Black History Month reading list for kids

My family and I love to read. Lily started sounding out words around three or four years old and was a good reader by age five. Rose seems to be following in her big sister’s footsteps. Thankfully, they both love books and showing off their reading skills, but even more than that, they enjoy learning about their history. My sisters and I were the same way. I remember the giant Encyclopedia of Black Innovators that my parents kept at home. Anytime there was a history based assignment, we were always required to research a black person, event, invention, etc. We enjoyed learning about our history and feeling connected to the faces in such an important book.

Now, my sister and my stepmom are both teachers and most of us have kids of our own as well so finding books that speak to their hearts both within the classroom and at home is par for the course. Our kids range in age from 1 year to 11 so I have compiled a list of Black History focused books from baby to middle school age. Most of these titles are available on Amazon and in your local library so check them out with your own kids this month.

 

PRESCHOOL


Vashti Harrison deserves to be on our list a few times with good reason. An author, illustrator, and filmmaker all rolled up into one amazing storyteller, Harrison got her start in film making and storytelling. Now her books do the talking in the form of colorful stories that educate and inspire its readers.

Summary: Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.

Among these women, you'll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn't always accept them. 

The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come. 

Amazon rating: 5 Stars

Number of Reviews: 24

Age Range: 2-4 years

Grade Level: Preschool and Up

 

Story time just got a little more interesting with this brightly colored book of heroes. Whether or not your goober can speak in full sentences, they will be intrigued by the cadence of the stories and the fun illustrations.

Summary: From the intrepid efforts of Susan B. Anthony to the quiet courage of Rosa Parks, Little Heroes: Courageous People Who Changed the World is a young child's first introduction to the brave people who fought to make the world a better place. Simple text and adorable illustrations tell the contributions of eight champions of freedom: Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks, Susan B. Anthony, Malala Yousafzai, Harriet Tubman, William Wilberforce, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. A quote from each individual is included on each spread along with colorful, delightful artwork.

Amazon Rating: 4.5 stars

Number of Reviews: 11

Age Range: 3 - 5 years
Grade Level: Preschool - Kindergarten

 

Summary: This beautifully illustrated New York Times bestseller introduces readers of all ages to 40 women who changed the world.

An important book for all ages, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of forty trailblazing black women in American history. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash.

Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn't always accept them. 


The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come. 


EARLY ELEMENTARY


Ada Twist: Scientist (Andrea Beaty)

Ada Twist, Scientist
By Andrea Beaty

This is one of a series written by Andrea Beaty encouraging children to pursue careers in STEM and be resilient despite adversity. Other titles in the series include Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect.

Summary: The beloved New York Times bestselling picture book about pursuing one’s passion with persistence and learning to celebrate each failure on the road to achieving one’s dreams.

Inspired by real-life makers Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, this beloved #1 bestseller champions STEM, girl power and women scientists in a rollicking celebration of curiosity, the power perseverance, and the importance of asking “Why?”  
 
Don't miss Ada’s further adventures—with her friends Iggy Peck and Rosie Revere—in the instant New York Times bestseller Rosie Revere and the Raucous Riveters, the first all-new chapter book starring The Questioneers!

Ada Twist’s head is full of questions. Like her classmates Iggy and Rosie—stars of their own New York Times bestselling picture books Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer—Ada has always been endlessly curious. Even when her fact-finding missions and elaborate scientific experiments don’t go as planned, Ada learns the value of thinking her way through problems and continuing to stay curious.

Amazon Rating: 4.5 stars

Number of Reviews: 577

Age Range: 5 - 7 years
Grade Level: Kindergarten - 2

 

Look What Brown Can Do! (T. Marie Harris)

Look What Brown Can Do!
By T. Marie Harris

This is a great book for kids who are thinking about who they want to be as they grow. I love this age of “I can do anything!” while children are beginning to realize their strengths and talents.

Summary: A must have for every Brown child who's still dreaming about what to be when s/he grows up!" Foster your little one's imagination and encourage them to dream big with this modern Black History book created to inspire brown children everywhere. Best suited for early readers, though younger children will adore the illustrations and inspirational message found in "Look What Brown Can Do!" This book is a perfect conversational tool for parents, teachers, caretakers, and anyone looking to help lovely Brown children understand the greatness that can be achieved in every shade of Brown. No matter the child's interest's, be it painting, dancing, science, music, writing, athletics ... "Look What Brown Can Do!" captures an array of accomplishments from yesterday's and today's Black heroes. Encourage our little Brown 'heroes in the making' to LOVE the skin they're in today by purchasing "Look What Brown Can Do!"

Amazon Rating: 4.5 stars

Number of Reviews: 71

Age Range: 5-8

Grade Level: K-3

 

Written by former president Barack Obama, this beautifully illustrated picture book celebrates the pioneers and founders who have contributed greatly helping America become what it is today. Some reviews have mentioned that the prose can be wordy for very young readers but that this is a book that children can grow into.

In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O'Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America's children.

Breathtaking, evocative illustrations by award-winning artist Loren Long at once capture the personalities and achievements of these great Americans and the innocence and promise of childhood.

This beautiful book celebrates the characteristics that unite all Americans, from our nation's founders to generations to come. It is about the potential within each of us to pursue our dreams and forge our own paths. It is a treasure to cherish with your family forever.

