February is Black History Month, and we’ve found 15 great books to celebrate with. These titles both educate and empower children with the tales of various important figures in African American history, as well as kids just like them. As a parent, guardian, teacher, or mentor, it’s time to share these important moments of the past with those who will inherit our future.
By Maribeth Boelts
Jeremy desperately wants a pair of the new shoes all the kids at school are wearing. His grandma says he doesn’t need new shoes until his current pair falls apart, but he’s willing to do anything to get those new shoes. A wonderful tale about being thankful for what we have, children will no doubt be able to relate to Jeremy’s plight.
Dancing in the Wings
By Debbie Allen
Sassy worries her legs may be too long and her feet too big to be the ballerina she always wanted to be. Based loosely on her own experiences as a dancer, Debbie Allen uses the story of Sassy to show how persistence can overcome even the toughest of challenges.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut
By Derrick Barnes
Barnes’ first picture book, this rhythmic story is a celebration of self-esteem and confidence that young boys feel when they leave their barbershop. The poem will resonate with little boys and how they seem themselves, and approve of what they see, in the mirror.
A Kid’s Guide to African American History
By Nancy I. Sanders
With more than 70 activities, this interactive history book is the most engaging introduction to African American history we’ve seen in a long time! It includes songs, games, and hands-on activities to teach children about important African American historical figures.
Mae Among the Stars
By Roda Ahmed
Young Mae Jemison has big dreams, a loving family, and a dream to dance among the stars. This is a story of tenacity and belief that against all odds, Mae will become the first African American woman to travel in space. (Spoiler alert! She did!)
By Gaia Cornwall
Jabari finished his swimming lessons and now he’s ready to jump off the pool’s diving board! Or is he? This refreshing tale of a determined little boy and his patient and encouraging father is the perfect story to show young ones how sweet it feels to overcome their fears.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
By Vashti Harrison
A New York Times Bestseller and recipient of the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in Children’s, this book features 40 amazing women of color who broke boundaries and paved the way for those to come after them. It features both iconic and lesser known trailblazing black women, including Mary Seacole, Shirley Bassey, and Katherine Johnson.
Dream Big, Little One
By Vashti Harrison
This is the illustrated board book version of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. It highlights 18 influential women of color in history, such as Raven Wilkinsin and Florence Joyner.
I am Rosa Parks
By Brad Meltzer
Part of his Ordinary People Change the World series, Meltzer uses this book to recount Rosa Parks’ quiet determination to change the way America viewed African American people. A prominent woman of black history, Rosa Parks’ desire for equality makes her an excellent role model for children to discover.
Last Stop on Market Street
By Matt de la Peña
CJ rides the bus with his grandma every Sunday after church. He begins to wonder why they don’t just take a car like his friends. He soon starts wondering about the rest of the things that other people have, but he does not. Luckily, his grandma is there to answer every question and help CJ see the beauty in their routine and the world around him.
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13
By Helaine Becker
Katherine Johnson was the mathematical genius who made sure that Apollo 13, after landing on the moon, was able to return safely home. This story details how the mathematician began her journey as a child fascinated with counting, to become a groundbreaking American hero.
I am Martin Luther King, Jr.
By Brad Meltzer
Another addition to the Ordinary People Change the World series, the story of Martin Luther King, Jr. is even more understandable and engaging for young children. This book recounts Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful, nonviolent methods of acquiring the rights that he, and all human beings, deserved.
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist
By Cynthia Levinson
Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks is the youngest known child to be arrested during a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, in May of 1963. An outspoken young activist, Audrey listened to her preacher’s words and decided to march against injustice along with 3,000 to 4,000 other elementary and high school students. Hear her brave, bold, and remarkable Civil Rights story.
I Love My Hair
By Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
Kenya’s mother combs her hair every night before bed, but no matter how gently she pulls, it still hurts sometimes! She doesn’t feel very lucky to have the hair that she does, but Mama explains that she is. Mama says Kenya is lucky to have so many different, beautiful ways that she can wear her hair. Soon, Kenya learns to love her beautiful head of hair too.
The Other Side
By Jacqueline Woodson
Clover was told not to cross the fence to the white side of town where Anna lives, but she can’t help but be curious. So instead of crossing the fence, the two sit atop it and out of this bravery blossoms a beautiful friendship.