Good books for Black children in grades Pre-K to 6th
African American families and educators often struggle to find reading materials that highlight the many accomplishments, experiences and interests of Black people. Quality and appropriate books about Black Americans and people of color other than Martin Luther King are not easy to find.
In this complex and harsh environment, primarily rooted in the topics of race, race relations, and African American history and studies, it has become more difficult for Black parents to find and obtain quality children’s literature.
In addition to the literature about Africans brought to American as slaves and the slave trade, Civil War, segregation and Jim Crow laws, African American families want their kids to read about emancipation, the Harlem Renaissance, the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, the first African Americans to achieve greatness in their field and the rich history of the Africana American community.
Discussions about the many contributions Black men and women have made to American history are often limited to Black History Month, but the quest to learn more about African American history has become more relative with the emergence of the Black Lives Matter and social justice movement in the United States and globally.
These movements have heightened the awareness of racial prejudice and oppression, systematic racism and equality that has led to much confusion in many societal areas and within the Black community.
Children’s literature is important because it provides students with opportunities to appreciate their cultural heritage and those of others as well as develop emotional intelligence and creativity.
To provide some quality educational materials, Dr. Eric R. Jackson, Ph.D., Professor of African American Studies at Northern Kentucky University, has identified 15 must-read books for African American parents and students in grades Pre-K to 6th.
Good Books for Black Children ages 3-12:
Vanessa Brantley-Newton’s Grandma’s Purse. In this charming children’s picture book, the author shows that Grandma Mimi always brings warm hugs, sweet treats and her purse when her special granddaughter visits.
Rachelle Burk’s The Story of Simone Biles. In this illustrated volume, the author shows how Simone Biles won many Olympic and World Champion medals by age 22.
Shameera Carr’s I Can Be. This book encourages young Black children to believe in themselves and dream big despite their racial background, skin color, or abilities.
Karen Ehrhardt’s This Jazz Man. This illustrated volume introduces Black children to various forms of jazz music.
Karen English’s Trouble Next Door: The Carver Chronicles. In the fourth book in the Carver Chronicles series, the author shows how third-grader Calvin deals with his next-door neighbors moving away and a school bully.
Mem Fox’s Whoever You Are. This children’s book celebrates the diversity of children and the essential things that make us all the same.
Fabian E. Ferguson’s Daddy’s Arms. The author tells an amazing and fun story of a young boy’s adventurous interactions with his dad. Most importantly, the story is written from the child’s perspective. The child’s imagination runs wild with fantasy during dad and son time.
Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan’s A Ride to Remember. In this children’s book, the author tells how a community came together, both Black and white, to change.
Ellen Levine’s Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad. This illustrated children’s book is a stirring, dramatic story of an enslaved African American who mails himself to freedom.
Terrance McCraney’s I Think I’m a Bit Different. Children discover and explore the qualities that make them different and understand that that difference is all right.
Katheryn Russell-Brown’s A Voice Named Aretha. This author creates a beautiful children’s picture book biography about the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. The book focuses on how she fought for respect throughout her life.
Suzanne Slade’s A Computer Called Katherine. This greatly crafted, illustrated children’s book is focused on the true inspirational story of mathematician Katherine Johnson. She was made famous by the award-winning film “Hidden Figures.”
Lupita Nyong’s Sulwe. In this critically acclaimed children’s book, the author follows the story of a young girl. The girl wishes for her dark skin to be lighter. The story is about colorism and learning to love oneself, no matter one’s skin tone.
Mario Jackson’s Nya The Great and the Her Visit to the Firehouse. The author tells the story of Nya’s trip to the neighborhood fire station to visit her aunt.
Kiara Wilson’s Mistakes Are How I Learn: An Early Reader Rhyming Story Book for Children to Help with Perseverance and Diligence. Written to engage young children, the author includes stories that seek to empower children with the affirmations to overcome obstacles.
Good Books for Black Children ages 3-12 photo provided by Adobe Stock
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