Listen to My Latest Podcast Episode
Listen Here
black history

When Rosa Parks Went Fishing: A Black History Month Book Giveaway!

In honor of Black History Month, today we’re partnering with author Rachel Ruiz to bring you this fabulous book giveaway!  I already shared this book and reviewed it last year, but if you want to read my review you can find that post by clicking here.

Enter our book giveaway below if you’re interested.  Good luck!

When Rosa Parks Went Fishing by Rachel Ruiz
Format: Paperback or Hardcover (Library edition)
Pages: 32
Age Range: 6 – 12
Grade Level: 2- 3

Synopsis:  No discussion of the Civil Rights Movement is complete without the story of Rosa Parks. But what was this activist like as a child? Following young Rosa from a fishing creek to a one-room schoolhouse, from her wearing homemade clothes to wondering what “white” water tastes like, readers will be inspired by the experiences that shaped one of the most famous African-Americans in history.

Interior illustration from the book When Rosa Parks Went Fishing

When Rosa Parks Went Fishing Book Giveaway

black history

Mahalia Jackson: Walking With Kings and Queens (A Book Review)

Mahalia Jackson: Walking With Kings and Queens by Nina Nolan, illustrated by John Holyfield

Publisher: Harper Collins
Age Range: 4 – 8
Grade Level: Preschool – 3
Pages: 32
Format: Hardcover

Even as a young girl, Mahalia Jackson loved gospel music. Life was difficult for Mahalia growing up, but singing gospel always lifted her spirits and made her feel special. She soon realized that her powerful voice stirred everyone around her, and she wanted to share that with the world. Although she was met with hardships along the way, Mahalia never gave up on her dreams. Mahalia’s extraordinary journey eventually took her to the historic March on Washington, where she sang to thousands and inspired them to find their own voices.

Born in 1911, legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson grew up living in a “shotgun shack” so close to the train tracks. Whenever trains passed by her house would shake so much. In fourth grade, Mahalia had to leave school to care for her baby cousins.  Then in the eighth grade she dropped out of school again and took on odd jobs to earn money.  Despite facing many hardships throughout her life, Mahalia still persisted and went on to become one of the best Black female gospel singers of all time until her death in 1972 from heart failure and diabetes complications.

She held onto the words her aunt Bell used to tell her: “One day you’ll walk with kings and queens.” This is such a beautifully written and illustrated picture book for kids who want to learn more about Mahalia Jackson’s life. Perfect for Common Core and kids ages 4-8 and up as it’s not too wordy.

The kids and I enjoyed learning more about Mahalia Jackson from her childhood to adulthood.  This book inspired me to go back and listen to some of Jackson’s popular gospel songs – what a beautiful voice she had!  Check this one out for Black History Month, Women’s History Month or anytime of the year.

Your turn: Have you read this book with your little readers yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

black history

Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Before She Was Harriet (A Book Review)

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Publisher: Holiday House
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 32
Age Range: 4-7
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 2

We know her today as Harriet Tubman, but in her lifetime she was called by many names. As General Tubman she was a Union spy. As Moses she led hundreds to freedom on the Underground Railroad. As Minty she was a slave whose spirit could not be broken. An evocative poem and opulent watercolors come together to honor a woman of humble origins whose courage and compassion make her larger than life.

I’m thrilled to be reviewing this book as a co-host for Multicultural Children’s Book Day!  Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Their mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Before She Was Harriet is written in beautiful, verse-like poetic text. The text is accompanied by gorgeous and very detailed watercolor illustrations that help bring each word to life. With the turn of each page, readers are introduced to a new role that Tubman had during her lifetime: suffragist, general, union spy, nurse, aunt and underground railroad conductor. Harriet Tubman was born a slave, her parents named her Araminta “Minty” Ross. She changed her name in 1849 when she escaped.

