Celebrate Black History Month With Books for All Ages

From tales of civil rights heroes to stories of perseverance and hope, share this curated list of books written by African American authors that showcase themes, characters, and historical figures who embody the meaning behind Black History Month.
By Scholastic Parents Staff
Jan 13, 2019



Celebrate Black History Month With Books for All Ages

Jan 13, 2019

Black History Month is a time to celebrate African American culture, thought-leaders, and traditions. With the help of Scholastic Librarian Deimosa Webber-Bey, we've selected recommendations spanning all ages to honor this important month. These titles not only give your children the resources they need to understand the purpose behind Black History Month, but they shed light on African American voices and perspectives that were often overlooked in American history and literature. From books for beginning readers to captivating YA titles that parents may want to pick up themselves, our list includes biographies, historical fiction, literary fiction, and books in verse written by authors of color. Take a look below. 

You can also watch the Live Chat covering Deimosa's picks here.

Early Elementary:

1. If you want your kids to read uplifting books starring children of color in the lead role, Ada Twist Scientist is a must-read. Ada, a character inspired by real-life historial figures Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, embarks on figuring out the funky smell in her house by hosting a series of iffy experiments. This colorful picture book will inspire any future chemist to never stop asking questions, even if the outcome is unexpected. Blending science, history, and perserverance, your child will love learning with Ada.

2. Mae Jemison (Rookie Biographies) will have your child reaching for the stars. This early reader biography shares the motivational story of real-life astronaut Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to travel to space. This inspirational title tells a story of drive and determination in simple, understandable prose perfect for young learners. If your little one has dreams of one day traveling to the moon, share this title today — it's out of this world. 

3. All you need is love. The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage  follows the real story of Mildred and Perry Loving and their three children as they fought all the way to the Supreme Court to legalize their interracial marriage — and won! "This book is wonderfully illustrated and a great way to introduce younger readers to this story," says Deimosa. This read explains heavy themes in ways your child can understand while incorporating messages of fairness, family bonds, hard work, and, of course, love.

4. Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters is a special tribute written by our 44th President, Barack Obama. Addressing his two then-young daughters, President Obama goes through history, pointing out thirteen significant figures that have helped shaped the United States. This children's book highlights the amazing accomplishments of a diverse array of American figures, while remaining true to its name and narrating to curious children. Your child will be motivated to chase after his dreams as he follows along colorful illustrations of our nation. This makes a great read-aloud for the whole family! 

5. Who was Rosa Parks? Rosa tells the story of civil rights activist Rosa Parks and the fateful day she refused to give up her bus seat for a white man. A tribute to her courage, resilience, and determination, this picture book depicts the differences Rosa Parks made during the Civil Rights Movement while carefully explaining what civil rights means for your child. Matched with carefully illustrated moments of Rosa Parks' experience and images reflecting real-life photos from her experiences in Montgomery, Alabama, your child can learn the important history behind this incredible figure. 

Late Elementary:

6Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina portrays the fictional story of 12-year-old black boy, Zane Dupree, during an all too real natural disaster in American history. Attempting to survive during Hurrican Katrina, Zane and his dog navigate through the horrors of the flood in a survival tale that includes real-life accounts of the catastrophe. "Black History Month doesn't have to only [cover] things that happened in the 1800s and around the civil rights era...there's a possibility that you could find somebody in your community that could tell this experience," Deimosa explains. This book will help your reader understand a recent difficult time in our country's history, matched with appropriate language and a plot that emphasizes important messages centered on resilience, friendship, and the culture found in New Orleans.

7. STAT stands for Standing Tall and Talented. Home Court (STAT Series) traces back to real-life NBA all-star Amar'e Stoudemire during his childhood and when he first discovered his true love for basketball. Your basketball fan will be capitvated by Amar'e's devotion, determination, and charisma as he builds his passion from the ground up. Full of inspiration, heartfelt details, and accessible language, this series is a great addition for any sports fan — or any child who loves a fast-paced story on resourcefulness and a never-ending drive. 

8. 10 True Tales: Young Civil Rights Heroes can teach your child not only the history behind the monumental Civil Rights Movement, but will highlight the heroes behind the hard-won changes. From students taking action through peaceful protest to teens observing unlawful acts against African Americans and taking a stand, these ten stories of bravery show just how powerful young people can be. 

9. The Journey of Little Charlie will take your child back to the days of the civil war, exploring slavery and experiences of fugitives it through the eyes of 12-year-old Charlie. Fighting off his own tough luck, Charlie comes face-to-face with a dilemma that could hurt him and a family of once enslaved people he's forced to track. Written by Newbery Medalist author Christopher Paul Curtis, the tale of Charlie and his experiences will open your child's perspective and advance his historical knowledge all while captivating his imagination through a fast-paced story of survival. 

10. Did you say written by a kid? That's right, Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! is written by none other than Marley Dias, a powerhouse teen who created her very own movement to shed light on books written for and featuring African American figures and characters. Since her successful campaign, Dias continues inspiring kids through her guide on volunteering, social justice, and inclusivity. Your child will be inspired to do good in the world after reading the powerful words of Marley. 

