On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I was excited to hear what my five-year-old niece and four-year-old nephew learned in school. When I asked them what they learned about Dr. King, my nephew confidently said, “He protected brown people.”
As they grow older and try to understand the world around them a bit better, I look toward books to help me explain problematic topics. As we move through February AKA Black History Month, I’m excited to explore books that celebrate the contributions of African-Americans and help us gain a deeper understanding of the continuous struggle for equality and freedom.
Click here to check out this curated list of books that celebrate Black History Month by Scholastic librarian Deimosa Webber-Bey. I’ve included some additional titles below:
- A Girl Named Rosa: The True Story of Rosa Parks by Denise Lewis Patrick and illustrated by Melissa Manwill (ages 7-10)
When Rosa Parks was a young girl, she had to walk to school. Only white children were allowed to ride the bus. When Rosa grew up, she was told to give up her bus seat to a white person. She decided the time had come to stand up for fairness by staying seated. What happened next changed America.
- The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford (Ages 7-8)
This beautiful picture book tells the true story of six-year-old Ruby Bridges, a young African-American girl, who entered a whites-only school in New Orleans. Even though she had to pass through crowds of angry protesters, Ruby bravely walked into the school. Every day for months, Ruby persevered. Both the text and the watercolor paintings of this book capture Ruby's incredible strength, the love of her family, and the turmoil of America in the early 1960s.
- Martin Rising: Requiem for a King by Andrea Davis-Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney (Ages 9-12)
In a rich embroidery of visions, musical cadence, and deep emotion, Andrea and Brian Pinkney convey the final months of Martin Luther King's life — and of his assassination — through metaphor, spirituality, and multilayers of meaning. BONUS note for teachers: Wonderful classroom plays of Martin Rising can be performed by using the "Now Is the Time" history and the 1968 timeline at the back of the book as narration — and adding selected poems to tell the story!
- Through this lesson, students will learn about an African-American person or an event for each day of February.
- Learn more about contributions made by African-Americans with these 28 ways to celebrate Black History Month.
- Decorate your class with these free, printable mini-posters featuring quotes from notable African-American leaders.
- Get creative with these projects inspired by artists and change-makers.
Author’s note: I look forward to supporting the Black Panthers film, in theaters February 16. It is the first Marvel to be directed by an African-American (Ryan Coogler) and one of the first major superhero films that has a predominantly African-American cast. YAY!