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Recommended Reading :: Books for Black History Month and Beyond

by Amelia Mansfield and Mandy Stockton

If you’re anything like us, you’re always thinking of ways to build your child’s confidence, self-awareness, knowledge, and understanding of others. Books are an accessible tool for that, yet the options are seemingly endless. Where do we even begin choosing a title that fits our kid’s developmental stage, interests, and needs?

This year, Memphis Mom Collective is striving to curate book lists for you to reference. We will be intentional in our choice of topics, offering selections based on cultural competency, interpersonal communications, kindness, and empathy.

As February is Black History Month, we’ve been thinking about how to highlight the stories of inspirational Black women and men, teaching our children about their many accomplishments and recognizing we all have important roles to play to combat racism.

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Many schools will teach about Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Thurgood Marshall. And many schools won’t teach about them at all. These are significant historical figures worthy of our attention. But shouldn’t they be worthy of our attention all year long? While it is important to have a month dedicated to celebrating Black history, it’s not enough to just talk about it in February, and it’s not enough to focus on the same few individuals. We need to be teaching our children about Black history year-round, with people of color featured in the books they read and the TV and movies they watch. Every child deserves to see characters who look like them, and they also need to see characters who do not look like them.

We’ve put together a list of books featuring Black individuals, some historical and others who are making history today. We’re also including fiction books that feature Black characters and teach important lessons about inclusivity. This is an update to this post from 2018. Because there are so many great books, we didn't duplicate any from the previous list; please check that one out for more suggestions! There are some oldies, but goodies, and certainly many new titles to borrow from the library or add to your shopping list.

children reading books together

And before you start on the following list and begin adding to your Amazon and Novel carts, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that this is not meant to be an assignment. Our hope is the books we all choose to add to our personal libraries – on this month’s topic and those that follow – naturally become part of the regular reading in our homes. Our children learn best and absorb information so well when any topic is part of their daily life.

These lists are in alphabetical order by author's last name. Many of these authors have other great books, but we wanted to feature as many authors as possible.

Books about historical figures:

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed (ages 4-8)

Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue (ages 6-8)

Memphis, Martin and the Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan (ages 7-10)

Superheroes are Everywhere by Kamala Harris (ages 3-7)

Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris (ages 4-8)

Brave. Black. First. 50+ African-American Women Who Changed the World by Cheryl Hudson (ages 8-12)

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson (ages 5-10)

Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott by Dee Romito (ages 6-9)

Malcom Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz (ages 6-10)

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson (ages 7-10)

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Books featuring Black characters:

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes (ages 3-7)

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts (ages 5-8)

I am a Natural Cutie by P.D. Brown (ages 3-8) – another Memphis native!

I Believe I Can by Grace Byers (ages 4-8)

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry (ages 4-8)

Firebird by Misty Copeland (ages 5-8)

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson (ages 3-7)

Gigi’s Little Dreamer by Carmen Maples – a Memphis native! (ages 2-6)

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o (ages 4-8)

John Philip Duck by Patricia Polacco – about the first Peabody duckmaster! (ages 5-9)

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow (ages 5-10)

We actually have many more books to recommend, but our list got too long! We’ll share other ideas in future posts. Do you have any favorites we missed?

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