Amazon rating: 5 stars

Number of Reviews: 636

Age Range: 6 and up

Grade Level: Kindergarten - 12


LATE ELEMENTARY


Bad News for Outlaws (Vaunda Micheaux Nelson)

Summary: Sitting tall in the saddle, with a wide-brimmed black hat and twin Colt pistols on his belt, Bass Reeves seemed bigger than life. As a U.S. Marshal - and former slave who escaped to freedom in the Indian Territories - Bass was cunning and fearless.

When a lawbreaker heard Bass Reeves had his warrant, he knew it was the end of the trail, because Bass always got his man, dead or alive. He achieved all this in spite of whites who didn't like the notion of a black lawman.

For three decades, Bass was the most feared and respected lawman in the territories. He made more than 3,000 arrests, and though he was a crach shot and a quick draw, he only killed fourteen men in the line of duty. Bad News for Outlaws reveals the story of a remarkable African American hero of the Old West.

Amazon rating: 4 stars

Number of Reviews: 65

Age Range: 8-12

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library (Carole Boston Weatherford)

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
By Carole Boston Weatherford

Summary: In luminous paintings and arresting poems, two of children’s literature’s top African-American scholars track Arturo Schomburg’s quest to correct history.

Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked. 

Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.

Amazon rating: 5

Number of Reviews: 12

Age Range: 9-12

Grade Level: 4-7


MIDDLE GRADES


One Crazy Summer (Rita Williams-Garcia)

One Crazy Summer
By Rita Williams-Garcia

Queens, N.Y., native Rita Williams-Garcia says, “Writing stories for young people is my passion and my mission.” Williams-Garcia is a three time Coretta Scott King award winner and after reading this book you will understand why. She has also won the PEN/Norma Klein Award in 1997 and also won the 2011 Newbery Honor Award, Coretta Scott King Award, and Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction for this book. For her book, P.S. Be Eleven, which is the sequel to One Crazy Summer, she won the Coretta Scott King Award in 2014. In 2016 her book, Gone Crazy in Alabama won the Coretta Scott King Award.

Summary: In this Newbery Honor novel, New York Times bestselling author Rita Williams-Garcia tells the story of three sisters who travel to Oakland, California, in 1968 to meet the mother who abandoned them. "This vibrant and moving award-winning novel has heart to spare."*

Eleven-year-old Delphine is like a mother to her two younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern. She's had to be, ever since their mother, Cecile, left them seven years ago for a radical new life in California. But when the sisters arrive from Brooklyn to spend the summer with their mother, Cecile is nothing like they imagined.

While the girls hope to go to Disneyland and meet Tinker Bell, their mother sends them to a day camp run by the Black Panthers. Unexpectedly, Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern learn much about their family, their country, and themselves during one truly crazy summer.

This moving, funny novel won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction and the Coretta Scott King Award and was a National Book Award Finalist. Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern's story continues in P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.

Readers who enjoy Christopher Paul Curtis's The Watsons Go to Birmingham and Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming will find much to love in One Crazy Summer.

This novel was the first featured title for Marley D’s Reading Party, launched after the success of #1000BlackGirlBooks. Maria Russo, in a New York Times list of "great kids' books with diverse characters," called it "witty and original."

Amazon rating: 4.5

Number of Reviews: 482

Age Range: 8-12 years

Grade Level: 3-7

 

Summary: Holly Springs, Mississippi, 1862 
Hannah Green can't believe what happens to her family after the war breaks out. First, her sister Joanna falls in love with a Union soldier -- an enemy. Next, the same soldier tells Hannah and her family about General Grant's General Order #11, which commands all Jews to evacuate the territory for violating trade regulations. The Greens escape from Holly Springs just before their home is destroyed. They lose everything -- even their slaves, when Lincoln declares them free. 
Now, because she is Jewish, Hannah cannot go home to Mississippi -- a Confederate state that's dear to her heart. Confusion sets in. Who is on her side, and whose side does she want to be on?

Amazon rating: 4

Number of Reviews: 8

Age Range: 10-14 years

Grade Level: 5-9

 

Elijah of Buxton (Christopher Paul Curtis)

Elijah of Buxton (Scholastic Gold)
By Christopher Paul Curtis

Summary: Elijah of Buxton, recipient of the Newbery Honor and winner of the Coretta Scott King Award, joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. This edition includes exclusive bonus content!

Eleven-year-old Elijah lives in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves near the American border. Elijah's the first child in town to be born free, and he ought to be famous just for that -- not to mention for being the best at chunking rocks and catching fish. Unfortunately, all that most people see is a "fra-gile" boy who's scared of snakes and tends to talk too much. But everything changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah's friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Now it's up to Elijah to track down the thief -- and his dangerous journey just might make a hero out of him, if only he can find the courage to get back home.

Amazon rating: 4.5

Number of Reviews: 168

Age Range: 9-12 years

Grade Level: 4-7

 

The Watsons Go to Birmingham (Christopher Paul Curtis)

The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963
By Christopher Paul Curtis

Seriously, anything by Christopher Paul Curtis is going to be golden. His book “The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963” was the first book ever to receive both the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Golden Kite Award for Fiction. In 2013, it became a film starring Anika Noni Rose and Skye Jackson so cuddle up with the kiddos and watch the film…after you read the book together.

Summary: 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 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.

Amazon rating: 4.5 stars

Number of Reviews: 707

Age Range: 10 and up

Grade Level: 4-7