Schedule a Tour

Wheaton Montessori News

Book Recommendations for Black History Month

Categories: Booklists / General Knowledge Fund / Grace and Courtesy / Parenting Resources / Read

February is Black History Month

It’s never too early to begin teaching our children about black history.  One simple way for families to start is by reading books that are compelling, beautifully illustrated, and age-appropriate.  Today’s post will give you a range of options to explore with your child.  Your children will have read many of these books; ask which book they’d like to share with you!

Another great resource?  Your local librarian.   Ask them about these books or if they have any other suggestions for reading with your child.  During February, libraries and book stores are filled with displays for Black History Month.  Take advantage of their curated lists to find new titles to explore together.  Here are a few that we suggest:

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks by Faith Ringgold

Students in Mrs. Berdick’s classroom may recognize the artwork in Ringgold’s books, as the artist/illustrator is featured in Mrs. Berdick’s classroom.  In selection, Ms. Ringgold has the bus tell the “story of a young African-American girl named Rosa who had to walk miles to her one-room schoolhouse in Alabama while white children rode to their school in a bus. It would tell how the adult Rosa rode to and from work on a segregated city bus and couldn’t sit in the same row as a white person. It would tell of the fateful day when Rosa refused to give up her seat to a white man and how that act of courage inspired others around the world to stand up for freedom.”

Follow the Drinking Gourd by Jeanette Winter

Peg Leg Joe teaches slaves a song about the drinking gourd to help them on their path to freedom.  Based on the African American folk song by the same name, this book takes readers on a journey through the Underground Railroad.


The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford

Many of our primary students and elementary students have been learning about Ruby Bridges in the last month.  This true story takes place following the Supreme Court decision of Brown versus the Board of Education.  Ruby Bridges was ordered to attend first grade as the only African American child in an otherwise all white school.  She faced confusion and hate each day, but armed herself with love, compassion, and courage, helping a New Orleans community moved toward school integration.


Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

This book is appropriate for slightly older children (kindergarten and older).  It tells the story of a famous sit-in, in which four college friends entered a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina.  They sat down for lunch at the whites-only counter and waited patiently to be served.  Over the next several days, they were joined by hundreds, and the movement was instrumental in desegregating lunch counters in the south.  Our Primary classes read the book together each year and the book is re-read by Elementary students diving further into the history of the Civil Rights Movement.


Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

This story is based on the life of Harriet Tubman.  Tubman was a slave in Maryland who escaped, only to make many trips back south in an effort to guide others to freedom.


Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

Wangari Maathai, also known as Mama Miti, was an African woman who changed the ecological landscape and economic opportunities for women in Kenya.  Maathai earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the United States and returned to her homeland after completing her education.  Upon her return to Kenya, she was disheartened by the drastic change in the land and people as a result of deforestation.  Armed with her education and determination, she taught the women of Kenya to plant trees and rebuild their communities.


Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Sojourner Truth was born a slave named Belle.  She endured the cruelties of slavery with several masters, eventually escaping and renaming herself.  She spent the following years traveling the country speaking out as a powerful abolitionist.  Though the journey toward abolition was slow and challenging, Sojourner kept her steady pace and determination to speak for those without a voice.


When Marian Sang: The True Recital of Marian Anderson by Pam Munoz Ryan, illustrated by Brian Selznic


Marian Anderson was a renowned black singer who struggled for equality before the Civil Rights Movement began in the United States.  She was recognized for her natural talent as a young child, but struggled to find teachers who would help her refine her voice, and later, venues that would feature her as a performer, because of the color of her skin.  The earlier years in her career were spent largely in Europe, where she was more accepted.  She is perhaps most famous for a performance she gave on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial to an integrated crowd of 75,000 people.


Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Raceby Margot Lee Shetterly

There are two versions of this book, recently made into a fantastic movie.  “Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden… participated in some of NASA’s greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America’s first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.” –

Mrs. Fortun recently shared the picture book edition with her Lower Elementary class.  She recommends it for Kindergarten-aged children and older.

Picture Book Edition

Original edition, appropriate for 6th graders and older


The Story of Martin Luther King Junior by Johnny Ray Moore, illustrated by Amy Wummer

This is a simple introduction to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., perfect for primary-aged children.  The book is brief and easy for little ones to understand.  Consider it a great option for families who are looking to introduce their youngest children to the concepts of inequality in an age-appropriate way.


We March by Shane W. Evans

This simply-written book takes readers through the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  The historical event is perhaps best known for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered at the end of the march.  Kirkus Review named this one of the best children’s books of 2012.


March, by John Lewis:

Ms. Searcy stresses that this book is appropriate for more mature 6th-graders and older.  This is the true story of one of the Civil Rights Movement’s youngest participants and later Congressman John Lewis.