I love that the author chose to tell Harriet’s story in reverse chronological order from her later days as an older woman to her earliest days as a young slave girl.  The book ends in the most poignant way possible with Harriet riding on the train as a free woman.  What an honor it must have been to be able to ride on the train freely after all she went through during her days as the leader of the Underground Railroad.  It was so powerful for me to see everything in her life come full circle.

While this book doesn’t include an author’s note, a timeline, or any additional biographical information about Harriet Tubman, it is a beautiful tribute and brief introduction to her life.  I think this poetry book would inspire readers to want to learn more about Tubman.

Before She Was Harriet challenged me to fill my life with the brilliant history of a woman who has made her own choices just like Harriet did.  I’m inspired to slowly begin to slowly peel back the layers of my own life until the very core of my being is revealed.  As I get older it’s become clear that each pivotal point in my life often requires changes for growth to continue. Thanks to Harriet Tubman for reminding me to elevate my consciousness, and embrace a new sense of freedom to find my place in this challenging world.  Thank you for helping me to discover my power just as you did.  I can now pass along these messages and this beautiful book to my own children.

Check this one out for your home or school library.  Perfect for reading during Black History Month, Women’s History Month or any time of the year.  Recommended for ages 4-7 and up.

More Information About Multicultural Children’s Book Day

Current Sponsors: MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors

HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild

PLATINUM: Scholastic Book Clubs

GOLD: Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright Books, Worldwide Buddies

SILVER:Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press

BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal BoweGokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg, TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

2018 Author Sponsors

Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina

Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan BernardoAuthor Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne BroylesAuthor Kathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports QueenAuthor Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing  Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham  Author Natasha Yim

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm EST.

Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party!

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers:

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators:

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

black history

Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson (A Book Review)

Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson by Leda Schubert, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

Publisher: Little Bee Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Age Range: 6 – 9
Grade Level: Preschool – 3

This beautiful picture book tells the little-known story of Raven Wilkinson, the first African American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company and an inspiration to Misty Copeland.


Raven Wilkinson was born on February 2, 1935, in New York City. From the time she was a little girl, all she wanted to do was dance. On Raven’s ninth birthday, her uncle gifted her with ballet lessons, and she completely fell in love with dance. While she was a student at Columbia University, Raven auditioned for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and was finally accepted on her third try, even after being told she couldn’t dance with them because of her skin color.

When she started touring with her troupe in the United States in 1955, Raven encountered much racism in the South, but the applause, alongside the opportunity to dance, made all the hardship worth it. Several years later she would dance for royalty with the Dutch National Ballet and regularly performed with the New York City Opera until she was fifty.

After reading this book, it’s easy to see that Raven Wilkinson was far more than simply a dancer. She was a trailblazer and role model for so many young dancers through the ages, including Misty Copeland.  During her lifetime she was faced with racism, she came face to face with members of the Ku Klux Klan, and she was denied several prominent roles.  Through it all, she persisted and never gave up on her dreams of becoming the first African American woman to dance for a major classical ballet company.

This book is an example of why it’s so important to tell these stories again and again — so they can reach a wider audience. Younger children of today are likely to be more familiar with Misty Copeland so they won’t know about people like Raven Wilkinson unless they are taught.  As parents, caregivers and educators, it’s up to us to read stories like this with children to educate them and show them how far we’ve come.  This nonfiction story is sure to inspire countless little brown and black girls to start wearing tutus and practicing their plies so they too can be the next trailblazer like Raven Wilkinson.

Your turn: Are you looking forward to reading this book with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.

black history

50 Inspirational Bedtime Stories: 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World (A Book Review)

50 Inspirational Bedtime Stories: 50 Amazing Black People Who Changed the World by L.A. Amber

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Format: Paperback
Pages: 120
Grade Level: 3-4 and up

Children looking for inspiration will surely find it here. This fun and inspiring collection of influential stories provides fifty illustrated examples of strong, independent role models, all of whom had a profound impact on the world. Personal aspirations from today’s youth are also interspersed throughout the book, so that each story has its own life lesson alongside a positive message. It’s never too soon to start making a difference, and these stories are exhilarating examples of power in action to make for ideal motivation.

