17 kids books to read | Free Press from USA

17 kids books to read

17 kids books to read

What better way to celebrate and teach your kids about Black History Month than with some great children’s books?

We asked a few kid-friendly bookshops across the country to give us their favorite titles that families should be reading for Black History Month – and every month. 

The Flying Pig Books in Shelburne, Vt., Read with Me in Raleigh, N.C., and Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, Ga., gathered a handful of recommended reads on shelves now. We’ve also included some new titles, for the voracious young readers who have already checked these books off their lists. 

“We Are Not Yet Equal,” by Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden 
Bloomsbury YA (270 pages)
Recommended reader age: Teens ages 12 and older

“This is a YA adaptation of Carol Anderson’s “White Rage,” and it’s a terrific history of our racial divide in American history. From slave chattels to behind-the-scenes on Abraham Lincoln to the Jim Crow South, this is an important book for American teens to understand that white rage plays a huge factor in incidents of violence we see today.” – recommended by Jory Hearst, frontline bookseller at The Flying Pig Bookstore

“Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History,” by Vashti Harrison
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (96 pages)
Recommended reader age: Middle grade, ages 8 to 12 years

“Charmingly illustrated and chock-full of facts, ‘Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History’ by Vashti Harrison provides a survey of trailblazing black women who have or are currently making American history. Short bios and engaging pictures invite sharing and are certain to foster conversation with young readers and future leaders!” – recommended by Diane Capriola and Dave Shallenberger, co-owners of Little Shop of Stories

“Hip-Hop Alphabet,” by Howie Abrams and Michael “Kaves” McLeer
Permuted Press (32 pages)
Recommended reader age: Kids ages 5 to 9 years

“A favorite of mine went out of print but I was so happy to see it’s coming back this April (and ‘Hip Hop Alphabet 2’ releases May 12). Music is such an important part of black history. Hip-Hop Alphabet takes us through the history of Hip-Hop one letter at a time, in rhyme of course. This title is such a fun read and I can’t wait to get it back.” – recommended by Christine Brenner, owner of Read with Me

“Just Mercy: A True Story of the Fight for Justice,” by Bryan Stevenson
Delacorte Press (288 pages) 
Recommended reader age: Teens ages 12 and older

“Another YA adaptation of an important book, ‘Just Mercy’ is the story of our prison system in the United States. Bryan Stevenson is an attorney who defends black men on death row, and he beautifully weaves together their histories with the history of prisons and legal reform. He asks the question, ‘What does justice really mean in America?’ Well-adapted for teen readers.”  – Hearst

“The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop,” by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Frank Morrison
Little bee books (48 pages)
Recommended reader age: Kids ages 5 to 9 years

“The history of the genre comes alive in this picture book that introduces the personalities and culture that launched the language of hip-hop. Energetic illustrations and rhythmic text make this a perfect introduction for the youngest readers to the founders, including James Brown, the Sugarhill Gang, Tupac and Queen Latifah, who helped create a new and powerful form of expression for an entire generation.” – Capriola and Shallenberger

“Betty Before X,” by Ilyasah Shabazz with Renée Watson
Square Fish (256 pages)
Recommended reader age: Middle grade ages 8 to 12 years

“The story of the childhood of Betty Shabazz (partner to Malcolm X) told with authenticity and expertise. Aside from sharing the history of an amazing woman, it lends itself to a spectacular playlist!”  – recommended by Heather Bauman, frontline bookseller at The Flying Pig Bookstore

“What was the March on Washington?” by Kathleen Krull
Penguin (104 pages)
Recommended reader age: Middle grade ages 8 to 12 years

“While these are somewhat older titles, published more than five years ago, they are so well done that for the 8-12 age range, there’s no comparison. High-quality writing, in-depth information and an engaging format make these a perfect choice for when kids want more information about black history.” – Brenner

“The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights” by Steve Sheinkin
Square Fish (208 pages)
Recommended reader age: Middle grade ages 8 to 12 years

“This is the true story of black sailors assigned to a segregated unit that loaded munitions on naval vessels at a California base. Following an explosion that killed more than 700 people, 50 sailors refused to work until safety conditions were improved, leading to a court-martial for mutiny. The publicity that the trial generated increased awareness of the injustices of a segregated military that soon led to significant changes in the military and, ultimately, to the rest of American society.” – Capriola and Shallenberger

“Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present,” by Jamia Wilson, Illustrated by Andrea Pippins
Quarto (64 pages)
Recommended reader age: Middle grade ages 8 to 12 years

“A quintessential who’s who in black history for young readers. Featuring an impressively wide range of figures, including Martin Luther King Jr., Nina Simone, W.E.B. Dubois and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, this book celebrates the depth and breadth of black excellence throughout history.” – Capriola and Shallenberger

“Fast Enough: Bessie Stringfield’s First Ride,” by Joel Christian Gill
Lion Forge (40 pages)
Recommended reader age: Kids ages 5 to 9 years

“We love books that bring to light little-known stories of intrepid achievers. Bessie Stringfield (born around 1911) was a kid who loved riding her bike fast. She was told she wasn’t tough enough, good enough, or male enough to ride her bike with the boys in the neighborhood. But Bessie grew up to be the first African-American woman to ride solo across the United States on a motorcycle, braving many obstacles. A terrific book reinforcing the importance of kids to believe in themselves, be brave and follow their dreams.” – recommended by Elizabeth Bluemle, owner of The Flying Pig Bookstore

“Turning 15 On The Road To Freedom: My Story of the 1965 Selma Voting Rights March,” by Lynda Blackmon Lowery, as told to Elspeth Leacock and Susan Buckley
Dial (144 pages)
Recommended reader age: Middle grade ages 8 to 12 years

“Lynda Blackmon was the youngest to march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965. Jailed for nonviolent protest and walking alongside civil rights greats like Martin Luther King Jr. and John Lewis, Blackmon proves a powerful and influential role model to younger people wanting to shape our country’s history.”  – Capriola and Shallenberger

“Little People, Big Dreams” series on Josephine Baker, Harriet Tubman, Maya Angelou and Rosa Parks 
Lincoln Children’s Books
Recommended reader age: Different formats for all ages

“These picture books are a perfect introduction to important names in black history. Written in narrative form, these mini-bios are a fun and informative read.” – Brenner

Looking for new books?

Here are a few new books, publishing in 2019:

“Meet Miss Fancy,” by Irene Latham (Putnam, released Jan. 8): In a story set before the civil rights movement, a young boy finds a way to change segregation laws. (Ages 5-8)

“Hands Up!,” by Breanna McDaniel (Dial, released Jan. 22): This book turns the phrase on its head to give little ones confidence and pride, culminating in activism. (Ages 4-8)

“Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Dawn of Jim Crow,” by Henry Louis Gates Jr. with Tonya Bolden (Scholastic, released Jan. 29): A book that examines the end of slavery and the beginning of segregation while highlighting the resilience of African-Americans. (Ages 9-12)

“Little People, Big Dreams: Muhammad Ali,” by Isabel Sanchez Vegara, illustrated by Brosmind (Lincoln Children’s Books, release date Feb. 7): The book on the champion boxer tells about his strong work ethic. (Different formats for all ages)

“Watch Us Rise,” by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan (Bloomsbury, release date Feb. 12): This YA novel, about two friends who start a Women’s Rights Club at their school. After trolls attack their videos of poetry and responses to racist microaggressions, they must figure out how to have their voices heard. 

Contributing: Sarah Day Owen

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