It’s African American History Month and since we have made some critical African American history already this year at Barack Obama’s inauguration, there’s more to celebrate than ever. To help you share some special touchpoints of African American history and culture with your kids, I’ve rounded up a few favorite books on these themes.
The Come Look with Me series offers introductions to great art for the youngest children. This one pairs twelve famous paintings by African American artists with simple questions for even the smallest children to encourage more thinking about the pictures and the way they were made. The book includes more “grown up” information to grow on or to help the adult reading with the child understand more about the art.
This is another book that can be read to the youngest child, but can grow with that child, or be enjoyed by an older sibling at the same time. Every letter of the alphabet is a piece of African American history or culture. Each letter of the alphabet represents a concept or figure in African American history. There is also a short piece of rhyming text that explains a bit about what each concept or figure means, then a sidebar entry with two or three paragraphs of text explaining in detail an older child or adult can appreciate.
This book is a lovely introduction for a young child to Langston Hughes, one of the most important writers in American letters, let alone African American letters. The book is written in the rhyming first-person voice of a little girl spending a day with her father touring Langston Hughes’s home as a historical site. The little girl feels a special connection to Hughes because she is a poet, too! Brief, rhyming text and bright, colorful illustrations make this a captivating read-aloud for young children.
Once you know drinking gourd begins with D, it’s time to explore the song that made history by teaching enslaved African Americans the way to freedom. This book tells who wrote the song, how it was learned and used by people traveling the underground railroad as well as sharing the complete words and music on the last page so everyone can sing along.
There are a lot of Obama books out there for adults and children alike. My favorite is this colorfully illustrated (not photographed) version that shares a day in the life of Barack Obama and some simplified versions of his philosophy that kids can understand, like “Respect your elders and be polite/Anything worth doing is worth doing right.” Preachy? Maybe a little, but awfully cute!