This gorgeous and colorful book contains 50 short one-page inspirational bedtime stories to share with little readers. It highlights the achievements and stories of fifty notable Black women and men from the 18th century to present day.  There are people like: President Barack Obama, Ida B. Wells, Beyonce Knowles, Michael Jordan, Dr. Patricia Bath, Bob Marley, Nelson Mandela, Bessie Coleman, and more.  It’s perfect for daily reading aloud at bedtime for fifty straight nights in a row!  Each short story takes about 5- 10 minutes to read depending on how fast you read.

Children (and adults) will enjoy reading about political activists, artists, musicians, scientists, athletes, business people, inventors and more. Each individual featured overcame adversities and changed the world for the better in some way. The back matter contains several positive affirmations to say aloud which are great for helping to boost self-esteem.  This book is an amazing and informative resource for Black History Month or anytime of the year!  It’s available to order on Amazon and on the Bedtime Inspirational website.

Your turn: Have you read this book with your little readers yet?  If so, which stories did you enjoy reading the most?  Feel free to share in the comments.

black history

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs (A Book Review)

Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs, illustrated by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

Publisher: Chronicle Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Age Range: 5 – 8
Grade Level: Kindergarten – 3

Elizabeth Cotten was only a little girl when she picked up a guitar for the first time. It wasn’t hers (it was her big brother’s), and it wasn’t strung right for her (she was left-handed). But she flipped that guitar upside down and backwards and taught herself how to play it anyway. By age eleven, she’d written “Freight Train,” one of the most famous folk songs of the twentieth century. And by the end of her life, people everywhere—from the sunny beaches of California to the rolling hills of England—knew her music.

Prior to reading this book, I had never heard of Elizabeth Cotten before.  Born near Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1893, Grammy Award Winner Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten (born Elizabeth Nevills) was an African-American blues guitarist who invented “cotten picking.” At age 11, she picked up her brother Claude’s guitar and picked the strings with the instrument upside down and backwards (because she was left-handed), and kept the sound in perfect pitch.  It’s no surprise though since she was constantly surrounded by music and she came from a musical family.

Soon after her first encounter with the guitar her brother moved out to go find a job, taking his guitar with him.  But little Libba didn’t let that stop her.  She was determined to work odd jobs and earn enough money to buy her own guitar.  That’s how much she loved music – it was in her bones.  She wrote her own songs like her most popular one “Freight Train” before she was even thirteen years old.

But soon, Libba would have to go to work for a living as a maid. Times were tough in the 1900’s in the segregated South especially for poor Black females like her.  So Libba put down the guitar and put her musical days behind her.  As the years went on, she married and had children, not returning to the guitar again until she was 60 years old.

Years later, while working as a maid for the Seeger family, who were musicians, Libba started playing the guitar again and the Seeger family recorded her music at home.  The Seeger family truly believed in her talent and helped spread the word about her music.  Libba played shows with big names like Muddy Waters and performed at prestigious cathedrals in London and Rome.  She played until she was well into her 80’s. In 1984, she finally got her big break and won the Grammy Award for “Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording”.  Libba spent her last days in Syracuse, New York until she died in 1987.  Fans of her music might be inspired to visit the park called “Libba Cotten Grove” in Syracuse, New York which still exists today.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this picture book biography and learning about the life of Elizabeth Cotten.  I am inspired by her skills, talent and determination at such a young age.  The story is not only informative, but the plot is very engaging and it flows well.  The gorgeous graphite illustrations and color palette complement the time period of the book so well.  I truly felt like I stepped back in time to the country South in the 1900s.

It was so interesting to see how Libba’s musical life came full circle.  From her early days of sneaking into her brother’s room to play his guitar to winning a Grammy award.  How serendipitous of her to eventually become a live in maid working for such a musical family like the Seegers!  It’s clear Libba’s musical genius deserved to shine in the spotlight even if her career didn’t take off until well into her adulthood.

