February is Black History Month, and it’s a great time to start introducing diversity to your kids. For those who are too young to understand deeper topics, the picture books we’ve included below have simple messages that focus on positive Black stories.
Written by Misty Copeland, the first African-American female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, Bunheads tells the story of a young girl’s audition for a part in a ballet. It’s a beautiful story about having the courage to try something new. All young dancers will relate to the fun images and story.
Bippity Bop Barbershop
Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley is the story of Miles, a young boy who’s going to the barbershop for the first time. The illustrations are beautiful and the whole book celebrates African-American identities. Kids will also pick up on the book’s “jazzy” rhythm.
The Other Side
The theme of The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson, is deeper than some of our other selections. It’s about two girls who become friends, even though they’re separated by a fence that segregates them by race. It isn’t too intense for young children, however, and it will hopefully stimulate important conversations as they get older. It’s also worth noting that Woodson was the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
Look What Brown Can Do!
Look What Brown Can Do! by T. Marie Harris helps children realize they’re capable of accomplishing anything they want in life by highlighting Black heroes from the past and present. It’s a great conversation-starter for parents and teachers to use with older children when discussing future goals.
I Am Rosa Parks
This picture book by Brad Meltzer is an “autobiography” of Rosa Parks in a kid-friendly format. I Am Rosa Parks is a great way to introduce your kids to her story. It focuses on the courage it took for her to stand up for herself and other African Americans. It also includes real photos and quotes from Parks that can be discussed as your child gets older.
This tender story by Matthew A. Cherry is about the relationship between a Black father and his daughter. Hair Love is an ode to natural hair and a celebration of daddy-daughter relationships. It also sends girls a strong message about loving themselves even if they don’t always love the way they look.
The Snowy Day
One of the first picture books to feature a Black protagonist, this classic by Ezra Jack Keats perfectly highlights a child’s wonder at the world. The Snowy Day was a Caldecott Medal winner and the New York Public Library’s #1 book on the list of “Top Check Outs of All Time.”
I am Martin Luther King, Jr.
This book (also by Brad Meltzer) breaks down the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a way that’s easy for children to understand. It also omits aspects of King’s life that aren’t appropriate for young readers, while still providing enough information to discuss as your children get older.