Teaching students the importance of tolerance is a year-round priority for teachers. But during Black History Month, teachers are provided an opportunity to help students dig a little deeper into just what it means to accept others and the role that acceptance plays in cultivating a culture of kindness inside the classroom.

    The following 3 books are perfect reads for Black History Month and will help young readers in grades 3–5 learn how tolerance can help change the world.

    Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad

    In this story of determination and perseverance, Henry “Box” Brown is a slave living in the South. He doesn’t know how old he is, and he dreams of escaping to a place that’s more tolerant and accepting of others. So, after being torn from his family, he decides to mail himself to the North. And the day he arrives—his first day of freedom—becomes his birthday. After reading, the following prompts are a great way to spark a discussion about tolerance and the role it played in helping slaves like Henry escape to freedom:

  • When Henry’s master was ill and dying, what could his master have done to change Henry’s life for the better?
  • In what ways did Henry’s new master express his intolerance toward Henry and other slaves? 
  • Who in Henry’s life displayed tolerance and acceptance of others? How did this character help Henry escape slavery?
  • What role did tolerance play in the success of the Underground Railroad?
  • Let's Dream, Martin Luther King Jr.!

    In this book, students will learn about tolerance through the eyes of one of the most influential leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. Once students complete their reading, follow up with a few questions to help kickstart a discussion on how the theme of tolerance fueled the life and times of King.

  • In what ways did Martin Luther King Jr. show tolerance throughout his life?
  • What role does tolerance still play in fulfilling Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream for America?
  • Pink and Say

    In this story of the Civil War, a wounded white Union soldier, Sheldon Russell Curtis, is saved by another Union soldier, Pinkus, whose “skin was the color of polished mahogany.” The tale is one of courage and bravery, but also one of tolerance, shared humanity, and helping others no matter the consequences. Here are a few questions to inspire reflection after reading:

  • What does Sheldon do to show Pinkus that they’re now family?
  • Why do you think Pinkus referred to slavery as “the sickness?”
  • What did Sheldon admit to Moe Moe Bay? How did she reassure him?
  • This Black History Month it’s important to use these teaching tools to encourage students to reflect on the theme of tolerance and how even small gestures of tolerance inside and outside the classroom can change the world for the better.