The back matter includes an author’s note and links to different websites, videos, interviews and recordings of Elizabeth Cotten’s music and her story.  I’d recommend this book for music lovers of all ages who want to learn about a lesser-known African-American female who made a huge impact on the music world.  This would also be a great book to read during Black History Month or Women’s History Month.

Your turn: Have you ever heard of Elizabeth Cotten and shared her story with your little readers?  Feel free to share in the comments.

black history

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison (A Book Review)

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 96
Age Range: 8 – 12 and up
Grade Level: 3 – 7 and up

Featuring forty trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash.

Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them.

This book was by far one of my most anticipated picture book releases of 2017 and it does not disappoint! It is truly black girl magic at its finest and so necessary for every school and home library.  Apart from the captivating and gorgeous illustrations, the thing I love the most about this book is the amount of lesser-known Black women featured throughout like chemist Alice Ball and educator/sculptor Augusta Savage.  It shows us their paths were just as difficult and their fights were just as courageous as some of the more well-known women.

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of hearing about the same old influential people every year leading up to Black History Month.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to be reminded of their courage and strength, but teach me about someone I don’t already know.  We’re constantly reminded of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Rosa Parks just to name a few.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History shines a light upon many Black women that often go unrecognized and highlights many familiar women too like Ida B. Wells, Nina Simone and Oprah Winfrey.  It features 40 inspirational African-American women who helped shape our history.  Alongside the most adorable images you ever did see are short 3-5 paragraph biographies about each woman.

Little readers and adults alike will enjoy learning about heroes, role models and everyday women who played a pivotal role in our history.  There are women from the past to present day featured.  In the back of the book you will find a list of a few additional little leaders the author wanted to include.  As you can imagine, it was a tough task to narrow it down to choose forty bold women.  There is also a list of recommended websites, books, films and recordings for those who are inspired to do their own research after experiencing this book from beginning to end.  It’s a visual delight!

As the author states in the book’s introduction, this book is NOT only for Black girls or Black people – it’s for everyone!  I think anyone reading this book will be just as inspired as I was to see all of the contributions Black Americans have been making to the world from the start.  In many cases, what they accomplished they managed to do against all odds, in spite of overwhelming obstacles. Little Leaders shows us phenomenal women who are an inspiration to everyone who finds him or herself in circumstances that seem impossible to overcome.  A winner!

Fun Fact – The author chose to draw each character with their eyes closed and a subtle smile on purpose.  It’s a serene shout out to mid-century artists and illustrators she loves like Mary Blair and Roger Hargreaves.  She wanted to see Black girls treated with the same sweetness as the classic illustrators she admires.

Your turn: Who are some influential women you admire for their contributions to history?  Feel free to share in the comments.

black history

Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta (A Book Review)

Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born by Gene Barretta, illustrated by Frank Morrison

Disclaimer: I was provided a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Katherine Tegen Books
Format: Hardcover
Pages: 40
Age Range:
4 – 8 years old
Grade Level: Preschool – Grade 3

In this picture book biography of Muhammad Ali, author Gene Barretta and illustrator Frank Morrison tell the unforgettable childhood story of this legendary boxing champion and how one pivotal moment set him on his path to become the Greatest of All Time.

The Louisville Lip. The Greatest. The People’s Champion. Muhammad Ali had many nicknames. But before he became one of the most recognizable faces in the world, before the nicknames and the championships, before he converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali, he was twelve-year-old Cassius Clay riding a brand-new red-and-white bicycle through the streets of Louisville, Kentucky. One fateful day, this proud and bold young boy had that bike stolen, his prized possession, and he wouldn’t let it go. Not without a fight.  This would be the day he discovered boxing. And a champion was born.