11. A Coretta Scott King Award Winner, One Crazy Summer is the story of three sisters and their experience in Oakland, Californa in 1968 — a time, and area, of racial turbulence and political unrest in the United States. However, these three sisters have made it on their own before and nothing can stop them now. With run-ins with the Black Panthers and a deep look into a relationship with an estranged mother, this story highlights a child's desire to perservere and advocate for herself. This inspiring tale will encourage your child to find her own voice while boosting important language skills and historical knowledge. 

Middle Grade:

12. In a story of unlikely friends, The Madman of Piney Woods portrays the tale of Benji and Red and a hunt for a mysterious presence in the dark corners of Piney Woods, a presence that's been watching these two young boys who stem from very different lives. Working as a companion novel to Elijah of Buxton, Deimosa explains: "When we think about the Underground Railroad, a lot of time the story ends when they get to Canada, but [the author] Christopher Paul Curtis in Elijah of Buxton gives us the story of the first black community set up by escaped slaves, and this book takes us back to that town 40 years later. It introduces you to [new] things going on in Canada that relate to black history." 

13The Watson's Go to Birmingham–1963 explores a significant city during a key year in the Civil Rights movement through the comedy of a family roadtrip. Your child will love the weird Watsons, the relatability of a 10-year-old navigating his kooky life, the as-told-by narration style and the history behind Grandma's house in Birmingham, Alabama.

14. Martin Rising: Requiem For a King is a beautifully written story in verse, expressing the incredible life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through intricate rhyme and flowing illustrations. Showcasing the power behind Dr. King's messages through the Civil Rights Movement and beyond, middle schoolers can have a deeper understanding of the work, motivation, influence, and perserverance of this important historical figure. Plus, a historical timeline can be found in the back of the book for even more learning opportunities. 

15. Dear America: A Picture of Freedom tracks the story of Clotee, an enslaved 12-year-old girl from the year 1859. Blending history with drama and highlighting important themes centering on acceptance, adolescence, and a never-ending desire to learn, this inspiring novel will capitvate your reader while teaching about a horrific time in our history. Broken up into easy-to-digest chapters, this intriguing read will leave your child wanting more with every page turned.

16. Who is the greatest of all time? Greatest The: Muhammad Ali is the story of world champion boxer Muhammad Ali and his rise to the top. Covering his life from boxing achievements to global advocacy, this inspiring story takes an important look at how this successful African American athlete forever shaped sports in America. For your at-home athlete, this story will continuously motivate to never give up. Written as a YA novel, this real-life story is bound to teach your child about impacting the world and flying high like a butterfly. 

High School:

17. Tyrell is a mature YA novel about a young African American teen struggling with problems far beyond his years. Living with his single mother and brother in a homeless shelter, Tyrell attempts to navigate a future that seems brighter than the one he currently sees. After running through options to best support himself and his family, Tyrell is faced with the choice of following the path of his father, who currently sits in jail.  This genuine tale shows the real-life obstacles many teens are navigating today. 

18. March: Book Three (March Series) is the award-winning conclusion of the three-part March Series, showcasing the progress, rise, and continued action of the Civil Rights Movement. This advanced novel covers every theme found during the 1960s centered on racial inequality: activism, segregation, political justice, tolerance, and so much more. With an underlying political theme, your high school student can gain new perspective on the leaps and bounds needed to achieve fairness throughout our country, as told through the lens of various historical civil rights leaders. 

19. How do you explain horrific events to your advanced reader? The Freedom Summer Murders takes readers back to June of 1964, when three merciless murders were committed by the Klu Klux Klan in an attempt to quash efforts to help African American citizens register to vote. Causing a national uproar, these murders only highlighted the very real inequalities our country faced, and would eventually aid to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Written specifically for young adults, this novel focuses in on the violence experienced during the Civil Rights Movement and the important changes that followed suit. 

20. Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?: And Other Conversations About Race begins the difficult dialogue that can come with discussing race. From self-segregation to being an ally to understanding the internal psychology behind racism, this well-crafted guide can help steer the conversation. An important and useful tool for high school students and parents alike, this guide picks apart the every day subtleties that stem from race and pushes for readers to expand their own perspective and the role they play. "It discusses what's going on in schools, high school and college, and interactions between different races and the opportunities that there are in education," says Deimosa. 

21. The effect of Henrietta Lacks on our world today is undeniable. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, now turned into a major motion picture, gives credit to the black woman who provided the HeLa cells used in research labs throughout the world today, including today's polio vaccine, cancer studies, fertilization, and cloning. However, the cells were taken from Lacks without her knowledge, by a medical system rife with racial inequalities, and Lacks was never informed of nor compensated for her incredible contribution to science. With mature themes, this book is well-suited for advanced high-school students as well as their parents. 

Early Elementary School Readers

Late Elementary School Readers

Middle Grade Readers

High School Readers

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