If you’re anything like me, you’re just about ready to say “Goodbye!” to January. It always feel like the longest month of the year. The weather is always gloomy. We’re all still intent on sticking to those impossible resolutions we made for the new year. Still, we’re almost through it, and there is a lot to look forward to!
As we all know, Black History Month starts on February 1st. Though this observance began in the United States, it is now being recognized all over the world (though often at different times of the year). It’s a great chance for us to celebrate and remember achievements which have shaped the way we live today. It can also be a super opportunity to introduce and share topics related to other races and religions.
Today, I’d like to share with you some of my favorite books which can be enjoyed during the month. Of course, the books can and should be enjoyed throughout the year. This, however, is a great time to introduce them.
Black History Books for Young Kids
Your students will love Audrey’s story. They will recognize how even children can and should speak up for what they believe in. It will show them why they must act on what they know is right. The titular character is bold and brave, and your children will be rooting for her.
This book is based on the true story of Sylvia Mendez, who championed the rights of minority students (in her case, the children of Mexican families). This is a wonderful account of a pivotal moment in American history. As with a lot of my favorites, it’s also beautifully illustrated!
Inspired by hearing MLK speak, thousands of African American children chose to march for their civil rights in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. In the face of oppression, hate and fear, they stood up for what they knew to be right. The author will bring you right to this historic moment through her beautiful words.
After reading this book, children will get a greater sense of how much can be achieved if we are all aligned to a common goal. Rob Sanders delicately deals with complicated topics, and his words are pitched at a level young students will understand. With an emphasis on peaceful action, this book in sure to be a favorite.
Another book which deals with the notion of peaceful protest, Ron’s Big Mission will take you on a journey with Ron McNair. His biggest challenge, prior to a stellar career as a scientist and astronaut, was getting a library card. It sounds like such a simple thing in 2022, but it was anything-but in South Carolina in the 1950s. You, and your students, will be inspired by this story.
MLK Day may come in January, but there is never a wrong time to share the life and mission of this iconic figure. Using quotes from some of his most famous speeches, the author tells a story which can’t fail to resonate with young readers. This book is a must-have on any classroom bookshelf.
One of Dr. King’s most memorable speeches is brought even further to life in this beautifully illustrated book. Freedom, equality and peace are the central themes, and students will treasure what they can gleam from this. This is a window into a different and more difficult past. It will prompt students to understand that the privilege they may enjoy today has not always been there.
Martin Luther King Activity
In order for your students to further their understanding of Dr. King’s life and work, my Martin Luther King, Jr. flipbook is a fun and interactive resource. Included with the packet are three colorful posters of famous quotes. The packet is differentiated by level to allow you to use it according to your students’ ability.
This is a great starting point to build your students’ understanding of key figures in the history of the fight for equality. With each person introduced in a simple but informative manner, students will learn about what they stood for. They will also love the chance to interact with the repeated calls of “NO, NO!”. I hope you enjoy this book and its sensitive descriptions of iconic figures.
The anthem of the fight for freedom and equality, We Shall Overcome is known the world over. With beautiful collage-style art from Vanessa Brantley-Newton, this book will encourage your students to learn more about its origins. They will learn that change is possible with a few simple words and a dream.
Readers of Henry’s Freedom Box will go on quite the journey with Henry Brown. He embarks upon it to escape his life of unimaginable despair. Your students will soon understand that this true story is indicative of just how awful lives were for slaves at the time. They will gain a renewed sense of the efforts people went to in order to free themselves. Another story replete with outstanding, emotive illustrations.
Harriet Tubman Activity
Your students will want to learn more about the Underground Railroad, and the iconic figures around it. How about teaching them about Harriet Tubman? Born into slavery, after escaping she rescued approximately seventy enslaved people. My flipbook packet, again including some colorful quote posters for your classroom, is a great starting point for the topic.
Most people have not heard of Congo Square. After reading this, they will be familiar with its’ importance in the lives of slaves in 19th century Louisiana. The protagonists had just a small window each week to forget the unjust and unequal system in which they were enslaved. They used it to congregate, play music, dance and sing, and readers will quickly understand more about hope, joy and freedom.
In the aftermath of World War I, some six million African Americans left the rural South and headed out across the country in search of a better life. With the aim of building better, freer lives for themselves and their families, their story is one of courage, hope and strength.
Throughout the year, we face lots of opportunities to deep dive into different topics to broaden the minds of our young learners. They are all important. Black History Month, coming as it does so early in the year, is a great time to do something creative and meaningful. Children are never too young to appreciate what has come before them. I’d love to hear more about what you plan to do during this season!
That’s all for now. Have a great day!