At the very beginning of this book, the author’s note explains Muhammad Ali’s birth name was Cassius Clay.  At the age of twenty-two he converted to Islam and changed his name to Muhammad Ali.  Therefore, Cassius Clay and Muhammad Ali are the same person.

I love how this book starts off chronicling a few important events in Muhammad Ali’s professional boxing career.  In February 1964, Cassius Clay surprises everyone and wins the world heavyweight championship to Sonny Liston.  In May of 1965, Clay and Sonny Liston meet for a rematch, but this time Clay has a new name.  He now goes by the name of Muhammad Ali.  At the age of thirty-six near the end of his career, Ali becomes the first boxer to win the world heavyweight championship three times.

The book then takes us back in time to when Cassius Clay was just 12 years old living in Louisville, Kentucky.  He didn’t know it then, but having his bicycle stolen turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  That single event helped launch his boxing career.  When he went to report his stolen bicycle to a police officer, he ended up in a local boxing gym. There, Officer Martin told him that before he went to look for the person who stole his bicycle, he should learn to fight. Under police officer Martin’s wing, Cassius worked hard and eventually became a huge force in professional boxing.  It’s funny how one unfortunate event changed his life forever.

I truly enjoyed this contagiously positive book for so many reasons.  For one, Ali is represented as nothing short of an iconic superman, his achievements are glorious and his predicaments are merely minor roadblocks to greatness.  It’s clear to see that Ali’s life was truly amazing, and this book is a great introduction to that remarkable life.

I think Frank Morrison’s vivid illustrations accompany this story so well.  My son’s favorite illustration is the last one in the book with Muhammad Ali wearing a white robe (pictured below).  The page formatting throughout the book varies between beautiful two-page spreads with text at the top and bottom.  Action words and phrases like: “Pow!”, “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”, “I am the greatest!” and “I shook up the world!” are printed in larger bold type which makes them stand out on the pages.  When reading this book aloud, it’s fun to emphasize these words with smaller children as it adds a bit more action and excitement.

Overall, I find this to be a high quality children’s biography that little readers are sure to enjoy.  There are themes of: hard work, determination, overcoming obstacles, boxing, sports, persistence and confidence; something Muhammad Ali clearly had plenty of.  Perfect for boxing lovers, for reading during Black History Month or anytime of the year. The back matter includes some additional facts about Ali’s life, a bibliography, photos and other resources for further reading.

Your turn: Have you read this book with your little readers yet?  Feel free to share in the comments.

black history

Black History Month Books for 3, 4 & 5 Year-Olds…including Black Joy!

It’s Black History Month again!

This year I decided to focus on a few board books and picture books for the younger readers ages 3 – 5 (and up).  If you’ve been looking for excellent quality historical books about prominent Black people from the past and present, I hope you’ll enjoy this list.  Maybe you’ll find something new or be reminded of some of your old favorites.

I recommend these books because they are not overly wordy and don’t dwell strictly on oppression, slavery, pain, or struggle. Most are easily digestible for the younger crowd and great for reading aloud at home or with a preschool or early elementary class.

Remember, Black History shouldn’t be limited to the month of February.  Make a commitment to read books about people of all different races with your children year-round.  Enjoy!

(This post contains affiliate links.)

black history

29 Black Picture Books for Black History Month, Or Any Month

Where did the month of January go?  I mean seriously.  We are currently just one day away from entering the month of February, Black History Month, can you believe it?  February is our 28-day time frame to shine and because this year is a leap year, we get a bonus day!  While I do believe Black History month should exist, I think the month of February should serve as the starting place for larger, year long discussions and explorations of acceptance and equality as well as African-American history and culture.

Being an African-American mom of two preschoolers, I always get a little annoyed when the one topic people seem to focus on the most when it comes to black history is slavery.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not teaching my children about slavery until they are old enough to understand and digest it.

