Black History Month: What the Kiddos are Reading

Hi Joel,

It’s Black History Month! I LOVE LOVE LOVE Black History Month. It’s a good opportunity to engage with people and place and ideas that are still too often marginalized in our educations. I personally need the yearly check-in to make sure that I’m learning about and teaching about black history. So you’ll be hearing from me about BHM all month long.

To start with: Children’s books.


I did a semi-round-up of books featuring black characters that we already have on our family bookshelf. It’s a semi-round-up because soon after I took the picture, I realized that we were missing half a dozen books (The Paperboy by Dav Pilkey, Little Rock Nine by Marshall Poe and Ellen Linden, Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell and James E. Ransome, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry and others), which sometimes happens when your kids read all over the house, on the porch, on the bus, etc.  

I was startled to realize how relatively few books featuring black children appear on our shelf. We have, like, a linear mile of books, so I expected more than this meager two dozen or so. (I’ve taken steps to rectify this, so look for an update when our Scholastic Book Club order arrives in two weeks.)

Above, some of the picture books we’re reading this month. In most cases, if you click on the link below, you will be taken to a video of someone reading the book. Preview them online, then support your local bookstore or Scholastic Book Club by purchasing them. The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marian Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights by Russell Freedman, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña (You will love Nana’s “deep laugh”), Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka (wonderful for very early readers as it contains just a few words but lots of exclamation points, so it’s fun for practicing inflection), Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale (a Cinderella-like story by John Steptoe, who won 2 Caldecotts in his too-short career), Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport with illustrations by Bryan Collier, The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford, Beatrice’s Goat by Page McGrier and Lori Lohstoeter (a true story of Beatrice Biira of Uganda and her Heifer International goat, so consider owning it or giving away copies a Mennonite duty), Together by George Ella Lyon and illustrated by Vera Rosenberry, The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats, Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine with illustrations by Kadir Nelson, Ben’s Trumpet by Rachel Isadore, Rosa Parks: Freedom Rider by Keith Brandt and illustrated by Gershom Griffiths, aand Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story by Ruby Bridges, (Ruby Bridges and Linda Brown are favorite real-life people we love to read about.) 

The chapter books are some that I loved as a child (plus title by Rita Williams-Garcia, a favorite of my fifth-grader), but I’m wondering if they hold up. Feedback and warnings on these choices are welcome–as are suggestions for other titles! And the picture books are among our very favorites!

Above, chapter books for older readers: M.C. Higgins the Great; Amos Fortune, Free Man; One Crazy Summer; Yolanda’s Genius; Philip Hall Likes Me, I Reckon Maybe.; Sounder; Gone Crazy in Alabama. 

Readers–please share what your own children are reading now and what mine ought to be! Also, check out this list of bookstores owned by African Americans. (And here’s a list that includes comic stores!) Even if there isn’t one near you, if you’re the kind of person who likes to visit bookstores in other cities, remember it for when you travel.

Tell me how you support children’s literature featuring African characters and characters of African descent, black illustrators and authors, black-owned presses, black-owned bookstores, better collections for public libraries, and literacy for children.


Oh, and while you’re online, follow a donation to Marley Diaz’s #1000BlackGirlBooks on Twitter. Better yet, support Marley’s project to get more books about black girls taught in schools and available in libraries with a financial donation. 



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