Books Celebrating Black Identity

Children’s spiritual well-being depends, in part, on strong self-esteem. They need to see themselves as individuals valued and respected by others. They need to have role models that look and sound like them. Such experiences send the message that caregivers and society appreciate who children are and what they can contribute to society.

The creators of Black History Month believed that telling stories of Black leaders would enhance the self-esteem of Black children, as well as educate the rest of society about the contributions African Americans have made throughout American history. Since its inception nearly 100 years ago as Negro History Week, the celebration of Black History Month also provides an opportunity to remind all children that being Black is beautiful, powerful, and full of possibilities.

Help children explore Black beauty and power by reading some of these books together:

Happy to Be Nappy. This board book by bell hooks celebrates the wonderful texture and shape of African American girls’ hair. Young children will enjoy the simple language and fun illustrations that either mirror their own hair or provide a window into others’ styles. Check out the reading by Hip Hop artist (and Super Bowl 2022 performer) Mary J. Blige on YouTube (see Related Resources) and hooks’ companion book for boys, Be Boy Buzz.

Talking with his son, Jeremiah, about racism and gun violence was the inspiration for Michael W. Water’s For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World. The book explores Jeremiah’s questions about the vigils and demonstrations following the shooting deaths of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and others. It models working for change in ways that 6-10 year olds can understand and participate, as well as a discussion guide for parents and teachers.

Science lovers ages 5-10 will enjoy The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath, by Julia Finley Mosca. Written in rhythm, the book chronicles Dr. Bath’s childhood love of chemistry and her determination to become an ophthalmologist when she grows up despite race, sex, and class barriers. Children will appreciate her creativity and determination, as well as her penchant for inventing new tools when the ones she’s given aren’t sufficient to do the job.

The ABCs of Black History, by Rio Cortez, guides children ages 5+ through an alphabet’s worth of civil rights events and other aspects of African American life and culture. From A (anthem) to Z (zenith) and in between (H is for Nora Zeale Hurston, R is for Rise), the book celebrates Black people, events, and attitudes.

Continue exploring Black leaders with Jamia Wilson’s Young, Gifted and Black. Each page contains a colorful portrait of an historic or contemporary Black person and a short biography sharing their contributions to society. With 52 different stories included, children 7-10 years can pick a different person each week to read about and research further, turning Black History Month into a year of discovery.



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