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In the words of President Gerald Ford, black history month is the time to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout history.” Since 1976, February, the birth month of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass has been chosen to celebrate and reflect on the central role African Americans played in shaping the country’s history.
As a teacher, black history month presents you with the perfect opportunity to teach your students inclusivity and equality through books that acknowledge key historical African-American figures and African-American culture.
EASY TO READ CHILDREN’S BOOK FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH
History can be a complex subject, especially when it encompasses an arduously rich topic such as Black History. However, there are numerous books that have taken to themselves to help you teach kids about the subject as elegantly and effortlessly as possible. Let’s look at a few of the books you may want to teach your students during black history month:
I, Too, Am America (by Langston Hughes)
‘I, Too’ is a poem that was originally published by Langston Hughes in 1926. Its central theme focuses on the inequality and oppression faced by Africa-Americas at the time. In ‘I, Too Am America,’ the poetic wisdom of Langston is blended with illustrations by Bryan Collier in a manner that allows the message to be easily understood by kids.
The book is excellent for teaching students the importance of equality and for helping them build poetic prose.
Teammates (by Peter Golenbock)
‘Teammates’ is an illustrative book written by Jackie Robinson in 1992. It describes the touching story of Jackie Robinson, who joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s. Robinson was the first-ever black male to play on a Major League baseball team, and the book shows the struggle that came with it.
The book also describes the importance of camaraderie through Pee We Reese, who took a stand against the norms and declared Robinson as his teammate. If you want to teach your students about the importance of standing up for your friends, this should be one of your go-to reads.
If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks (by Faith Ringgold)
Commuting on the bus is a very ordinary thing. Today, we wouldn’t think twice of it. But for African-Americans, in the past, segregation laws made using the bus a very stressful endeavor. ‘If a Bus Could Talk’ tells the story of the mother of the Civil Rights Movement, Rosa Parks, an African-American woman who courageously stood against the oppressive laws.
The book is easy to understand and grabs children’s attention by narrating the story of Rosa Parks through a magical bus that tells the story to a young girl named Marcie riding it. It is a story that teaches the power of courage and how far it can take you.
The Story of Ruby Bridges (by Robert Coles)
This book tells the story of Ruby Bridges, who, at just 6 years old, became one of the most important icons of the Civil Rights Movement. In 1960, according to a judge ruling little Ruby was to attend first grade at an all-white school. This came to the dismay of the many parents who refused to send their kids to attend school with Ruby. The story describes how Ruby persevered in the face of angry mobs and uses a powerful narrative to show the power of hope, faith, and courage.
This story can teach how even the littlest of us with a little bit of perseverance can have the power to change the world.
Dream Big, Little One (by Vashti Harrison)
This book is an adaptation of the best seller ‘Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History’ purposed for little readers. It features the story of African-American women, such as Oprah Winfrey, who trailblazed their name in History. The book speaks of African-American women as heroes, role models, and even as everyday women who did extraordinary things to change the world in their own right. The women profiled in this book shows how much dreams can matter and how they can change the world for the better.
I Am Every Good Thing (by Derrick Barnes)
Derrick Barnes is a beautifully written picture book that shows the importance of confidence, self-love, and accepting every part of yourself. It teaches its readers through a young African-American boy who celebrates all things that make him who he is. This book delivers a much-needed message to your students and will undoubtedly shape their image of themselves.
Henry’s Freedom Box (by Ellen Levine)
Henry’s Freedom Box is an epic tale of Henry “Box” Brown’s journey to freedom. Born into slavery, Henry has no knowledge of his birthday or age and longs to be free one day. Birth records were deliberately not maintained to reinforce the idea of enslaved people as property and non-persons. The heart-rending story recounts Henry’s life, no different from that of any other enslaved person. He is first torn from his family as a young boy and sent to work in a tobacco factory. When he grows up and marries, his wife and children are auctioned in a slave market. The stirring tale speaks of the resilience of the human spirit as the traumatic separation impels Henry to carve out his way to freedom. He puts his life at stake as he makes a perilous journey north in a crate. Having lost his youth and family to slavery, Henry ultimately gains something to live for life as a free man. This is a must-have for the Black History month.
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DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Black History Month is an opportunity to embed essential values in your students. Being mindful of the past and full of love for the future can shape minds that can surely change the future. The books we mentioned are just the tip of the iceberg, there is much more literature out there, and we recommend you check as many of them as possible. Make sure to go through all of them before you read them to the children to ensure they are age-appropriate.