5 great picture books for Black History Month (and beyond)
You are never too young—or too old—to learn about Black History, celebrate incredible Black leaders and changemakers and join the fight for justice. From the youngest toddler to the biggest kid, here are some books that will teach them about important moments, people and places in Black history and inspire them to take a stand and make a difference.
1) The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez
In this vibrant book of ABCs, kids will appreciate the bright colours and rhyming verse, and parents will love all the references to moments, people and places that are important to Black history. Not only is this book incredibly educational, it’s also just plain FUN!
H is for Harlem—those big city streets!
We walked and we danced to our own jazzy beat.
When Louis and Bessie and Duke owned the stage,
and Langston and Zora Neale Hurston, the page.
2) We Shall Overcome by Debbie Levy
This is a story about a song—We Shall Overcome—which became an anthem for enslaved people and eventually also a theme song during the Civil Rights Movement. Children will learn the lyrics, along with the song’s history and what it represents: hope, strength and resilience. The lyrics are also used as art, along with detailed illustrations—both of which show the beauty and power of the song.
3) Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
In this book, we meet several Black women that dared to go after what they wanted and demand what they deserved—at times throughout history when it was dangerous to do so. While you’ll recognize some of the names (Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks) you’ll also meet other incredible Black women, like Alice Ball—a chemist who created the most effective treatment for leprosy during the early 20th century—and Mary Bowser, a Union spy during the Civil War. With sweet illustrations that capture the essence of who each woman was, and a brief but captivating biography of each, kids and adults will both learn a lot and be inspired to always fight for what is right.
4) The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks by Cynthia Levinson
You are never too young to make a difference—that much was clear to Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Audrey knew segregation was wrong. And she also knew that one way to protest was by filling the jails—filling them so much that police officers couldn’t arrest a single other person just for demanding their rights. This is the story of her bravery and her willingness to walk into the unknown in order to stand up for what she knew was right.
5) Shirley Chisholm Is A Verb by Veronica Chambers
This book delves into more recent Black history, and readers get to learn about Shirley Chisholm, who famously said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” As the first Black woman elected to Congress, and also the first Black woman to run for President of the United States, Chisholm was a force. This inspiring picture book is perfect for kids. It shares Chisholm’s story in a clear way, while also highlighting verbs throughout, which helps to emphasize Chisholm’s actions—which led to her incredible impact. And while it is a story about Chisholm, it’s also a call to discover YOUR verb: how will you take action to make a change? This truly special story shows how important it is to speak up about injustice.
BONUS (a book for teens and adults): March Series by John Lewis
In this three-book series by late Senator John Lewis, we learn about the important events leading up to the March on Washington: Lunch counter sit-ins, freedom rides and other essential parts of the Civil Rights Movement. These events are covered in a way that is accessible and realistically portrayed in a graphic novel format. This detailed series will help teens and adults learn about (and become invested in) these incredible and groundbreaking events from Black history.
To find free literacy programs and activities for you and your family, click here.