Children’s Books to Read This Black History Month & Every Day After

We believe Black History should be celebrated all year round, and this month is a great time to take stock of the books on our shelves to ensure we have Black voices (and art) represented. This month most media recounts stories of slavery and the fight for civil rights. As such, we wanted our book lists to honor the depth of Black experiences, from celebrating Black joy, Black artists and innovators, Black folks nature, and more!

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Highlight Black Joy

I love the quote from Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop about books being “windows, mirror, & sliding glass doors.” Books are “windows” because they help us see/learn from other people, “mirrors” because they help us see/learn about ourselves, and “sliding glass doors” because stories allow us to step into someone else’s world. Because the majority of books featuring Black Americans focus on their struggle and activism in this country, I curated this “Highlight Black Joy” book list so that Black kids and non-Black allies celebrate all parts of the Black American experience.

by Dolisha Mitchell


Written by Ruth Forman, Illustrated by Geneva Bowers

  • Themes: bedtime, self esteem
  • Best for Ages: 0-2
  • What We Love: There is no better self-esteem-building bedtime book!
  • Things to Know: Know that while this book is a great book for vocabulary building, it is not written in full sentences. The text is truly a poem!

Brown Sugar Baby

Written by Kevin Lewis, Illustrated by Jestenia Southerland

  • Themes: exploration, family love
  • Best for Ages: 0-2
  • What We Love: Its poetic cadence and representation of a beautiful Black family filled with love.
  • Things to Know: This book offers a loving example of following your little one’s lead as they explore their surroundings.

Family Reunion

Written by Chad and Dad Richardson, Illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin

  • Themes: kinship, traditions
  • Best for Ages: 4-7
  • What We Love: Beautiful representation of intergenerational family sharing food, family history, and making special memories.
  • Things to Know: This book is relatable for many children who might be anxious to meet new families, but realize it’s worth it in the end.

Bedtime Bonnet

Written by Nancy Redd, Illustrated by Nneka Myers

  • Themes: self-love, bedtime
  • Best for Ages: 2-4
  • What We Love: Loving celebration of all the beautiful traditions of caring for Black hair before bedtime including bonnets, durags, scarves, and caps.
  • Things to Know: This book focuses solely on Black hair. It offers a great way to make connections to similarities and differences in bedtime routines.

Your Name Is a Song

Written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

  • Themes: acceptance, confidence
  • Best for Ages: 4-9
  • What We Love: The confidence instilled in this little one to learn and teach others the history and pronunciation behind her beautiful name.
  • Things to Know: It’s important to remember that it’s our individual responsibility to ask and learn how to pronounce names we are not familiar with.

The Electric Slide and Kai

Written by Kelly J. Baptist, Illustrated by Darnell Johnson

  • Themes: perseverance, dance
  • Best for Ages: 4-8
  • What We Love: The humor and love felt as this family tries to teach Kai a special dance so he feels a stronger sense of belonging on the dance floor at family functions.  
  • Things to Know:  This book is filled with an overarching message of progress over perfection and how a little perseverance pays off. 

Celebrate Black Folks In Nature

Adventure awaits us! Culturally rich and rooted in Africa, Black explorers all over the world have planted their feet to get grounded and connected with the Earth. Black people are leaders in many environmental movements and in the understanding of biodiversity. This book selection, showcasing many Black environmentalists using the power of pen, is a discovery of how we experience the beauty of nature and then do our part in preserving it for generations to come.  

by Ashley Jefferson

All of Me Is Nature

Written by Ashley Jefferson, Illustrated by Kristiana Vellucci

  • Themes: five senses, nature, poetry
  • Best for Ages: 2-7
  • What We Love: From each leaf turned to each child playing, there’s so much diversity found within this fun book of rhyme.  
  • Things to Know:  This book offers great discussion prompts for outdoor play. Bring it on your next nature hike for more engagement!

The Water Princess

Written by Georgie Badiel & Susan Verde, Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds

  • Themes: empathy, social justice, culture
  • Best for Ages: 4-8
  • What We Love: Based on a true story, this book shares a powerful story of a young girl and her family’s journey for that which is precious and a life force: water.
  • Things to Know:  You can use this book to discuss the importance of water and its impact on how we live.

How to Find a Fox

Written and Illustrated by Nilah Magruder

  • Themes: wildlife, persistence
  • Best for Ages: 2-7
  • What We Love: This silly and interactive story about a girl eager to catch a glimpse of a VERY clever fox with her camera is so much fun!
  • Things to Know:  A great extension activity to pair with this book might be taking photos on a hike just like in this story.

Critters of Michigan

Written and Photographed by Alex Troutman

  • Themes: science, nature
  • Best for Ages: 2-7
  • What We Love: Written by Black biologist and BIPOC advocate, Alex Troutman, this nonfiction book is great for cultivating a love of learning about the natural world with facts and real-life images.
  • Things to Know:  This book is specifically focusing on Michigan; however the critters in this book are fascinating nonetheless.

