The Bookworm: Books to help children learn about Black history

Published 10:52 pm Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Bookworm

By Terri Schlichenmeyer

When you’re a kid, there are so many things to learn.

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Someone has to teach you your A-B-Cs, and to count to a hundred. You have to learn to tie a knot and set the table and stay safe. And this month, you should learn more about Black History, and that can be fun with these great books…

For the littlest reader ages 3 to 5, “The ABCs of Black History” by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer is a great way to start the lesson. This most fundamental book includes holidays, cities, people, and music that forms the base of Black History, in colorful drawings and a format that’s fun.

Slightly older kids ages 4 to about 7 – those who still love picture books – will want “Stompin’ at the Savoy” by Moira Rose Donohue, illustrated by Laura Freeman, which is a book about the life of famed drummer Chick Webb; or “Life As You Climb: The Story of Ella Baker” by Patricia Hruby Powell and R. Gregory Christie, the tale of activist Baker and her inspirational work.

Also look for “The Teacher’s March! How Selma’s Teachers Changed History” by Sandra Neil Wallace and Rich Wallace, illustrated by Charly Palmer. It’s the story of Reverend F. D. Reese and his co-workers in Selma, Alabama, in 1965.

For middle graders, “This is Your Time” by Ruby Bridges is a quick but impactful book, perfect for Black History Month. Bridges, of course, is a Civil Rights worker and this is the story of her life, and the day she was six years old and was escorted by federal marshals, a little Black girl heading to a white school. Her tale will inspire young readers to help create justice in their classrooms and neighborhoods.

Also for older kids ages 12 and up, “Ida B. The Queen” by Michelle Duster looks like it might be a storybook. The truth is that it is a story – it’s a bunch of stories, in fact – first, of Ida B. Wells, crusader, writer, and suffragist, but not just her. The book is also about the people she inspired, the singers, lawmakers, inventors, thinkers, and others. Keep in mind that this is a big book, with lots of side-bars in a skinny cover; having a bookmark and notebook nearby might be handy.

And finally, for high school readers, “Separate No More: The Long Road to Brown v. Board of Education” by Lawrence Goldstone begins more than 100 years ago with a landmark ruling on education for Black citizens and ends with another one that turned the first one upside down. Not just a story of an event, though, this book also looks at the people involved: judges, parents, teachers, politicians, citizens, and students who merely wanted to go to school.

If these books don’t quite fit your child’s interests, ask your librarian or bookseller for ideas. There’s sure to be a book that you and your child will love to read and share because, when it comes to Black History, there’s really so much to learn.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a farm with two dogs, one patient man, and 17,000 books.