Black History Month

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Every February I look forward to seeing all of the new books published in conjunction with Black History month. Looking at a bookstore display yesterday, I was writing down titles to add to our school collection, but on the way home, I remembered several books published in the past few years that should not be forgotten in the “pull” of the new. I thought it would be interesting to write a top-ten list of books to read in February (or any other month), but with a limited number of new releases.

The best of this year:

Children of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton and illustrated by Raul Colon. Shelton is Andrew Young’s daughter so she had a front-row seat during the civil rights movement. Colon’s illustrations are, as always, lovely.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Pinkney and Brian Pinkney. Published in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of the Woolworth lunch counter sit-ins in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip M. Hoose. This book for ages 12 and over tells the story of the woman who stayed seated on the bus nine months before Rosa Parks took the same courageous step.

In the past few years:

John Lewis in the Lead: A Story of the Civil Rights Movement by Jim Haskins and Kathleen Benson. John Lewis deserves to be thought of alongside the other great civil rights leaders. He began as a student leader and went on to a successful (and continuing) career as a Georgia congressman.

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges. This book had me from the minute I saw its cover. Looking at Ruby’s sweet face makes one wonder how so much hatred could have been directed to this child.

Freedom’s Children: Young Civil Rights Activists Tell Their Own Stories by Ellen S. Levine

Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine (that makes two votes for the amazing Ellen Levine!)

Sienna’s Scrapbook: Our African American Heritage Trip by Toni Trent Parker. I wish this book was better known. Written like a journal, it is the perfect introduction for young children to black historical sites around the country. It’s also just a really delightful and fun book!

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson. In a crowded field of books, this is one I find myself reaching for again and again when reading with young children. It does not tell a story of anyone’s life or describe any social movements, but it does something else. In clear language, it helps young children to “get it.” Until children begin to comprehend the enormity of the injustices faced by blacks in this country, they need to see it played out with children as the main characters. The Other Side does that without a lot of unnecessary words. In fact, the book would be just as effective without any words at all.

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