February is a time to celebrate the many contributions of African Americans throughout history. This means there’s no better time than now to introduce your kids to the amazing stories in Black History books.
From inspiring stories about trailblazers and activists to educational guides about science and innovation, these books will open their eyes to black historical figures’ vast accomplishments.. Here are the best Black History books for kids that can help your child be more appreciative of African Americans.
What Is Black History Month?
Black History Month is an annual celebration of the African and African-American community’s history, culture, and accomplishments. While it was first introduced in 1976 as a nationally recognized month, Black History has been celebrated since 1926.
Black History Month educates citizens about their collective cultural heritage, centered around black leaders from the past to the present who have been instrumental in civil rights and human rights movements.
Each year often celebrates a specific theme to encourage reflection and discussion of a particular issue. For 2023, the theme is “Black Resistance,” commemorating the ongoing fight for justice and equity that began long ago.
There are many ways to celebrate Black History, from visiting monuments and memorials to researching influential figures or attending cultural events. But for children, reading can be a great way to learn about different people, places, times in history, and concepts related to African-American culture.
Here are some of our favorite Black History books that kids can explore and enjoy. These stories cover a variety of topics, from civil rights to science, and all will contribute to teaching your child about the rich history of African Americans.
Best Black History Books For Kids
1. Your Name Is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow’s Your Name Is a Song sheds light on how important it is for children to feel comfortable asserting themselves and standing up for their own identity.
The story follows a young girl as she navigates being corrected when people struggle with pronouncing her name and coming to terms with the music in her name, a lesson that can be wishfully applicable to any child, no matter their culture or background.
Kazz Alexander Pinkard, executive director of Hit the Books, an after-school nonprofit in Harlem, says, “I wish I learned how to stand up and ask people to say my name correctly when I was younger.”
This highlights just how valuable the stories we tell can be in providing comfort and assurance to young readers. It stands to reason that everybody—children in particular—benefits from learning about other people’s experiences to gain understanding, build empathy, and find commonalities.
2. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch
Amazing Grace, written by Mary Hoffman and Caroline Binch, is an old-school classic beloved by readers of all ages. It chronicles the story of Grace, a young girl who loves stories and adventures, and her quest to become Peter Pan in a school play.
In her journey to break down the barrier between gender roles and perceptions of race, she demonstrates that anything is possible when you believe in yourself.
By empowering their readers to aim high while encouraging them to confront societal obstacles, Hoffman and Binch have created an undeniable piece of modern literature that continues to lead young readers toward better understanding and self-esteem.
3. Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race is perfect for introducing young children to the different skin tones in the world. This can help them develop empathy and understand similarities and differences between people at a young age. This conversation should be early, as kids can comprehend these concepts at around two years old.
For families of color, conversations about race are unavoidable because it is part of their lived experience—something white families often don’t have to consider. The board book uses concrete language and beautiful imagery to aid parents in easily starting this important conversation with their children.
4. In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall: African Americans Celebrating Fathers by Folami Abiade and Dinah Johnson
This unique collection of art and poetry celebrates the powerful bond between African-American fathers and their children, demonstrating how parents can profoundly shape their offspring in the most positive ways.
Through imagery and literature that celebrates black fatherhood, In Daddy’s Arms I Am Tall provides a lens through which to view the unshakeable trust and respect within families, raising our awareness that having a family is one of life’s greatest gifts.
By showcasing this joyous connection between parent and child, this book inspires readers to recognize fathers as heroes who have an essential role in understanding ourselves and our place in the world.
5. Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
Roda Ahmed’s Mae Among the Stars is an engaging story for young readers to learn about Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to journey into space. Reviews confidently commend Mae Among the Stars as a vibrant nonfiction book to help children imagine and understand one woman’s trailblazing accomplishments.
Through delightful storytelling, little Mae’s dream of defying gravity is captured in exquisite detail. We are soon able to appreciate her ambition and courage, both highly inspired by parental guidance.
Young readers will undoubtedly be motivated by this unique tale of persistence and potential that poignantly acknowledges a pivotal moment in Black History.
6. Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz
With her picture book, Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X, Ilyasah Shabazz offers children a window into the childhood of her father and legendary civil rights leader.
The narrative is told through lyrical prose and vivid illustrations and follows young Malcolm as he learns that we each have the potential to live powerful lives of purpose.
As a tribute to those who too often go unnoticed in mainstream education, Shabazz uplifts the story of Malcolm X, who was known for his sharp wit and commitment to creating meaningful change. In doing so, she emphasizes aspirations for all young people—that they should strive for respect, curiosity, and outspokenness.
7. Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
Written by Academy Award-winning filmmaker and former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry, Hair Love is a critically acclaimed children’s book that stands out from other books in its genre.
Sailaja Joshi, the founder of Mango & Marigold Press, recognizes this book’s importance, noting how it positively depicts black fathers compared to most other children’s stories.
Hair Love tells the story of a father who bonds with his daughter while trying to create her hairstyle for a special occasion, something that many children can relate to. With its unique theme, beautiful artistry, and relatable storyline, Hair Love inspires readers everywhere.
8. Brown Boy Brown Boy What Can You Be? by Ameshia Arthur
This book tells the story of an ambitious young boy named Matthew who is determined to learn the possibilities for his life. Guided by his father, he explores how he could contribute positively to our world, from becoming a scientist and studying bumblebees to becoming a meteorologist and predicting the weather.
