Celebrating Juneteenth with young kids

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Looking for some fun ways to celebrate Juneteenth? Here’s how to give this important holiday the attention and enthusiasm it deserves

Juneteenth often doesn’t get the same attention as other holidays. Whitney C. Hobson, Psy.D.,a licensed psychologist at the Resource Group Counseling and Education Center in Towson, Maryland says there is a clear contrast between how we celebrate Juneteenth and other holidays like the Fourth of July—and kids pick up on that. “There has been a much broader societal context for kids to see and visualize [the Fourth of July]. So as a parent we might talk about the Fourth of July and then a kid goes out and they talk about it at school and they are seeing it in commercials and they’re seeing it in the stores. So it’s more accessible in terms of having the message reinforced.”

Talk to your children about Juneteenth in simple terms that they will identify and remember so that they will start to make associations with this important holiday. Explain how we did not always have TV or phones to communicate and the very important message that slavery had ended took years to reach Texas. But on June 19, people in that state did learn about it and now we observe it as a day of freedom. 

To make Juneteenth just as accessible and special for kids as other holidays, people have to get creative, says Hobson. “So maybe that means getting together a collection of folks within your neighborhood  and having some type of celebration. Maybe it’s seeking and finding media that’s appropriate, to watch something that explains Juneteenth.”

Another tip? Read about it. Some age-appropriate books for young kids about Juneteenth are Henry’s Freedom Box, Juneteenth for Mazie and Juneteenth Jamboree.

If you want to celebrate Juneteenth in your community, be sure to check out these great virtual events and offerings around NYC.

Virtual Juneteenth Storytime at NYPL

Celebrate Juneteenth with New York Public Library’s storytime series, featuring titles from the Schomburg Center’s Black Liberation List for Young Readers. Enjoy several gorgeous read-alouds with your kiddos (all available here at any time) including NYPL Children’s Librarian Tessa Hamilton reading I Am Enough by Grace Byers, Senator Jamaal T. Bailey reading Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut and Council Member Vanessa L. Gibson reading Sulwe.

Grab and Go Craft Kits from Brooklyn Public Library

Grab a simple, fun popsicle stick project in a grab-and-go bag from New Lots Branch to celebrate Juneteenth. All instructions and supplies needed for this craft project are included in the bag, including an excerpt of the Emancipation Proclamation. Pick up on June 17th from 3p.m. to 4 p.m.

You can also grab a craft kit for Juneteenth celebration confetti poppers at Annex Library on June 14th, 16th and 18th, while supplies last.

Juneteenth Storytime with Queens Public Library

Join Alexandra, children’s librarian at Langston Hughes Library, and Rosemary, assistant manager at Corona Library, for a Juneteenth storytime. They will read Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford and Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine. Watch on their Facebook page, on June 19 at 11 a.m.

Diversity Through Literacy parent workshop with Literacy Inc and Fidelis Care

Children’s book authors Jessica Ralli and Megan Madison will share their book Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race, on July 28th at 4:00pm. Literacy Inc. staff will also explain the importance of reading diverse books as a way of building early literacy skills and exposing their children to new cultures. Literacy Inc. will distribute 140 copies of the book across the five boroughs of New York City. To learn more about LINC and register for their latest online programs, click here

City’s First Readers

To learn more about City’s First Readers and find literacy programs near you, click here.