February is known as Black History Month, and many schools are in the midst of teaching young ones about black history and why it matters. While older children may be learning about slavery and the story of Ruby Bridges, these topics can be too heavy and abstract for early childhood.
However, younger children can still relate to and learn from the messages and character traits associated with Black History Month, such as Martin Luther King’s Jr.’s kindness and respect for others. And books can offer children the opportunity to explore those themes and make meaningful observations about and connections between the people they see in stories.
At Bright Horizons, we use picture books to explore all people and cultures. In particular, we choose books that show children and families in natural, everyday settings having authentic experiences. We especially love stories that demonstrate people’s strengths and contributions, and we use books to spark conversations about all sorts of topics – from kindness and belonging to character and resilience.
In the spirit of Black History Month, our education experts have rounded up a list of age-appropriate books that embody these very concepts – and are sure to be beloved by the entire family.
5 Black History Books for Kids
- “Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport and Bryan Collier (Ages 6-8): “Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.” “Martin’s Big Words,” an award-winning picture book, depicts the life and vision of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
- “Flower Garden” by Eve Bunting (Ages 4-7): This book portrays an African American father and daughter getting ready for mom’s birthday. It’s bright, joyful, and full of love of family.
- “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats (Ages 2-5): Over 50 years ago, this book broke color barriers by authentically and respectfully depicting a young African American child’s life. This Caldecott Award winner is still beloved today by children, teachers, and parents alike.
- “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Pena and Christian Robinson (Ages 3-5): Warm, hopeful, and inspiring, “Last Stop on Market Street” chronicles a young boy and his grandmother’s weekly adventure through the city, and is an award-winning celebration of family and community.
- “ George Baker,” by Amy Hest and Jon J. Muth (Ages 5-8): This book tells the story of neighbors and best friends, George and Harry. George is 100 years old and African American. Harry is a young white child. Together they can conquer any hurdle from learning to tie shoes to learning to read.
As you read these books with your children, tie experiences back to something they already know or understand to make learning more meaningful, and point out similarities between the children and the people they read about in stories. Ask thoughtful questions to start conversations: “Was there ever a time when you wanted to help others?” or “Why do you think it’s important to work on something even when it’s hard?” or “Did you ever feel like something wasn’t fair?”
Read these black history books for kids with your children all year long, and help introduce topics of kindness, empathy, and inclusion early on.
More on Black History and Celebrating Diversity
- Visit our family resources page for more black history books for children of all ages.
- Diverse family structures are more common and children will ask questions about non-traditional families. Learn simple ways to teach children about diverse familie
- Even if you don’t live in an obviously diverse area, there are still ways you can ensure that you and your family remain socially aware. Here are five ideas for seeking out and celebrating diversity in and out of your community.