One easy and ongoing way we can teach our kids about the important figures and moments in black history is to read books about the topic with them. So, in honor of Black History Month, here are our favorite kids’ books, for ages 3-17, about black history.
No matter how big they get, reading with my kids remains one of my favorite activities. And while reading together helps us feel close, it’s also a valuable tool for starting big conversations.
Sometimes books provide a mirror, and we see ourselves reflected in a story’s pages. Other times books offer a window—a lens through which we’re able to see characters and experiences that might otherwise be unfamiliar or even inaccessible to us.
As a white parent, I have a responsibility to help de-center my kids from every narrative—to give them more windows. Filling our shelves with books that feature protagonists of varying races, identities, or backgrounds is only one small step toward these larger conversations, but I hope they’re helping my daughters pave the way for a more inclusive future.
In honor of Black History Month, here are nine books—for kids ages 3-17—by black authors that explore significant historical moments and important black figures. And, of course, these books are also great reading during any other month of the year.
Black History Month Books for Preschool and Elementary-Age Children
Inspire preschool readers with this ABC board book by Innosanto Nagara. The rhyming and alliteration will keep young learners engaged while sharing a message that calls children to action in support of justice and equality in their communities. (Ages 3-5; Triangle Square; $11.95)
This New York Times bestseller from author-illustrator Vashti Harrison features 40 kid-friendly biographies of black women who impacted history. The project began with a series of posts Harrison shared to her Instagram (@vashtiharrison) during Black History Month, before growing into the wildly popular book it is today. (Ages 4-10; Little, Brown Young Readers; $16.99)
Looking for a companion to Harrison’s beautifully written children’s book debut? Dive into her most recent book, Little Legends, for more engaging, compelling, and accessible primers on some of American history’s most exceptional black men. (Ages 4-10; Little, Brown Young Readers; $10.99)
This picture book by Margot Lee Shetterly, adapted from her New York Times bestselling book (and a popular movie), tells the true story of four black women with STEM talents who changed the course of history, and helped launch the first humans into space during their time at NASA. (Ages 4-10; HarperCollins; $17.99)
In this compelling biography from the American Girl series, young readers will learn the journey of the talented Misty Copeland, who made modern history when the American Ballet promoted her to principal dancer—the first black woman to hold the title in the company’s history. (Ages 7-10; Scholastic; $4.99)
In one- and two-page vignettes, this brightly illustrated book illuminates 52 exceptional black figures from the past and present, including such greats as Maya Angelou, W.E.B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Nina Simone, Beyoncé Knowles, Simone Biles, Shirley Chisolm, and Serena Williams. (Ages 7-10; Wide-Eyed Editions; $23.99)
Black History Month Books for Tweens and Teens
In this award-winning and intimate graphic novel trilogy, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) shares his firsthand account of key events during the Civil Rights Movement. He approaches complex subjects in a way that’s accessible and meaningful, making this series a must-read for middle- and high-school students looking to learn more about black history. (Ages 13 and older; Top Shelf Productions; $14.95-$19.99)
A Child’s Introduction to African American History: The Experiences, People, and Events That Shaped Our Country
Young readers with an interest in history and culture will enjoy this one by Jabari Asim, which focuses not only on key figures but on significant events that shaped America—from the slave trade to today’s Black Lives Matter movement. (Ages 10-15; Black Dog & Leventhal; $19.99)
Learn about a significant milestone during the Civil Rights Era from someone who lived it. This memoir, by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, brings history to life as she recounts her time as the youngest protestor in the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery in support of voting rights for African Americans. (Ages 12-17; Speak; $9.99)
Kirsten Clodfelter is a Midwest-based freelance writer, the co-founder of Rise Marketing, Inc., and a mom of three. Learn more at kirstenclodfelter.com or follow her on Instagram: @icanmotheranyway.
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