Black History Month

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17 Children's Books For Black History Month That Are Always Relevant

Kids of all races should explore these and find the joy in diverse characters and rich histories.

During Black History Month, the nation has set aside this time to highlight the culture, accomplishments, and very real challenges of Black people. Knowing this history is crucial to sculpting an accurate world view, and there is a gamut of books that make sharing Black history with children easily accessible and understandable. But February shouldn't be the only time we pull them out to read to our kids.

Black history is American history, and should be as intricately ingrained into daily interactions as everything else kids are exposed to. And this month isn't just a time for Black children to dive into these books. Parents of all races, and white parents especially, can give all children early exposure to inclusive history, creating a better foundation for them to embrace diversity. And by giving them books that are beautiful, entertaining, and joyful, they show that "Black history" isn't just about the trauma and doesn't start with slavery — there is so much to explore and discover and delight in.

"Crazy as it seems, some of my favorite books from childhood very much informed my adult life and perspective," says Jazzi McGilbert, owner of Reparations Club, which she opened in 2019 as the first Black and woman-owned book store in Los Angeles, California. "We know that bias is instilled at a very early age — there's no reason white children who may or may not have Black friends can't find the humanity and joy in Black stories, and it will set them up to lead with empathy and better understand and celebrate difference throughout their lives."

From incredible artists to 9-year-old activists to trailblazers with a penchant for mathematics, our collective history is rich with incredible stories. While the history books taught in schools may have left out a large part of what Black people have contributed to the world and who we are, this list of books (which include suggestions from McGilbert) will fill in some of the gaps.

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1

A Creative Book For Learning Black History

A is for...

In this book by Rio Cortez, kids can learn the alphabet of Black history. The colors are vibrant, and each letter tells a story of a historical fact or the Black cultural experience.

2

A Poetry Book On Bravery

Written by the famed American poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou and featuring paintings by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Life Doesn't Frighten Me is a classic. It's also a great beginning glimpse into the world of poetry for young readers. Angelou's words will inspire kids to be strong in the face of things that scare them.

3

A Book Celebrating Black Women's Accomplishments

"Start 'em early," is McGilbert's advice, and this Board book, Dream Big Little One by Vashti Harrison, is full of the accomplishments of Black women for all children to hear and be inspired by.

4

A Book On Embracing Hair Texture

Black children frequently struggle with loving their natural hair texture because the message sent in mainstream media is if it isn't straight and flowy, it's not pretty. Author Bell Hooks and illustrator Chris Raschka create a salute to kids with "nappy" hair and encourage them to embrace every part of it.

5

A Book For Grief & Missing Parents

Mariame Kaba writes beautifully on an ugly truth — the unjust incarceration of Black American men. In Missing Daddy, she gives an honest view of how children are affected when a parent is missing from the home in a way that is understandable and appropriate for kids as young as 3.

6

An Art Book About Activism

In This Is What I Know About Art, Kimberly Drew shares how Black art (of all kinds) and activism can go hand in hand. These pictures are gorgeous!

7

A Book About Black Inventors

Do you know all the things that are used daily that Black people invented? In Patrice McLaurin's book Have You Thanked An Inventor Today? we follow a young Black boy through his day as he points out Black inventors' contributions, like the hairbrush and ironing board.

8

A Book About Brilliant Black Women

Most people have heard of Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, but until the blockbuster movie, most people didn't know about the four Black female mathematicians who made it possible. They used their skills to make history during a time when they couldn't even eat in the same restaurant as white people because of the color of their skin. Margot Lee Shetterly's picture book Hidden Figures tells their story.

9

A Book For Changing The World

Amanda Gorman has gone down as the youngest poet to perform at a presidential inauguration. In her recently released book, Change Sings, she creates an anthem for children to know that they possess the power to influence change in the world.

10

The Story Of The First Black Woman In Congress

The timing to grab this book couldn't be better. It's the story of Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress. Chisholm not only paved the way for many women who now hold a seat in Congress, she boldly fought for our democracy and even ran for president.

11

A Book About Black Achievements

It's easier for Black children to see what's possible for them when exposed to the accomplishments Black people have made happen. Author and educator T. Marie Harris creates that picture in her book Look What Brown Can Do! by showing them all the things they are capable of achieving.

12

A Book About Racial Violence

Black families have to confront The Talk about racism one day because many elements of history, like racial injustice and violence against Black people, have not changed. The conversation is uncomfortable, but inevitable. In Ama Karikari Yawson's book, she shows what this experience is like and provides insight into approaching the topic for kids ages 8 to 14.

13

A Book About Equality

Have you ever seen toddlers of different races who are perfect strangers embrace each other? It's so pure, and perfect proof that bias is learned. In Skin Again, Bell Hooks reminds us that a person's core is who they are on the inside, and that's what should be important.

14

A Book About Representation

In real life, Parker Curry stood in awe as she looked at First Lady Michelle Obama's portrait at the National Portrait Gallery, and a photo of it went viral. She and her mother wrote this book, Parker Looks Up, about the impact this moment had on her daughter and how it opened her (and other little girls') eyes to what is possible for them.

15

A Book About Being Antiracist

Anti-racism means actively identifying and speaking out against racism no matter where it shows up. Ibram X. Kendi's board book, Antiracist Baby, is a perfect depiction of the simplicity of what it means to be anti-racist. Children and parents can follow the baby's nine easy steps and enjoy boldly colorful illustrations along the way.

16

A Book About A Young Activist

In 1963, Audrey Fay Hendricks became the youngest civil rights activist to be arrested during a protest. She was only 9 years old. Her age didn't matter in her eyes because she knew someone had to fight injustice, and she was determined to do it. Follow her journey in The Youngest Marcher written by Cynthia Levinson.

17

A Book About Revolutionary Black Athletes

When Black people were finally "allowed" to participate in national sports, they tore through and changed the game. Those who were the firsts like Jackie Robinson were put on pedestals for their talent, but torn down because they were still hated by racists and segregated. Black Athletes Who Changed Sports covers players past and present who raised the stakes in their individual sport while also inspiring and impacting their communities.