Black History Month Family Reading List
Celebrate Black History Month by reading together as a family! We’ve compiled a list of children’s books that honour Black history, culture, achievements, and experiences in Canada and around the world. You can visit the London Children’s Museum and read all these titles with your loved ones in our reading corner.
1. We Shall Overcome by Bryan Collier
A celebration of the gospel anthem and Civil Rights protest song “We Shall Overcome,” masterfully brought to life by Caldecott Honor recipient and a nine-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Bryan Collier.
“We Shall Overcome” is one of the most recognizable anthems of the Civil Rights movement, widely performed at protests and rallies to promote nonviolent civil rights activism. Now, these inspirational, empowering, legendary lyrics are brought to life with the stirring, evocative, and breathtaking illustrations from multi-award-winning talent Bryan Collier. Powerfully imagined for the present moment, Collier’s illustrations meld the most emblematic moments of the twentieth-century Civil Rights movement with the present day, depicting the movements, protests, and demonstrations – big and small – as the fight for justice continues. With illustrations full of depth, tenderness, and expression, and offering historical context while remaining powerfully relevant to the present-day, this impactful picture book is a must-have for every home, classroom, and bookshelf.
2. Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman
In this stirring, much-anticipated picture book by presidential inaugural poet and activist Amanda Gorman, anything is possible when our voices join together. As a young girl leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, they learn that they have the power to make changes—big or small—in the world, in their communities, and in most importantly, in themselves.
With lyrical text and rhythmic illustrations that build to a dazzling crescendo by #1 New York Times bestselling illustrator Loren Long, Change Sings is a triumphant call to action for everyone to use their abilities to make a difference.
3. The Year We Learned to Fly by Jacqueline Woodson
On a dreary, stuck-inside kind of day, a brother and sister heed their grandmother’s advice: “Use those beautiful and brilliant minds of yours. Lift your arms, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and believe in a thing. Somebody somewhere at some point was just as bored you are now.” And before they know it, their imaginations lift them up and out of their boredom. Then, on a day full of quarrels, it’s time for a trip outside their minds again, and they are able to leave their anger behind. This precious skill, their grandmother tells them, harkens back to the days long before they were born, when their ancestors showed the world the strength and resilience of their beautiful and brilliant minds. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael Lopez’s dazzling art celebrate the extraordinary ability to lift ourselves up and imagine a better world.
4. The 1916 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones
A young student receives a family tree assignment in school, but she can only trace back three generations. Grandma gathers the whole family, and the student learns that 400 years ago, in 1619, their ancestors were stolen and brought to America by white slave traders.
But before that, they had a home, a land, a language. She learns how the people said to be born on the water survived. With powerful verse and striking illustrations by Nikkolas Smith, Born on the Water provides a pathway for readers of all ages to reflect on the origins of American identity.
5. I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
The confident Black narrator of this book is proud of everything that makes him who he is. He’s got big plans, and no doubt he’ll see them through–as he’s creative, adventurous, smart, funny, and a good friend. Sometimes he falls, but he always gets back up. And other times he’s afraid because he’s so often misunderstood and called what he is not. So slow down and really look and listen, when somebody tells you–and shows you–who they are. There are superheroes in our midst!
6. Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins
This lyrical, empowering poem celebrates black children and seeks to inspire all young people to dream big and achieve their goals. Six-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and four-time Caldecott Honor recipient Bryan Collier brings this classic, inspirational poem to life, written by poet Useni Eugene Perkins.
7. The People Remember by Ibi Zoboi
The People Remember tells the journey of African descendants in America by connecting their history to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. It begins in Africa, where people were taken from their homes and families. They spoke different languages and had different customs.
Yet they were bound and chained together and forced onto ships sailing into an unknown future. Ultimately, all these people had to learn one common language and create a culture that combined their memories of home with new traditions that enabled them to thrive in this new land.
Sumptuously illustrated, this is an important book to read as a family—a story young readers can visit over and over again to deepen their understanding of African American history in relation to their own lives and current social justice movements. By turns powerful and revealing, this is a lyrical narrative that tells the story of survival, as well as the many moments of joy, celebration, and innovation of Black people in America.
8. Curls by Ruth Forman
This simple, playful, and beautiful board book stars four friends who celebrate the joy of their hairstyles from bouncing curls to swinging braids. A joyfully poetic board book that delivers an ode to African American girls and the beauty of their curls.