Many people love this tale for its ability to show young children, especially those of color, that no matter their skin tone or background, they can achieve anything they set out to do.
It is undeniable that Brown Boy Brown Boy What Can You Be? has sparked conversations and aspirations throughout countless communities around the world.
9. I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo
I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Keturah A. Bobo is an inspiring work that encourages readers to practice self-love, respect others, and be kind. The book’s gorgeous illustrations and lyrical verse bring a powerful message of diversity and inclusion to children everywhere.
Its story of self-acceptance helps everyone learn that no matter where they come from or who their family is, they are enough.
It is an invaluable addition to all libraries and should be shared with children not just in educational settings but also in their homes. With its authentic storytelling and beautiful visuals, this book empowers even the youngest readers with role models like Grace Byers and Keturah Bobo.
10. Skin Like Mine by LaTashia Perry
LaTashia Perry’s Skin Like Mine is a unique and powerful way to address and celebrate diversity among young children. Through her colorful depictions of people from all backgrounds linked together by vibrant lines of beauty, Perry encourages kids to create an environment of acceptance, understanding, and love for one another.
Not only does the book spark meaningful conversations about different cultures, but it also brings joy and excitement as young readers seek out their relatives and friends on the pages.
Parents also love Skin Like Mine for its positive message of self-appreciation and inclusiveness. This is not something that one can normally see in books, so it’s great to have an inclusive resource that can build a better understanding of the differences among us.
11. I Love My Hair by Natasha Tarpley
In her picture book, I Love My Hair, Natasha Tarpley invites every reader to explore and appreciate their identity in a charmingly original way. Through its protagonist Keyana, it conveys inspiring messages of self-acceptance, pride, and celebration of one’s black heritage.
Set against an idyllic backdrop of a summer day at the park, it tells the story of an imaginative girl who embarks on a delightful journey for self-discovery: experimenting with her natural hair using fun techniques such as plaiting, braiding, and twisting.
As she continues to explore her hair’s beauty, she discovers how uniquely wonderful it is and how empowering it can be for any child. Tarpley talks about being comfortable in one’s own skin in a lighthearted manner that will undoubtedly appeal to children, aiding them on their path to developing strong personal identities.
12. The Night Is Yours by Abdul-Razak Zachariah
Abdul-Razak Zachariah’s beautiful book, The Night Is Yours, imparts timeless messages of self-love, family love, and community for readers of all ages.
Through vibrant illustrations, thoughtful conversations, and an endearing story arc, Zachariah encourages children to accept themselves for who they are and embrace their unique skin, features, and culture.
This bedtime story captures the true heart of parenting: that it is our privilege to celebrate the differences in each other and pass along the importance of acceptance and understanding.
With The Night Is Yours, parents can share valuable lessons with their children, so they have the knowledge they need to navigate difficult conversations about race, discrimination, and culture.
13. Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia C. McKissack
Goin’ Someplace Special by Patricia C. McKissack is a moving children’s tale that illuminates the often-ignored subject of segregation. Through vivid watercolors and emotionally stirring language, the reader is invited into a world where a young girl faces societal restrictions on her travels within her southern town.
Goin’ Someplace Special does not shy away from hard truths and uncomfortable topics, making it appropriate for younger audiences and their caretakers.
The themes touched upon in this story—resilience, independence, and justice—remain as important today as ever before in our society. Whether the book is read independently or with family, this heartwarming tale can offer surprising insight to all who participate in its journey.
14. Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson
Kadir Nelson’s Heart and Soul is a masterful marriage of his exquisite artwork and poetic word art, brought together to tell the inspirational story of America and African Americans.
Its hundred-plus pages invite readers of all ages to explore its vibrant colors and reflective imagery, giving them greater insights into their personal struggles and collective successes.
An invaluable treasure trove of history, it can be found in classrooms or homes and shared with those who seek an honest and empowering narrative. Heart and Soul celebrates the joys and injustice experienced by African Americans, making each generation understand the strength within them.
15. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold
Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold is a thought-provoking and captivating narrative that reflects the life of African Americans in 1939 Harlem.
Emphasizing the power of dreams, the protagonist, eight-year-old Cassie Louise Lightfoot, ascends to fly above her apartment-building rooftop—the ‘tar beach’ of the title. Ringgold’s autobiographical storytelling explores themes of family, freedom, belonging, identity, and resilience.
The symbolic and historical elements she pays tribute to evoke an understanding of African-American culture without verbiage. Through intricate artwork that drenches each page with rich color and texture, Ringgold invites young readers to fantasize about being able to mystically take control of one’s environment.
Tar Beach is an exquisitely crafted book that will spark curiosity and encourage imagination among children of all ages.
Reading these books can help foster a deeper understanding of African-American culture, as well as an appreciation for the struggles and successes experienced by African Americans throughout history.
With beautiful illustrations, poetic language, and heartfelt messages, each book brings to life valuable lessons and conversations that can be shared with readers of all ages.
Whether they’re read alone or together as a family, these stories offer a powerful and meaningful way to gain insight into the African-American experience.
These Black History books for kids are an invaluable resource for readers who seek to expand their understanding of African-American culture, including those looking for heartfelt stories that inspire empathy and acceptance for all.
By immersing themselves in these timeless tales, children will be empowered with knowledge, strength, and courage that will stay with them for years to come.