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20 Books to Kickoff Black History Month

20 Books to Kickoff Black History Month

Why is 2022 racing by so quickly? We are currently just a little over a week away from the month of February, Black History Month. It seems unbelievable. February marks the start of our 28-day journey to highlight and explore Black history and culture. While we wholeheartedly appreciate the increased awareness that Black History Month provides, we also think that February should be a starting point for grounding your yearlong conversations around acceptance, equality, and the diverse culture of people around the African diaspora.

While many Black History Month recommendations are consumed with stories of oppression and struggle, we are very intentional about equally emphasizing the joy, love, and innovativeness that radiates through Black communities.  We’ve offered a few books off of our shelves to share for your Black History Month journey. This is by no means an exhaustive list,  these are just a few to start you off.  We encourage you to continue to add more options to your reading routines throughout the rest of the year. 


 

Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison  (Ages 4+)

Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.  The leaders in this board book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.


 

Follow Your Dreams, Little One by Vashti Harrison  (Ages 4+)

As a companion to Dream Big, Little One, this beautifully illustrated board book highlights true stories of black men in history. The legends in this book span centuries and continents, but what they have in common is that each one has blazed a trail for generations to come.


One Love by Cedella Marley, Vanessa Brantley-Newton  (Ages 3-5)

One love, one heart, let’s get together and feel all right.  Adapted from one of Bob Marley’s most beloved songs, One Love brings the joyful spirit and unforgettable lyrics to life for a new generation. Readers will delight in dancing to the beat and feeling the positive groove of change when one girl enlists her community to help transform her neighborhood for the better. It’s a testament to the amazing things that can happen when we all get together with one love in our hearts.


 

Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford, Frank Morrison (Ages 4+)

Rooted in funk, jazz, folktales, and poetry, Carole Boston Weatherford takes readers on a journey to the roots of hip hop.  She pays homage to the art form and some of its iconic stars.  


 

Juneteenth! A Celebration by Courtney Juste (Ages 4-8)

Juneteenth! A Celebration is a vocabulary-rich introduction to the holiday. With vibrant illustrations, it is great for storytimes or for older readers to spark discussions about American history.

 


 

Stacey’s Extraordinary Words by Stacey Abrams, Kitt Thomas (Ages 4-8)

The debut picture book from iconic voting rights advocate and #1 New York Times bestselling author Stacey Abrams is an inspiring tale of determination, based on her own childhood.

 


The Me I Choose to Be by Natasha Anastacia Tarpley, Regis & Kahran Bethencourt (Ages 4-8)

The possibilities are endless in this uplifting ode to the power of potential. With lyrical text by bestselling author Natasha Anastasia Tarpley and images by Regis and Kahran Bethencourt—the team behind CreativeSoul Photography—each page of The Me I Choose To Be is an immersive call for self-love that highlights the inherent beauty of all Black and brown children. 


Who Are Your People? by Bakari Sellers, Reggie Brown (Ages 4-8)

This inspiring picture book by New York Times bestselling author Bakari Sellers is a tribute to the family and community that help make us who we are. Children are shaped by their ancestors, and this book celebrates the village it takes to raise a child.


Parker Shines On by Parker Curry, Jessica Curry, Brittany Jackson (Ages 4-8)

Parker Curry loves being a big sister. She gets to play dress-up with her little sister, Ava, and piano with her baby brother, Cash. And Parker loves to dance, twirling and leaping and spinning in joy.  But when a dancer joins her class and needs her help, Parker wonders if she has what it takes to be not only a real dancer but a real friend. This inspirational picture book has an afterword by prima ballerina and New York Times bestselling author Misty Copeland.



African Proverbs for All Ages by Johnetta B. Cole, Nelda LaTeef (Ages 4-8)

An Oprah Book about the power of proverbs, how they evolve over time, and the wisdom of various cultures in Africa.
It has been said that a proverb is a short sentence based on long experience. In African Proverbs for All Ages, noted anthropologist and educator Dr. Johnetta Betsch Cole and award-winning illustrator Nelda La Teef invite children and adults to explore and reflect on complex notions about relationships, identity, society, and the human condition.


