If you follow me on social media you've read that we took the IG challenge and only read books by authors of color this month! It was actually not that easy! Why did we join the challenge? First, to support authors of color given that fact that only 30% of all multiethnic books are actually written by authors of color.
Secondly, I always try to choose "living books", which according to Charlotte Mason are simply books that are written by authors who are intimately acquainted with the topic, passionate about it and have not just the skill but life experience to write on the topic in a sensitive way. So, finding any diverse books for African American History Month may not be too hard, yet finding books solely written by authors of color was a little bit more challenging, but so worth it. And yes, If you decide to purchase, know you will not only add a gem to your home library but support an author of color as well!
Now, here are the ones we currently absolutely love:
#1 FREEDOM IN CONGO SQUARE
This multiple aware winning picture book (4-8yrs) by one of our favorite authors puts the spotlight on a rather unknown but important historical site: Congo Square in Louisiana. Giving that "Black History" didn't begin with slavery, I absolutely love the fact that the author points out the African heritage of the slaves, throughout the entire book. Also, the poetic language and illustrations by a multiple award winning illustrator are amazing. This is a book that I read to my kids, my kids read to each other, and the younger ones page through the book on a regular basis to immerse in the wonderful images and concepts. As some things can't be taught, only 'caught' this book let's your little ones catch a LOT about the richness of African heritage. I also love that the book intentionally refers to African Americans not as slaves but as enslaved Africans. Lots to glean on identity here. It also touches on the history of Jazz music which is a plus for the music lovers among us. A gem for your home library and the beautiful hardcover is on sale right now at amazon!
"Freedom in Congo" is a wonderfully rich book to use if you have little ones just learning to read or improving their reading and comprehension skills.
On that note, a program I love for my little ones to practice literacy and learn how to read is READING EGGS! It's ages 2-7 and my 3 and 5 year-olds actually beg me to "play" the games. I love that doing the phonic exercises are so diverse and fun spiced with lots of encouragement. My 5-year-old likes it more than any other program we tried so far and has learnt so much. I like the fact that it buys me the 10-30 minutes of educational (and fun!) screen time that's filled with diverse images. And I love the fact that the "m" picture image to match the letter shows a beautiful woman of African descent (: Win-win! I believe it's one of the most comprehensive and fun program I've seen so far and has won quite a few educational awards. If you have a kindergartener try it out here for FREE!
Another program we are going to try out soon is ABC Mouse. It has more than 8,000 lessons, not just in language art, but math, science, and art and is also very diverse.
#2 MIDNIGHT WITHOUT A MOON
This middle grade novel is ....simply AMAZING!!! (in Moana's voice when she talked to Maui:) If your child is over 9, I hands down recommend this as THE best book for him or her to read this year. "Midnight without a moon" is such a rich account of a childhood during the Jim Crow era. After reading the book your child will not only have a broad understanding of historical and political events and circumstances, your young reader will have gained a new friend: Rose, the novel's little hero. Rose is a beautiful character that shows strength, love, friendship, loyalty, bravery and lots and lots of humor as she walks through her daily life and struggles as the granddaughter of a sharecropper. The author is from the area that the book is set (Mississippi) and you can tell she's intimately acquainted with not just the history but the daily little nuances of life in the South. She uses so much sensitivity, but also challenges the young reader to think deeper and further as she unfolds the rich characters of Rose's family and her best friend, the preacher's son Hallelujah(: My daughter is not quite 9 yet but I already bought and devoured the book! Looking forward to reading it again as a read-aloud to my little girl. A must read for any young boy or girl! And I just saw it's now out on paperback for only $5 on amazon. What?!!!
#3 HIDDEN FIGURES
I really like this 2018 fresh out of the press book because, well yes.... My kids and I were absolutely blown away by the movie. (: But also because this is not a movie but, yes, a book and it features such important scientists, African American women. All of them modeled important character traits such as perseverance, hard work, dedication, love, and commitment to friendship that I want my children to glean from. Yes these women weren't just absolutely intelligent but determined to reach their dreams. I believe all kids, science loving or not, AFrican American or not, need to read on these wonderful women. And I love this book because, yes, my girls love it! A plus, African American author Margot Lee Shetterly, actually grew up in Hampton Virginia where she new many of the women in Hidden Figures and she includes a pretty cool glossary on Aeronautics!
#4 BROWN GIRL DREAMING
“Even the silence
has a story to tell you.
Just listen. Listen.”
This middle grade book so belongs in African American History top-anything book list for many reason. For one, because it covers the important era of the great migration north that is such a big part of African American history. Multiple award winning author Jaqueline Woodson is a phenomenal writer and once again understands how to allow young readers to gain a close friend with the main character. I really like how the novel touches on so many different themes and also uniqly includes the main characters wrestling with her family's background as Jehova Witnesses. It's a rich, yet gentle read that young people will leave wiser and deeply entrenched in beautiful poetic writing.
#5 THIS IS THE ROBE
Since I listed "Brown Girl Dreaming" I'm also going to list "This is the robe" by the same author. This is almost a picture book version of the book and a first introduction to the topic of the great migration. What I like most about the book are the images of strong African American families. Dad's proudly holding squeaking chubby healthy baby up in the air and mom's drying "sweet smelling flowers she grew in small window boxes reminding her of the flowers back home" on a robe in her Harlem apartment. I believe this is such a wonderful and important read for young children 3-8years regardless if your child is of African descent or not. It doesn't touch on any heavy themes at all and is just a glimpse into the childhood of an African American girl that anyone can identify with. Great introduction for little ones!
#6 VOICE OF FREEDOM: FANNIE LOU HAMER
Ok, so this book won the Caldecott Honor Ward, the Coretta Scott King award and the Robert Sibert honor for a reason: It is RICH! It pretty much touches on every topic surrounding African American history I can think of in some kind of way. The picture book does so in such an engaging way by telling the story of Fannie Lou Hamer. She was the youngest of twenty children born to sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta and become such a role model of bravery and hero of the civil rights movement. As usual, author Carol Boston Weatherford uses stunning poetic language and engaging plot to draw our young readers in. And the illustrations by Ekua Homes are more than on point and could easily be hung into your local art gallery! The end of the book even gives the history nerds among us (like me!) a wonderful timelines from 1917-1977. My kids and I love this book!
This list was really hard to condense to only 5 books. If you like more inspiration and ideas what to read during African American History month and all year round, see also my post on our favorite Martin Luther King Jr. Day books!
Happy Reading and Learning!
Ps: Again, if you decide to purchase any of the books above you will not only enrich your child's live immensely but support this blog, since I'm an amazon affiliate and make a tiny commission that goes towards the maintenance of the blog. Gracias!
For all educators: I love that The Nest Education has a 70% off sale for African American History Month on some beautiful books as well. We've bought many resources through this vendor and you can get an extra 20% off with this coupon! Enjoy and happy Reading with your little ones (:
California based Ghanaian-German educator, writer, bookworm and mama of three. A lover of all things nature, diversity & healthy.
"Education is nothing else than discovery.
And discovery full of diversity is beautiful."
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About the author
My name is Nancy. I'm a teacher, home educator, wife, mother, writer and accidental German-Ghanaian transplant to the U.S., in love with California and all things diversity.