Each February, the United States recognizes the efforts and sacrifices of African Americans who helped shape the country. If you’re unsure how to teach youngsters about Black history this month or throughout the year, experts frequently recommend turning to literature for help.
Literature as a gateway to understanding
Books may children engage with all types of history, but they are especially useful for understanding the nuances of Black history. Meg Medina, an award-winning children’s novelist and 2023-2024 National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature, underlines the importance of great texts:
“I think when we give kids really rich texts and trust them with the information, trust them to be curious, allow them to follow their curiosity, we do them an enormous service.”
Here are six Black History Month reading recommendations from authors, librarians, and bookshop employees, suitable for children and teenagers alike.
A Library and Bright April: exploring history through fiction
The Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden suggests two seminal books: A Library by Nikki Giovanni and Bright April by Marguerite de Angeli. These novels offer young readers windows and mirrors into African American realities and the importance of representation.
Hayden emphasizes the significance of exposing youngsters to the richness of their past, saying, “I think we owe it to the young people in our lives to introduce them to that free resource: the library.”
I Am Ruby Bridges: a story of courage and resilience
Brittni Robertson Powell, program director for bookstore Baldwin & Co., recommends I Am Ruby Bridges, a moving depiction of Ruby’s experience as one of the first Black children to integrate an all-white school in the South.
Reflecting on her own son’s reaction to the book, Robertson Powell emphasizes the importance of personal narratives in developing empathy and understanding, encouraging children to use the book’s teachings in their own lives.
Schomburg: The Man Who Built A Library: celebrating intellectual legacy
Medina underlines the significance of crossing identities and various viewpoints, urging readers to explore Schomburg’s legacy as a catalyst for discovery and empowerment.
The Black Kids: exploring identity amid turmoil
Juno Kling, a Denver teen librarian, recommends Christina Hammonds Reed’s The Black Kids, a powerful representation of racial tensions during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Kling emphasizes the book’s relevance in addressing current concerns and encouraging young people to traverse complex social and political settings.
ABC Black History and Me: education via illustration
Lewis emphasizes the book’s accessibility and diversity portrayal, offering young readers an engaging introduction to prominent Black leaders.
Embracing the journey of discovery
Through reading, young readers embark on a transforming journey of discovery and comprehension. As we commemorate Black history, these books are invaluable resources for developing empathy, resilience, and a greater awareness of varied experiences.
Discover the depth of Black history through the perspective of exceptional storytellers and visionaries, who inspire future generations to embrace the legacy of resilience and achievement.