February is a month to celebrate many things from Saint Valentine to our presidents. One of the most important celebrations of the month, however, centers around the diverse and critical history of African Americans: Black History Month.
Teachers often use this month to, as President Ford said in official recognition of Black history month in 1976, “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” One of the best ways to begin the conversation about black history is through literature. To help you get started, here are a few of our favorite books.
The Dream Keeper and Other Poems
by Langston Hughes
Recommended Grades: 5
A collection of simple poems first published in 1932 still proves a valuable window into the African-American experience today. This collection can be discussed with students for the emotions it elicits and can serve as a mentor text for poetry practice in the classroom. “Bring me all of your dreams, you dreamer.”
Through My Eyes
by Ruby Bridges
Recommended Grades: 4-5
Students may have read about the fierce racism Ruby Bridges faced as the first black student to integrate an elementary school in nonfiction texts, but this memoir provides a first-hand account of her bravery. Ruby’s own words, coupled with quotes from her teachers and photos from the time, weave an inspiring account of this pivotal time in American history.
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
by Ellen Levine
Recommended Grades: 2-3
Many of us look forward to celebrating their birthday, but for slaves, this simple celebration was unknown; nobody kept records of slaves’ birthdays. In a dramatic story, Henry demonstrates courage and creativity in escaping the slavery of the south by shipping himself north to freedom where finally, he’s able to celebrate his first birthday: his first day of freedom.
Anansi the Spider: A Tale from the Ashanti
by Gerald McDermott
Recommended Grades: K-2
In a classic story of teamwork and persistence, a spider’s six sons work together to save their father from the belly of a fish and, in the end, explain how the moon came to hang in the night sky. This folktale from West Africa paints a brilliant picture of the power of storytelling and family in African history.
For more great resources, check out Reading Rockets’ list of books and activities.
Share your favorite Black History books → @RocketshipEd
Logan came to Rocketship in 2013 after spending three years in a neighboring district in east San Jose. She learned about Rocketship’s inspired full inclusion model and knew within her first days as a Rocketeer that she was in the right place to influence change for all students. Logan is most inspired by her students who seem to inherently understand that learning can be messy and difficult, but who are willing to jump in headfirst anyway. Logan lives with her husband and her dog in sunny Santa Cruz and spends her extra time playing on the beaches or hiking underneath the redwood trees in her backyard.