A Million Fish

Written by Patricia McKissack, Illustrated by Dena Schutzer

  • Themes: countryside, culture, courage
  • Best for Ages: 5-10
  • What We Love: Beautifully illustrated, we love the twists and turns with animal friends!
  • Things to Know:  This story is a beautiful lesson on how while we may have access to a lot of what we may want, what we need is ultimately more than enough. This makes for a great family discussion!

Explore Black Fantasy & Imagination

All children need exposure to diverse books, including the full spectrum of Black characters and their experiences – even imaginary ones! Explore these stories featuring strong Black characters that explore with bravery, confidence, and curiosity.

by Dolisha Mitchell

Grandma’s Purse

Written and Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

  • Themes: imaginative play, multi-generational love
  • Best for Ages: 2-5
  • What We Love: The infectious joy and excitement of a child exploring the magical things inside her grandma’s purse make this a special story.
  • Things to Know:  This book is rooted in Gullah Geechee culture where they often carried their history in their purses.

Who Will You Be?

Written and Illustrated by Andrea Pippins

  • Themes: imaginative play, multi-generational love
  • Best for Ages: 0-2
  • What We Love: This book speaks life into a little one sharing how family and community can shape their life and who they grow up to be.
  • Things to Know:  This book is perfect for the newest additions to any family and offers a gentle reminder of the power of having a supportive village.

My Rainy Day Rocketship

Written by Markette Sheppard, Illustrated by Charly Palmer

  • Themes: creativity, imagination
  • Best for Ages: 2-5
  • What We Love: This book is filled with creativity and innovation as a little one creates an outer space adventure with a cardboard box and his imagination on a rainy day inside. 
  • Things to Know:  This book is the perfect introduction to creating a fun arts and crafts project with a cardboard box and playing dress up.

Off to See the Sea

Written by Nikki Grimes, Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon

  • Themes: bedtime, imagination
  • Best for Ages: 2-5
  • What We Love: Filled with colorful illustrations of a little one brought to life through a mother and father’s magical bathtime adventures, this book is relatable to both parents and children.
  • Things to Know:  This book pairs perfectly with Bedtime for Sweet Creatures and Playtime for Restless Rascals, which were both written by award-winning author Nikki Grimes.

Raising Dragons

Written by Jerdine Nolen, Illustrated by Elise Primavera

  • Themes: friendship, mythical
  • Best for Ages: 7-9
  • What We Love: Beautiful representation in the fantasy genre features a Black girl believing in her abilities to raise a dragon.
  • Things to Know:  This book features the beautiful accents of a Southern farming family and whimsical illustrations that transport readers into their world.

Remember to Dream, Ebere

Written by Cynthia Erivo, Illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow

  • Themes: bedtime, self-reliance
  • Best for Ages: 2-5
  • What We Love: Ebere’s mother encourages her to dream big and fills her with hope and the confidence to take on her wildest dreams.
  • Things to Know:  This book is written by award-winning performer Cynthia Erivo and celebrates the importance of children and parents building dreams together.

Celebrate Black Innovators

Let’s talk about innovation! These book picks collectively share the experience of Black in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) and beyond! Think outside the box with us as we honor Black excellence in every capacity: from the young that relish in imaginative play and creativity to the elders that left a groundbreaking legacy in engineering and revolutionizing the culture as a whole.

by Ashley Jefferson

Calling Dr. Zaza

Written and Illustrated by Mylo Freeman

  • Themes: care, health, pretend play
  • Best for Ages: 0-3
  • What We Love: Zaza breaks gender stereotypes through skillful doctor play.
  • Things to Know:  Consider taking this book with you to your next pediatrician appointment! Your kiddo will recognize each step of the check-up.

Rocket Says Look Up

Written by Nathan Byron, Illustrated by Dapo Adeola

  • Themes: outer-space, purpose, dreaming big
  • Best for Ages: 4-8
  • What We Love: Our main character, Rocket, has such a passion for her love of outer space and it is such an inspiration. It fills the story with learning fun!
  • Things to Know:  While the character is fictional, she spews out lots of interesting facts about outer space for the reader to learn more about.

The Vast Wonder of the World

Written by Mèlina Mangal Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

  • Themes: biology, purpose, acts of service
  • Best for Ages: 6-10
  • What We Love: This book is beautifully illustrated and gives an intimate detailing of Ernest Everett Just, a Black innovator deserving of his flowers.
  • Things to Know:  This story not only highlights the life of Just, but also his contributions on how we can be more responsible with how we study and care for wildlife.

Teach Me About Garvey

Written by James Wilson Illustrated by Cameron T Wilson

  • Themes: history, social studies
  • Best for Ages: 3-6
  • What We Love: This is a fun lesson on one of history’s most prominent leaders written in poetic form!
  • Things to Know:  Important milestones in Black history highlighted in an easy-to-remember delivery.

Gary and the Great Inventors

Written by Akura Marshall, Illustrated by Adriel Meka

  • Themes: history, family
  • Best for Ages: 4-10
  • What We Love: This is an integrated approach to learning about important inventions as we follow a curious boy around his community.
  • Things to Know:  You can make this a scavenger hunt and find some of the inventions found in this story in YOUR neighborhood!

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