I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes, Gordon C. James (Ages 3-7)

The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst


Zorah and the Very Big Question by Deborah C. Mortimer, Stephanie Hider (Ages 4-11)

When Zorah’s teacher asks the class what they want to be when they grow up, Zorah realizes that she doesn’t have a clue. In fact, Zorah thinks the more important question is, what CAN she be? Follow Zorah on her journey to discover all the things she can be, from a lawyer or scientist to a ballerina or even president of the United States! Parents and children of all ages will be inspired by this tale’s message of girl power and the importance of representation.


The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Renee Watson, Nikkolas Smith (Ages 7-10)
The 1619 Project’s lyrical picture book in verse chronicles the consequences of slavery and the history of Black resistance in the United States, thoughtfully rendered by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones and Newbery honor-winning author Renée Watson.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Real-Life Tales of Black Girl Magic by Jestine Ware, Sonja Thomas, Lilly Workneh, Cashawn Thomas (Ages 6+)

The latest installment in the New York Times bestselling Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls series, featuring 100 barrier-breaking Black women and girls who showcase the spirit of Black Girl Magic.


 

Ellington Was Not a Street by Ntozake Shange, Kadir Nelson (Ages 5-11)

Kadir Nelson beautifully captures Ntozake Shange’s poem “Moon Indigo.”  A young girl recalls the countless innovators such as W.E.BDebois, Dizzy Gillespie, and Paul Robeson that gathered at her home.  

 

 


She Persisted: Claudette Colvin by Lesa Cline-Ransome, Chelsea Clinton, Alexandra Boiger (Ages 6-9)

We all know the name Rosa Parks. Did you know there was a young girl who refused to give up her seat and inspired Rosa Parks to do the same?  This biography tells the story of fifteen-year-old Claudette Colvin and her choice to stand up for equality and justice in Montgomery, Alabama.


She Persisted: Wangari Maathai by Eucabeth Odhiambo, Chelsea Clinton, Alexandra Boiger (Ages 6-9)

Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who spoke up and rose up against the odds–including Wangari Maathai!  When Wangari Maathai learned about how many trees had been cut down in Kenya, where she was from, she was horrified. So she founded the Green Belt Movement and got friends, family, and even strangers to help her plant trees and respect the environment–and she received a Nobel Peace Prize for her work.


She Persisted: Coretta Scott King by Kelly Starling Lyons, Chelsea Clinton, Alexandra Boiger (Ages 6-9)

Inspired by the #1 New York Times bestseller She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger comes a chapter book series about women who spoke up and rose up against the odds–including Coretta Scott King! Coretta Scott King is known for being the wife of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but she was a civil rights activist and leader in her own right! She was a singer and an author too, and her work made a difference for Black Americans and for all women for decades to come.


Sky Watcher (Jada Jones #5) by Kelly Starling Lyons (Ages 6-8)

Jada is excited to do a school project about her hero Dr. Mae Jemison, a former NASA astronaut and the first Black woman to travel to outer space. She even gets to pretend to be her for the presentation in front of her teacher, parents, and friends! But when Jada’s research reminds her how accomplished her hero truly is, she suddenly feels like she’s made a mistake. How can she portray someone who seems to have everything together when she feels like she’s falling apart?


 

VIP: Lewis Latimer: Engineering Wizard by Denise Lewis Patrick, Daniel Duncan (Ages 8-12)

If your child is a fan of the Who Was series, this will be a perfect book to add to their library.  This biography details the life of Lewis Latimer, one of the greatest inventors of his time. 

 


 

What other titles would you add to this list?  Feel free to share in the comments.  We’d love to hear from you!

Looking for even more books?  Check out our additional Black History Month recommendations in Bookshop.

Kanika Mobley

Hi! I'm Kanika. I'm a mother and 20+ year educator. I started my career as a kindergarten teacher and fell in love with helping kids discover their reading identities. As they asked for certain books, I tried with all my might to keep the classroom library filled with high-engaging books that were both mirrors and windows for their experiences.

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