I’ve often heard many parents, caregivers and educators say they find it difficult or intimidating to teach younger children about black history or choose books due to some of the sensitive topics and images from the past.  While I understand some events in our history are very painful (slavery, segregation, blatant discrimination and violence), there are several other topics and books that can be explored and discussed with children in a fun, lighthearted way.  I think it’s important for people to understand that Black history includes more than just slavery and the struggle for civil rights.


There are so many wonderful picture books that feature black children as the main protagonists.  Here’s what I like to do with my kids when it comes to reading books during black history month (or any month):

  • Read about heroes and heroines from the past and present.  And I’m not just talking about Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Barack Obama, and Rosa Parks.  There are so many other people who have emerged as role models for all of our children.  I like to discuss the obstacles they overcame to make our lives better.  Not just for African-Americans, but for people of all races and colors.
  • Discuss and explore different items that African-American inventors have contributed to society.  This nation was not built alone by just one race of people.  Many of the things we use in every day life were invented by African-Americans.  For example: the cell phone, traffic light, the refrigerator, the zipper, the ironing board, peanut butter, and the list goes on!
  • Learn about the many “famous firsts” in African-American history.  I love to share stories of the individuals who were the “first” to accomplish a great feat – regardless of their race. During Black History Month (and every month), I try to make an effort to highlight African-Americans who’ve paved the way of us and helped to make our lives better.

Here are 29 picture book suggestions to explore.  Enjoy!

Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglass by Dean Robbins

Two friends, Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, get together for tea and conversation. They recount their similar stories fighting to win rights for women and African Americans. The premise of this particular exchange between the two is based on a statue in their hometown of Rochester, New York, which shows the two friends having tea.

The Quickest Kid in Clarksville by Pat Zietlow Miller

It’s the day before the big parade. Alta can only think about one thing: Wilma Rudolph, three-time Olympic gold medalist. She’ll be riding on a float tomorrow. See, Alta is the quickest kid in Clarksville, Tennessee, just like Wilma once was.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford
This poetic, nonfiction story about a little-known piece of African American history captures a human’s capacity to find hope and joy in difficult circumstances and demonstrates how New Orleans’ Congo Square was truly freedom’s heart.

Don’t Let Auntie Mabel Bless the Table by Vanessa Newton

Do you have a relative who seems to pray forever when they’re blessing the food? This hilarious book is about a group of family and friends gathering together for Sunday dinner at Auntie Mabel’s house. Before they begin to eat, Auntie Mabel has to bless the table. The only problem is she wants to bless everything from the yams, to the tables and chairs, to the President of the United States! Meanwhile, the food is getting cold and everyone just wants to eat. Will dinner ever be served? I’m sure most families have someone like Auntie Mabel who loves to bless the table, but doesn’t know when to stop.

Sewing Stories: Harriet Powers’ Journey from Slave to Artist by Barbara Herkert
Harriet Powers learned to sew and quilt as a young slave girl on a Georgia plantation. She began making pictorial quilts, using each square to illustrate Bible stories and local legends. Harriet exhibited her quilts at local cotton fairs, and though she never traveled outside of Georgia, her quilts are now priceless examples of African-American folk art.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford
Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977.  Voice of Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength.

Before There Was Mozart by Lesa Cline-Ransome

Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George was born on Christmas Day in 1739 on the tiny island of Guadeloupe in the West Indies. He soon became known as the most talented violin player and musician in France. During one of his performances, young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was in the audience. This was before Mozart was well-known. In the end, Joseph does indeed perform for the king and queen of France and is invited back on several occasions. In 2001, a street Rue du Chevalier de Saint-George was named in his honor. An awesome historical non-fiction book for children and music lovers.

She Loved Baseball: The Effa Manley Story by Audrey Vernick

Effa always loved baseball. As a young woman, she would go to Yankee Stadium to see Babe Ruth. Effa never dreamed she would someday own a baseball team, yet alone be the first and only woman ever inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. An inspirational story for girls and boys who love baseball.

Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carole Boston Weatherford

Gordon Parks is most famous for being the first black director in Hollywood. But before he made movies and wrote books, he was a poor African American looking for work. When he bought a camera, his life changed forever. He taught himself how to take pictures and before long, people noticed.

Molly, by Golly!: The Legend of Molly Williams, America’s First Female Firefighter by Dianne Ochiltree
This legendary tale introduces young readers to Molly Williams, an African American cook for New York City’s Fire Company 11, who is considered to be the first known female firefighter in U.S. history.

Fly High!: The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden & Mary Kay Kroeger

When Bessie Coleman was a child, she wanted to be in school — not in the cotton fields of Texas, helping her family earn money. She wanted to be somebody significant in the world. So Bessie did everything she could to learn under the most challenging of circumstances. At the end of every day in the fields she checked the foreman’s numbers — made sure his math was correct. And this was just the beginning of a life of hard work and dedication that really paid off: Bessie became the first African-American to earn a pilot’s license.

Oprah: The Little Speaker by Carole Boston Weatherford

Here is the story of Oprah Winfrey’s childhood, a story about a little girl on a Mississippi pig farm who grew up to be the “Queen of Talk.” The host of the Emmy Award–winning Oprah Winfrey Show , she currently directs a media empire that includes television and movie productions, magazines, a book club, and radio shows. An author’s note is included.

Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald by Roxane Orgil
With lively prose, Roxane Orgill follows the gutsy Ella from school-girl days to a featured spot with Chick Webb’s band and all the way to her number-one radio hit “A-Tisket, A-Tasket.” Jazzy mixed-media art by illustrator Sean Qualls brings the singer’s indomitable spirit to life.

28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World by Charles R. Smith
What a fantastic book!  Each day features a different influential figure in African-American history, from Crispus Attucks, the first man shot in the Boston Massacre, sparking the Revolutionary War, to Madame C. J. Walker, who after years of adversity became the wealthiest black woman in the country, as well as one of the wealthiest black Americans, to Barack Obama, the country’s first African-American president.

Granddaddy’s Turn by Michael S. Bandy

Life on the farm with Granddaddy is full of hard work, but despite all the chores, Granddaddy always makes time for play, especially fishing trips. Even when there isn’t a bite to catch, he reminds young Michael that it takes patience to get what’s coming to you. One morning, when Granddaddy heads into town in his fancy suit, Michael knows that something very special must be happening?—?and sure enough, everyone is lined up at the town hall! For the very first time, Granddaddy is allowed to vote, and he couldn’t be more proud

I Am Michelle Obama the First Lady by Margina Graham Parker

This historical children’s book is definitely a must-have and a must-read for both children and parents.  This book was given to me as a gift from my baby shower when I was pregnant with my daughter.  The illustrations throughout are absolutely beautiful – so vibrant and rich.   It’s so inspiring to read and learn about all the accomplishments the First Lady has achieved.  What a great book to illustrate to children that they can do anything – the sky is truly the limit!

Trombone Shorty by Troy Andrews
Hailing from the Tremé neighborhood in New Orleans, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews got his nickname by wielding a trombone twice as long as he was high. A prodigy, he was leading his own band by age six, and today this Grammy-nominated artist headlines the legendary New Orleans Jazz Fest.

Jeremy just wants” those shoes”. A pair of black high-tops with white stripes. The same pair of shoes all his other friends have. When Jeremy finally gets a pair of “those shoes” what he does with them is very touching. I’m convinced children’s books have the best messages! This book delivers powerful lessons on topics like: being grateful, sharing, kindness, friendship, and generosity.

I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont
High on energy and imagination, this ode to self-esteem encourages kids to appreciate everything about themselves–inside and out. Messy hair? Beaver breath? So what! Here’s a little girl who knows what really matters.  At once silly and serious, Karen Beaumont’s joyous rhyming text and David Catrow’s wild illustrations unite in a book that is sassy, soulful–and straight from the heart.

Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama
Did you know President Barack Obama is also an author?  In this tender, beautiful letter to his daughters, President Barack Obama has written a moving tribute to thirteen groundbreaking Americans and the ideals that have shaped our nation. From the artistry of Georgia O’Keeffe, to the courage of Jackie Robinson, to the patriotism of George Washington, President Obama sees the traits of these heroes within his own children, and within all of America’s children.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.

I Have a Dream by Kadir Nelson
Illustrator Kadir Nelson is extremely talented…I LOVE his work! This book contains snippets from the famous “I Have a Dream” speech as well as the speech in its entirety in the back of the book. The illustrations in this book are beyond amazing!

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson
Josephine Baker worked her way from the slums of St. Louis to the grandest stages in the world. Meticulously researched by both author and artist, Josephine’s powerful story of struggle and triumph is an inspiration and a spectacle, just like the legend herself.

Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson
Zora and Langston. Billie and Bessie. Eubie and Duke. If the Harlem Renaissance had a court, they were its kings and queens. But there were other, lesser known individuals whose contributions were just as impactful, such as Florence Mills. Born to parents who were former-slaves Florence knew early on that she loved to sing. And that people really responded to her sweet, bird-like voice.

Monster Trouble by Lane Fredrickson
Nothing frightens Winifred Schnitzel—but she DOES need her sleep, and the neighborhood monsters WON’T let her be! Every night they sneak in, growling and belching and making a ruckus. Winifred constructs clever traps, but nothing stops these crafty creatures. What’s a girl to do?  The delightfully sweet ending will have every kid—and little monster—begging for an encore.

Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter
As Lillian, a one-hundred-year-old African American woman, makes a “long haul up a steep hill” to her polling place, she sees more than trees and sky—she sees her family’s history. She sees the passage of the Fifteenth Amendment and her great-grandfather voting for the first time. She sees her parents trying to register to vote. And she sees herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery.

One Plastic Bag by Miranda Paul

Plastic bags are cheap and easy to use. But what happens when a bag breaks or is no longer needed? In Njau, Gambia, people simply dropped the bags and went on their way. One plastic bag became two. Then ten. Then a hundred.  The bags accumulated in ugly heaps alongside roads. Water pooled in them, bringing mosquitoes and disease. Some bags were burned, leaving behind a terrible smell. Some were buried, but they strangled gardens. They killed livestock that tried to eat them. Something had to change.  Isatou Ceesay was that change. She found a way to recycle the bags and transform her community. This inspirational true story shows how one person’s actions really can make a difference in our world.

When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill

From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill’s book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ, how kids in gangs stopped fighting in order to break dance, and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown
Overcoming obstacles of race and gender, Melba went on to become a famed trombone player and arranger, spinning rhythms, harmonies, and melodies into gorgeous songs for all the jazz greats of the twentieth century: Randy Weston, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Billie Holiday, and Quincy Jones, to name just a few. Brimming with ebullience and the joy of making music, Little Melba and Her Big Trombone is a fitting tribute to a trailblazing musician and a great unsung hero of jazz.

BONUS BOOK!! (Released on February 1, 2016)

Don’t Call Me Grandma by Vaunda Michaeux Nelson
Great-grandmother Nell eats fish for breakfast, she doesn’t hug or kiss, and she does NOT want to be called grandma. Her great-granddaughter isn’t sure what to think about her. As she slowly learns more about Nell’s life and experiences, the girl finds ways to connect with her prickly great-grandmother

I believe Black History Month is about teachable moments, no matter how big or small.  But please, don’t just limit black history to a few short weeks during the month of February.  Instead, aim to make black history and culture a natural part of your children’s reading material throughout the year. I hope I’ve provided you with some book suggestions for children of all colors.  You don’t need a packaged curriculum or rigid adherence to school standards to craft a quality educational experience for children.  All you need is the desire to inspire, encourage, and educate.

Your turn:  What are your favorite Black children’s books to read?  Which ones would you add to the list?  Feel free to share in the comments.