February marks Black History Month, and storytime is just one of the many occasions when you can teach your kids about the accomplishments of black pioneers and trailblazers.
Children’s books are famously bad at embracing diversity. In 2016, the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison found that out of 3,400 kids’ books, fewer than one-quarter of them featured a main character who was black, Asian, Latino or Native American. So it’s vital that parents share the books that are available with their kids.
Luckily, there are many helpful resources putting these titles within close reach. For Black History Month, Lee & Low Books, a multicultural children’s book publisher, offers helpful book recommendations. Every day in February, The Brown Bookshelf highlights a different black author or illustrator and their work. Helping Kids Rise also participates in a #ReadingBlackout (an initiative to read books by black authors) at the encouragement of YouTuber Denise Cooper.
With suggestions from the organizations above, plus some others, we put together a list of kids’ books by black authors, about black figures or focused on black culture.
Here are 24 books to read to your child during Black History Month, and year-round, of course.
"Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas"
highlights the accomplishments of Vivien Thomas
, an often-forgotten pioneer in the world of surgical technology. (By Gwendolyn Hooks, illustrated by Colin Bootman)
"Look What Brown Can Do!"
Called a "modern black history book," teaches readers about inspiring contributions to black history and encourages kids to dream big. (By T. Marie Harris, illustrated by Neda Ivanova)
"Baby Flo: Florence Mills Lights Up the Stage"
tells the story of Harlem Renaissance figure Florence Mills
, who was known for her talents in singing, dancing and comedy. (By Alan Schroeder, illustrated by Cornelius Van Wright and Ying-Hwa Hu)
"I Have A Dream"
offers an illustrated version of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s inspiring speech
about the importance of equality. (By Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., illustrated by Kadir Nelson)
Kadir Nelson also illustrated this book about Coretta Scott King
, the civil rights activist and leader who married Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (By Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson)
"Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race"
You've probably seen the movie
, but you can also use reading time to introduce the black women whose hard work and perseverance advanced the space race. (By Margot Lee Shetterly with Winifred Conkling, illustrated by Laura Freeman)
"Bippity Bop Barbershop"
highlights the role barbershops play in black culture, and what it's like to conquer your fears as a child. (By Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E.B. Lewis)
"Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History"
includes a variety of stories about black women who never backed down in the face of adversity. (By Vashti Harrison)
The Story of Ruby Bridges
This book tells the story of Ruby Bridges
, who became the first African-American child to integrate a white southern elementary school. (By Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford)
"I, Too, Am America"
Bryan Collier presents an illustrated version of Langston Hughes' famous poem
"I, Too, Am America."(By Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier)
"Mae Among the Stars"
was the first African-American woman in space, and this book shares her dreams as a child, her hard work and ultimately, her success in and out of space. (By Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington)
With this book, kids can learn about Rosa Parks
' bravery and resilience as she refused to give up her bus seat in Alabama, playing an important role in the civil rights movement. (By Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier)
"Last Stop on Market Street"
highlights the relationship between a child and his grandmother, who shows him what he's overlooking in their day-to-day life. (By Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson)
"Juneteenth for Mazie"
Kids can accompany the titular character Mazie as she celebrates Juneteenth
, the day in 1865 that marked the end of slavery in the United States, even though President Abraham Lincoln had passed the Emancipation Proclamation two years earlier. (By Floyd Cooper)
encourages black girls to embrace their hair in all its many forms. (By Sharee Miller)
"Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman"
tells a fictionalized version of the backstory of Harriet Tubman
, a significant figure in black history who led enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad. (By Alan Schroeder, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney)
"Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X"
's daughter Ilyasah Shabazz offers a look into her father's story and how he became a prominent figure in the fight for civil rights. (By Ilyasah Shabazz, illustrated by A.G. Ford)
"Ellington Was Not a Street"
Poet Ntozake Shange tells the stories of her community and how its members, despite the obstacles in their way, persevered. (By Ntozake Shange, illustrated by Kadir Nelson)
"Ron's Big Mission"
shares the accomplishments of Ronald McNair, an American physicist and NASA astronaut who died during the Space Shuttle Challenger launch, and the lesser-known story of how he helped integrate a library as a kid
. (By Rose Blue and Corinne Naden, illustrated by Don Tate)
"Bronzeville Boys and Girls"
Kids can learn the importance of community by reading Gwendolyn Brooks' poems about Chicago's Bronzeville section. (By Gwendolyn Brooks, illustrated by Faith Ringgold)
"Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt"
This 1995 classic is a fictional story of a seamstress who helps fellow enslaved people find freedom on the Underground Railroad using a quilt. (By Deborah Hopkinson, illustrated by James Ransome)
"The Snowy Day"
was one of the first children's books to focus on a non-caricatured African-American character. It remains a favorite for both parents and kids. (By Ezra Jack Keats)
"The Nutcracker in Harlem"
This book is a twist on the classic holiday tale, set during the Harlem Renaissance. (By T.E. McMorrow, illustrated by James Ransome)
"Yesterday I Had The Blues"
offers insight for kids about openly discussing their emotions and the colors associated with them. (By Jeron Ashford Frame, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie)