February is Black History Month, which pays tribute to African-American heroes and thought leaders, culture, and history. Scholastic Librarian Deimosa Webber-Bey recommends picking up these books spanning all ages for your kids to read throughout the year.
These titles not only give your children the resources they need to understand the importance of 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, this list includes a wide range of impactful books.
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1. Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters is a special tribute written by Former 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 their dreams as they follow the colorful illustrations of our nation. This makes a great read-aloud for the whole family!
2. 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 explaining what civil rights means to your child. Matched with illustrated moments of Rosa Parks' experience and real-life photos from her experiences in Montgomery, Alabama, this book teaches your child the important history behind this incredible woman.
3. Home Court (STAT Series) follows real-life NBA all-star Amar'e Stoudemire during his childhood and when he first discovered his true love for basketball. Your child 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.
4. Marley Dias Gets It Done: And So Can You! is written by Marley Dias, a powerhouse teen who created her very own movement to shed light on books featuring African-American figures and characters. Since launching her successful campaign, Dias continues to inspire kids through her guide on volunteering, social justice, and inclusivity. Your child will be inspired to do good in the world after reading Marley's powerful words.
5. One Crazy Summer is the story of three sisters and their experiences in Oakland, California in 1968 — a time and place of racial turbulence and political unrest. However, these three sisters have made it on their own before and nothing can stop them now. With interactions with the Black Panthers and a deep look into their relationship with an estranged mother, this story highlights a child's desire to persevere and advocate for themselves. This inspiring tale will encourage your child to find their own voice, all while boosting important language skills and historical knowledge.
6. Elijah of Buxton is an award-winning historical fiction book about 11-year-old Elijah, the first child born into freedom in his Canadian town of Buxton. It's 1860, and Buxton is located just across the river from Detroit and serves as a safe haven for runaway slaves and their children in pre-emancipation America.
"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," says Webber-Bey. "Then 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."
Meanwhile, The Madman of Piney Woods is a companion novel to Elijah of Buxton. It portrays the tale of Benji and Red and a hunt for a mysterious presence in the dark corners of Piney Woods — a presence that has been watching the two young boys who stem from very different lives.
The Journey of Little Charlie is the third book in the Bruxton trilogy, and will take your child back to the days of the American Civil War, exploring slavery and experiences of fugitives through the eyes of 12-year-old Charlie.
7. Child of the Dream is a memoir by Sharon Robinson, the daughter of famed baseball player Jackie Robinson. It takes place in 1963, when she is 13 years old and America is experiencing a pivotal year in its history. Children will see the world through her eyes as she figures out her own role in the fight for equality — and deals with personal issues like going through puberty and being one of the only Black children in her wealthy Connecticut neighborhood.
8. The 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 road trip. Your child will love the weird Watsons, the relatability of a 10-year-old navigating his life, and learning the history behind his grandma's house in Birmingham, Alabama.
9. 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 throughout the civil rights movement, this book gives middle-grade students 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.
10. Dear America: A Picture of Freedom tells 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.
11. Malcolm X: By Any Means Necessary shows how Malcolm X became an incredibly influential voice during the Civil Rights Movement. Young readers will learn how he was one of the most respected, and most feared, men in American history through this depiction of a complex man whose life reflected the major issues of our times.
12. The Greatest: 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 athlete forever shaped sports in America.
13. 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. This genuine tale shows the real-life obstacles many teens are navigating today.
14. Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow is a look at the Civil War's conclusion, Reconstruction, and the rise of Jim Crow segregation. By the legendary Henry Louis Gates, Jr., with Tonya Bolden, this title shows young readers the resiliency of the African American people at times of progress and betrayal in a history that remains vitally relevant today.