Black History Month Recommended Reading
Montessori schools strive to be inclusive and diverse in teaching children an understanding of the many different people, established and new, who have contributed to our country as we know it today. Books featuring diverse characters are read and made available to all children from Infant & Toddler classrooms through Secondary programs. Different age groups need different subject matter while learning about racial and ethnic issues. Older children are discussing the historical facts of racism and social injustice in the United States and debating ways to prevent such problems currently; at the same time young children are observing differences between themselves and other children. They are learning that even with differences, we are human. We have similar wants and needs.
To help parents choose age-appropriate books for Black History Month, we’ve divided title suggestions into the corresponding Montessori classroom groups. Before reading a book aloud with your child, please review the story on your own. You will know if the storyline is too advanced and does not match the emotional maturity level of your child. The list below is a sampling from the many books available at local libraries and bookstores. For more title suggestions to share with your child, check book lists from PBS Kids and the Coretta Scott King Book Awards. And when looking for book titles, consider purchasing from Black owned bookstores. Look here for a directory with stores listed by state.
Infant & Toddler
(ages birth – 18 months)
Children at this age are beginning to explore the world through their senses. They are learning how to interact with their environment. Long biographies about famous Black Americans or topics surrounding social justice will not be understood. Look for books that explore diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Board Books for Infants
- Babies Around the World by Puck (2017)
- Global Babies by The Global Fund for Children (2006)
- I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont (2016)
Picture Books for Toddlers
- The Colors of Us by Karen Katz (1999)
- Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison (2021)
- It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr (2001)
(ages 3 – 6)
More context can be understood by preschool-aged children. Look for stories that your child can relate to somehow. For instance, if your child is drawn to music, share a book featuring a famous Black musician.
- Black is A Rainbow Color by Angela Joy (2020)
- The Me I Choose To Be by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley (2021)
- RESPECT: Aretha Franklin, the Queen of Soul by Carole Boston Weatherford (2020)
- Runaway: The Daring Escape of Ona Judge by Ray Anthony Shepard (2021)
- Watch Me: A Story of Immigration and Inspiration by Doyin Richards (2021)
- We Wait for the Sun by Dovey Johnson Roundtree and Katie McCabe (2021)
(ages 6 – 9)
There is a wide range of reading ability in this age group. Most of the picture books listed are best for shared reading which can lead to discussion.
Note: if your child enjoys biographies look for titles in these series:
- A Biography for New Readers
- Ordinary People Change the World
- Who Was?
- She Persisted
Picture Books (with advanced text and story content)
- The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson (2021)
- The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez (2020)
- The Bell Rang by James E. Ransome (2019)
- Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine (2007)
- The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander (2019)
- 28 Days: Moments in Black History That Changed the World by Charles R. Smith Jr. (2015)
- Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Irene Latham and Charles Waters (2018)
- Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly (2018)
- Ordinary People Change the World: I am Harriet Tubman by Brad Meltzer (2018)
- The Story of Ruby Bridges: A Biography for New Readers by Arlisha Norwood Alston (2021)
Upper Elementary and Secondary
(ages 9 – 12 and 12 – 18)
Again, there is a wide range of reading ability as children move into their tween and teen years. They also might have strong opinions about what they will or will not read.
- Black Heroes: A Black History Book for Kids: 51 Inspiring People from Ancient Africa to Modern-Day U.S.A. by Arlisha Norwood (2020)
- Stamped (For Kids): Racism, Antiracism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds (2021)
- Timelines from Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies by D.K. Publishing; Mireille Harper (Foreward) (2021)
- Unspeakable: The Tulsa Race Massacre by Carole Boston Weatherford 2021)
- Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014)
- Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (1999)
- Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (2008)
- Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis (2009)
- Let the Circle Be Unbroken by Mildred D. Taylor (1981)
- One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia (2010)
- Zora and Me by T.R. Simon and Victoria Bond (2010)
- Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America 1619 – 2019 by Ibram X. Kendi (2021)
- How the Word is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America by Clint Smith (2021)
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo (2018)
- Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race by Beverly Daniel Tatum (1997)
Note: For more titles check the Chicago Public Library’s list here.
About the Author
V. Kulikow is a former Montessori teacher and youth services librarian. She currently works as a UX designer and enjoys content creation both with words and images.