Despite teaching in Venezuela (where it is really hard to find many things), I’ve been able to order some fantastic books for my classroom. I love my classroom library and the couple hundred books that I have here. It is one of the things that I will definitely miss when I leave this school in June.
My students live in a culture where it is common to give someone a nickname based on the color of their skin. People with white skin still have more positions of power and jobs of prestige. They call MLK Jr. “Marteen” and they have no idea about important people in black history. Our reading program and social studies program does not focus at all on people of color. For these reasons, I think it is very important to teach about black history, racism, segregation, human rights, protesting, and standing up for what you believe in.
Even if you don’t teach about Black History, there are so many great books to have on hand. If you are a parent, a teacher, an auntie or uncle, or a child care provider, you should consider getting these books to read with a youngster. Here is a list of my third graders’ favorite books about Black History:
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
This is my favorite book on this list. They were shocked that someone might not know their birthday and that they could hate their life so much that they would mail themselves in a box to obtain freedom. We also really love the illustrations by Kadir Nelson.
Salt in His Shoes by Deloris Jordan
The boys in my class loved learning about an athlete that they recognized by name. They agreed that practice is what makes people better, not just being tall. The short boys really liked reading this!
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr by Doreen Rappaport
They liked the colorful collages and more approachable language.
Duke Ellington by Andrea Davis Pinkney
My students liked the interesting vocabulary and colorful illustrations.
Sojourner Truth’s: Step, Stomp, Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney
We read this book at the end of our unit to talk about the end of slavery and beginning of the women’s rights movement.
Moses: When Harriet Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
We loved Kadir Nelson’s artwork (of course) which really helped bring to light Tubman’s biography. I personally thought it was a little too religious for use in the classroom, but my classroom full of predominantly Catholic students loved it.
Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson
They could not believe that someone who had been in jail for so long could still become president. My students and I really love the illustrations!
Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powel
My students liked how there were so many different fonts, cool word placement, and that it is written like a giant poem. Also, they thought it was cool that she adopted 12 children and one of them was from Venezuela!
The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
My students were very interested that people of color and white people could not be in the same school. They were very impressed that a little girl was so courageous.
A Picture Book of Frederick Douglass by David A. Adler
This book was the first book that helped them understand the meaning of the word “slave”. They had never heard the word before so the pictures really helped them understand what horrible things happened to slaves.
A Picture Book of Jesse Owens by David A. Adler
They loved learning about Jesse Owens and they were amazed at how many medals he won!
A Picture Book of Rosa Parks by David A. Adler
My students really liked this series by Mr. Adler. The pictures helped bring to life the biographies and the timeline of important dates at the back was easy for them to reference later in their writing. They were amazed that Rosa Parks knew MLK Jr. !
Richard Wright and the Library Card by William Miller
This book helped them see segregation in action again. They made the connection to Rosa Parks and the segregated buses. They were shocked that people didn’t used to have access to libraries.
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathleen Krull
After reading about all of the male athletes, the girls in my class really liked reading about Wilma.
The Champ: The Story of Muhammad Ali by Tonya Bolden
This is one of my favorite books to read aloud. The art and word choices are fun, the students liked how the words were arranged on the page, and enjoyed all of the onomatopoeias.
Climbing Lincoln’s Steps: The African American Journey by Suzanne Slade
We read this at the end of the month and my students were really encouraged to find out that they knew about so many of the people mentioned in this book. It is a great way to sum up what we had learned over the course of the month!
Do you have any other book recommendations that I might be able to incorporate into this unit for next year?
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