-renowned astrophysicist and "superstar of science." This book details how Neil fell in love with the cosmos as a young boy on a visit to the Hayden Planetarium in New York City, where "his world expanded 100 times, a thousand times, more," and how he walked dogs for two years after school to buy his first telescope. This is a fascinating biography of a popular and inspiring scientist who is well-known through The Cosmos series on TV. Neil believes "everyone should have their mind blown at least once a day." For first grade and up due to length.

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and George Ford

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and George Ford

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and George Ford

The Story of Ruby Bridges was viewed 1.2 million times by people on a Youtube read-aloud! This book tells the story of Ruby Bridges, the 6-year-old who was the first black girl to attend an all-white school in New Orleans in 1960. This true story of a young girl who faces down a mob day after day is indescribable. Few adults have the moral courage to face that kind of hate. If you are somehow unfamiliar with this story, read it. It will change you.

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

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

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

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. distils the civil rights leader's famous words into simple, meaningful sentences that sum up the essence of this great man. "When the history books are written, someone will say there lived black people who had the courage to stand up for their rights."

The Skin You Live in by Michael Tyler

The Skin You Live in by Michael Tyler

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler

The Skin You Live In is a delightful rhyming book about diversity. This book is one of the shorter ones on the list, with preschool-friendly pictures and an upbeat message of self-identity, community, and belonging.

Stacey's Extraordinary Words by Stacey Abrams

Stacey's Extraordinary Words by Stacey Abrams

Stacey's Extraordinary Words by Stacey Abrams

Stacey's Extraordinary Words is a book with many great messages, and the story is autobiographical. Stacey adores words; she relishes them, in fact. But when the class bully uses words to intimidate, she can't seem to find the words to stand up for her friends. When Stacey and the class bully are nominated to participate in the city spelling bee, Stacey faces a pivotal moment. This is a long read at almost 10 minutes, so save this book for school-aged reading. But this is a book that promotes dignity, excellence, and integrity. It is a must-read for second and third grade.

© 2022 Carolyn Augustine