13 black history books to read with your kids

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Introducing children to culturally diverse books helps them understand tolerance and race. Some of the books chosen to learn more about black history are mini-biographies and others are works of fiction. Some teach about life as a slave or during the civil rights movement through the eyes of young people. Children of all ages and races will love stories and learn something new.

Parker looks up: an extraordinary moment

Courtesy of Amazon

Ideal for ages: 4-8

Parker is visiting a museum with her family when she discovers Amy Sherald’s portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama. But for Parker, she sees a queen. Find out how this painting encounter becomes a defining moment for this young girl.

Inspirational Bedtime Stories: 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World, by LA Amber

Courtesy of Amazon

Ideal for ages: 4-8

Short stories make reading easier for parents or young learners. Each tale contains questions, such as “Have you ever heard of a place called Haiti? Or “Are you brave?” – which children can respond to and learn more about the historical figures. From Thomas L. Jennings (the inventor of dry cleaning) to Jackie Joyner-Kersee, kids get to see themselves in every story.

Texting with Black History, by Bobby Basil

Courtesy of Amazon

Ideal for ages: 4-8

Using clues that a screen-savvy generation is accustomed to, young readers can learn the story through conversations with Martin Luther King Jr., Sojourner Truth, and Aretha Franklin. The curious Alex “texts” conversations with each person, gathering biographical information along the way.

Ride to Remember: A History of Civil Rights

Courtesy of Amazon

Ideal for ages: 6-9

Based on a true story, An unforgettable ride shares a civil rights story where a community worked together to peacefully fight integration for Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland. Co-author Sharon Langley was the first African American child to ride the carousel.

If You Were a Child During the Civil Rights Movement, by Gwendolyn Hooks & Kelly Kennedy

Ideal for ages: 6-10

Children will receive an introduction to segregation as one youth starts a new school and another tries to learn about the protests through his older brothers. By using characters of the same age as the reader, young people can put themselves in the shoes of a segregated student.

The Sound of the Bell, by James E. Ransome

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Ideal for ages: 6-10

Written by the voice of a young slave recounting a hectic week with her family, parents need to be careful that certain events, such as hitting or whipping, may be difficult for younger readers. The author explains in a note at the end that he wanted young readers to understand the choices of enslaved people and the impact on slavery and families.

Finding Langston, by Lesa Cline-Ransome

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Ideal for ages: 8-13

Chicago kids will love Langston’s view of the city, as it comes after he and his father left Alabama. Langston discovered the Chicago Public Library in 1946 and discovered Langston Hughes. Children who enjoy the library will quickly appreciate what Langston teaches the reader.

Civil Rights Then and Now: A Timeline of the Fight for Equality in America, by Kristina Brooke Daniele

Ideal for ages: 8-12

From biographies of historical figures to the history of landmark cases that shaped the civil rights movement, children will begin in the post-Civil War South and grow to be leaders in the modern age.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, by Vashti Harrison

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Ideal for ages: 8-11

From Phyllis Wheatley (poet) to Dominique Dawes (gymnast), children can learn more about the women who wrote the history books. A short biography of each woman and their accomplishments accompanies the adorable portrait for which the Little Dreamers books are known. There is also an accompanying book called Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History.

A child’s introduction to African-American history, by Jabari Asim

Ideal for ages: 8-12

Children will learn beyond the classroom with information on speeches, marches and profiles of civil rights leaders, athletes to remember, authors to read, and political heroes. Lynn Gaines’ illustrations add beauty to the book, and a removable timeline is something parents can refer to year after year to remind kids of all ages of the story.

Changing the Equation: Over 50 Black American Women in STEM

Courtesy of Amazon

Ideal for ages: 10-14

There are so many black women in America who have changed the world of STEM. Now you can read about over 50 of these amazing women in this inspiring book celebrating their accomplishments. The book will be released on March 3 and is available for pre-order now.

The Watsons Go To Birmingham – 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis

Ideal for ages: Tweens and teens

Winner of the Newberry and Coretta Scott King awards, it’s the story of a summer trip from Michigan to Alabama amid the civil rights movement. The family is in Birmingham when Grandmother’s Church is destroyed. Amazon Prime members can watch the Hallmark Channel 2013 movie based on the book.


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This article also appeared in the January / February 2021 issue of Chicago Parent.

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