Parents and educators who want to foster understanding and education about African Americans' roles throughout history have a wealth of children's books about black history to choose.
Prominent Figures in Black History
While most schoolchildren are familiar with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., they might not know other notable figures in black history. Many men and women contributed toward abolishing slavery and gaining equal rights for African Americans. Some of the prominent people you'll find books about include:
- Rosa Parks
- George Washington Carver
- Frederick Douglass
- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Malcolm X
- W.E.B. Dubois
- Booker T. Washington
- Louis Armstrong
- Thurgood Marshall
- Harriet Tubman
- Tiger Woods
- Jackie Robinson
- Barack Obama
- Sojourner Truth
- Langston Hughes
This is only a short list of the abolitionists, slaves, politicians, athletes, educators and civil rights activists who made a great impact using their unique talents, whether it was Harriet Tubman helping slaves escape through the Underground Railroad or George Washington Carver inventing hundreds of various products from peanuts and soybeans, among other vegetables and nuts. Parents and teachers can encourage children to research other famous African Americans by looking for biographies geared toward children, and discover how they made a difference in their world and the world around them.
Not Just for February
In the United States, February is designated Black History Month, a time when libraries, school book clubs and bookstores have books about prominent African Americans (both past and present) on display. You don't have to wait for February, however, to introduce children to history. Children's books about black history aren't written exclusively for African Americans, either - kids of all ethnicities can read them to better understand the role that black people have played throughout the history of America and the rest of the world.
Find Children's Books About Black History
The library continues to be a great resource for people of all ages, so if you're looking for good books to borrow, this is a good place to start. Librarians are incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, so if you're looking for a book about a particular person or cause, they can usually help. You should also visit your local bookstore. Chain stores sometimes have a special section devoted to black authors and black issues; you might also want to see if there's an African American bookstore in your area.
These are some black history books that children of all ages will enjoy, whether they read on their own or you read to them. Having family times where everyone participates in reading is one way parents cannot only bond with their children, but also promote literacy. Try these books:
- A Kid's Guide to African American History is more than a book for reading; it also contains more than 70 activities that will get children involved in learning.
- I've Seen the Promised Land: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is a kid-friendly book that covers the life of this influential civil rights leader.
- Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America tells the story of how Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in America's favorite pastime of baseball.
- The book 100 African Americans Who Helped Shape American History is perfect for those in the young adult reader group.
- Harriet Tubman: Secret Agent details how this former slave helped hundreds of men, women and children escape slavery and how she played spy for the Union Army during the U.S. Civil War.
- Students on Strike tells of one man's mission to help end segregation in American schools during a turbulent time in the country's history.
Reading and Learning
Parents and teachers should make an effort to surround children with literature that's age-appropriate. Leave books lying prominently around the home; let kids at school have quiet reading time. It's not enough to simply present children with books, however. Once a child finishes a book, ask questions and discuss the topic. You might be surprised at what you learn about black history from your kids.