February marks the start of Black History Month. Your storytime is just one of the many ways you can teach about the contributions of Black innovators and trailblazers.
We’ve pulled a few books off of our shelves to share for Black History Month. This is by no means an exhaustive list and we encourage you to add these to your reading routines throughout the year. Here are just a few to start.
The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez, Lauren Semmer (Ages 5+): From Anthem to Zenith, this rhythmic book brings the joy, history, ideas, and creativity of Blackness across the diaspora.
My People by Langston Hughes, Charles R. Smith Jr. (Ages 4-8): Using Langston Hughes’ ode to Black people, Charles Smith captures the spirit through his photographs.
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, A Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, Vanessa Brantley Newton (Ages 5-10): When powerful leaders came to Audrey’s house, she was expected to stay quiet while the grown-ups spoke. But, Audrey couldn’t contain herself. She, too, dreamed of eating ice cream inside Newberry’s, sit downstairs at the Alabama, and read from new books at school. She listened to the dreams of justice and knew she had to do her part. When the idea of children marching and filling the jails was introduced, Audrey knew it was her chance. She would become the youngest marcher in Birmingham’s Children’s March in 1963. ***Pick of the Month***
Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy, Ekua Holmes (Ages 4-8): In this book, a girl thinks about all of the colors in the rainbow but realizes that her color is black. She shares all of the amazing things that are black, from the robe that Thurgood wore to the love that lives inside of her.
Counting on Katherine: How Katherine Johnson Saved Apollo 13 by Helaine Becker, Dow Phumirek (Ages 5-9): Katherine loved counting. As a young child, she counted everything. Her curiosity, determination, and love for mathematical calculations helped her play a critical role in NASA’s early space exploration program and an icon.
Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue, Corinne Naden, Don Tate (Ages 6-8): All 9-year old Ron wanted to do was be a pilot. He loved planes. But today, Ron was on a different kind of mission. He was headed to the library. He always tried to find books with kids that looked like him, but that was hard. But, he could always find books about planes. Today, Ron didn’t want to sit in the library and read. He wanted to check them out all by himself. However, in segregated South Carolina in the ’50s, that just wasn’t possible. So, what will he do? ***Pick of the Month***
Patricia’s Vision, Vol 7: The Doctor Who Saved Sight by Michelle Lord, Alleanna Harris (Ages 5+): One day walking in Harlem, Patricia Bath noticed a blind man begging and wondered what it must be like to live in the dark. Although it wasn’t a job that was available to women, particularly Black women, she dreamed of being a doctor. Through her determination and passion for working with the blind, she invented a laser device removing cataracts with more precision. She was the first African American female doctor to receive a medical patent.
Who Did It First?: 50 Politicians, Activists, and Entrepreneurs That Revolutionized the World by Jay Leslie, Alex Hart, Nneka Myers (Ages 8-12): This book celebrates both well-known and lesser-known figures around the world. It features the likes of Oprah Winfrey, Lebron James, Nelson Mandela, and Madame C.J. Walker.
What Color is My World: The Lost History of African American Inventors by Raymond Obstfeld, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Ben Boos (Ages 8-12): In this tribute to Black inventors, learn some facts about lesser-known pioneers. ⠀
Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids: 51 Inspiring People from Ancient Africa to Modern-Day U.S.A by Arlisha Norwood (Ages 8-12): From the kings and queens of Africa to the trailblazers carving a path today, this book captures the heart of the diaspora and its impact around the world. There are so many people included that you may have never heard of.
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.
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.
Lillian’s Right to Vote: A Celebration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by Jonah Winter, Shane W. Evans (Ages 5-9): As Lillian makes the trek to cast her vote, she holds the memories of all the people that came before her, who tried to invoke their right. She thinks of her ancestors that endured poll taxes, literacy tests, and other deterrents. In 2008, at 100 years old, Lillian Allen cast her vote for Barack Obama and canvassed neighborhoods encouraging others to exercise their right to vote. ***Pick of the Month***
12 Rounds to Glory: The Story of Muhammad Ali by Charles R. Smith, Jr., Bryan Collier (Ages 10+): Written in verse, this book captures the life of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.
Mo’s Bows: A Young Person’s Guide to Start-Up Success: Measure, Cut, Stitch Your Way to a Great Business by Moziah Bridges, Tramica Morris (Ages 11-14): This book is great for budding kidpreneurs. Moziah Bridges shares his personal journey to success and the keys to getting there.
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.
Voices From the March on Washington by George Ella Lyon, J. Patrick Lewis (Ages 10+): In this collection of poems, Lyon and Lewis bring readers to the historic March on Washington from a wide range of voices that took part
Bee Fearless: Dream Like a Kid by Mikaila Ulmer (Ages 10+): Learn how getting stung by a bee as a youngster turned into her becoming a CEO of a successful business and bee activist by the age of 10.
The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller, Frank Morrison (Ages 5-8): All Alta can think about is seeing Olympic medalist Wilma Rudolph in the parade tomorrow. Just like Alta, Wilma was the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee. But it just so happens that some new girl with fancy shoes thinks she can challenge Alta to a race. Will Alta’s hole-ridden shoes stand up to this new challenger?
Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe (Ages 3-7): Cool Cuts gives young boys the same love and joy that “Happy Hair” gave for young girls. This book features images of boys rocking “cool cuts” in a variety of different styles. From cool curls and lively locs to carefree and full fros, each boy has a style that’s all his own, and he wears it with pride. These boys are cool, smart, happy, and so fresh and so clean.
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.
Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon by Kelly Lyons, Laura Freeman (Ages 4-9): This book shares architect Philip Freelon’s journey. As an architect on the team that built the National Museum of African American History and Culture, Freelon spent his career focused on African American and Islamic designs.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, Vashti Harrison (Ages 4-8): When a young girl is teased because of her dark skin, all she wants to do is be lighter like her family and friends. When all her attempts fail, she goes to bed and prays for a miracle. With the encouragement of her mother and a magical night, Sulwe finds her inner “star.”
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story of the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine, Kadir Nelson (Ages 4-8): This book captures the life of Henry Brown, an enslaved man. As a boy, Henry dreamed of freedom. When he grew older, married, and had children, his heart broke when his family was sold away. One day as Henry worked, he got an idea about how he could finally achieve freedom. With a little help, Henry puts his plan into action. But, will it work?
Dark Was the Night: Blind Willie Johnson’s Journey to the Stars by Gary Golio, E.B. Lewis (Ages 5-8): This is an inspiring story about musician Willie Johnson’s life. After losing both his mother and sight, music became the light in Willie’s life. From Texas churches and street corners to the outer edges of space, Blind Willie’s music brought light to dark spaces.
What are some of your favorite books to read about Black pioneers and trailblazers? Leave a comment below.