February is Black History Month so there is no better time to read books about our individual uniqueness to our charges.
When I was a kid I remember reading biographies of the first African American to play in major league baseball for Black History Month. I remember learning about jazz, the civil war, and the freedom train. But, I feel history lessons and biographies of famous black Americans are difficult for preschoolers to understand.
So, below I have listed some great books that teach important concepts to teach during Black History Month, such as celebrating our individual differences, that can be understood by young children as well as school-aged students.
I urge nannies and au pairs to take a few minutes to borrow some of the following books from the library for even their youngest charges during Black History Month.
Wings by Christopher Myers
Celebrate the differences that make us all special! Are you brave enough to be true to yourself? That is the question asked in this poetic, beautifully illustrated picture book. Award winning author, Myers, has written a beautiful story to encourage children to “Let your spirit soar.” This is a beautiful story about Ikarus Jackson, a boy who knows how to fly. He is encouraged to be different and let his own unique spirit soar.
Looking Like Me by Walter Dean Myers
The opening lines of this book are charming, “I looked in the mirror and what did I see? A real handsome dude just looking at me.” When you look in a mirror, who do you see? A boy? A girl? A son? A daughter? A runner? A dancer? Whoever you are, celebrate your uniqueness. Jeremy is a Black Harlem boy, who fist-bumps various family members and neighbors as he looks in the mirror and spins a poem about himself as “a real handsome dude looking just like me.”
If you are looking for a book to improve any child’s self-esteem this is the book to read. The message, that we should all celebrate who we are, is powerful. And the text itself is lyrical (almost like a song) and gorgeous.
Black Cat by Christopher Myers
On an eye-opening journey through urban landscapes, a stray black cat leaps, listens, and dances to the city’s pulsating beats while searching for a home. Cool hip-hop rhythms and innovative collage artwork combine to create a book layered with meaning about identity, beauty, and home. This book has earned the Coretta Scott King Honor Award, ALA Notable Children’s Book, School Library Journal Best Book of the Year, Publishers Weekly Best Book of the Year, Blue Ribbon Book, NY Public Library 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing, and Parenting Magazine Reading Magic Award.
Black is Brown is Tan by Arnold Adoff
This book is about interracial marriages and families. It is written in the form a poem and has a pleasant rhythm. The family in the story is very happy and seems to enjoy each other despite differences in color. This book can be used to teach children about love, acceptance, similarities, and differences. The illustrations are lovely, happy, and simple.
When it was originally published in 1973, Black is Brown is Tan featured the first interracial family in children’s books. Now, over 30 years later, Amistad Press has released an enlarged and re-illustrated edition of award-winning poet Arnold Adoff’s tribute to our multicultural world. This version features bright watercolor paintings by Caldecott Medalist Emily Arnold McCully that depict a family of the 21st century, in addition to an afterword that touches upon segregation, interracial marriage, and the growing interracial population in the United States.