This Week at READ USA

Book Choice and Ownership

Diverse Children’s Books for Black History Month: Inspire, Educate, and Empower

  • Read USA Inc.
  • February 7 2024

At READ USA, we know that Book Choice is essential to children exploring their curiosity and finding joy in reading – motivating them to read more and continually improve their reading skills – which is why READ USA places such a strong, year-round emphasis on Multicultural Literacy. We also recognize and emphasize the importance of providing children from all backgrounds with books depicting people who look like them.

Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop reminded us that books should be mirrors to reflect ourselves, windows to see others, and sliding glass doors to step into new experiences. When children can access books about people, places, and cultures that represent their own heritage and history, they are more likely to not only read those books, but to connect, be inspired, and want to read even more! Likewise, it is also important for children to read about people, places, and cultures that are different than their own. Black History Month is a time for everyone to celebrate, learn, and read!

For Black History Month, our team assembled a diverse selection of children’s books that explore a variety of topics related to Black and African American history, people, places, and culture. Check them out below and feel free to share this list with your family and friends who may also be searching for Black History Month children’s books.

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    1. The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander
    2. Trombone Shorty, by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews
    3. 14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah
    4. Together for Kwanzaa, by Juwanda G. Ford
    5. Please, Puppy, Please, by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
    6. Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine
    7. What Is Given from the Heart, by Patricia C. McKissack
    8. Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson
    9. Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, by Laurie Ann Thompson
    10. Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family, by Elizabeth Zunon

The Undefeated, by Kwame Alexander

The Undefeated

This is for the unforgettable. The unafraid. The undefeated. From New York Times bestselling-author Kwame Alexander and Coretta Scott King Award-winning illustrator Kadir Nelson comes this powerful and important ode to the strength and bravery of everyday people and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest artists, athletes, and activists. With references to lyrics and lines originally shared by our most celebrated heroes, this poem digs into the not-so-distant past to underline the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present. (From Amazon)


Trombone Shorty, by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews

Trombone Shorty

A Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award-winning picture book biography from Grammy-nominated musician Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and celebrated illustrator Bryan Collier.

“Who’s that playing out there?” Bo Diddley asked the New Orleans crowd. It was a small child who’d been nicknamed “Trombone Shorty” because his trombone was twice as large as he was. Trombone Shorty was lifted in the air and carried through the audience until he reached the stage with Bo Diddley. He has been onstage ever since.

Hailing from the Tremé neighborhood of New Orleans, where music always floated in the air, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews didn’t always have the money to buy an instrument, but he did have the dream to play music. This is the story of how he made his dream take flight.

Today, Troy Andrews is a Grammy-nominated musician who tours the world with his band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue. He continues to inspire hope for the next generation in New Orleans and for music lovers everywhere. (From Amazon)

14 Cows for America, by Carmen Agra Deedy in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah

14 Cows for America

In June of 2002, a mere nine months since the September 11 attacks, a very unusual ceremony begins in a far-flung village in western Kenya. An American diplomat is surrounded by hundreds of Maasai people. A gift is about to be bestowed upon the American men, women, and children, and he is there to accept it. The gift is as unexpected as it is extraordinary.

Hearts are raw as these legendary Maasai warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away. Word of the gift will travel newswires around the globe, and for the heartsick American nation, the gift of fourteen cows emerges from the choking dust and darkness as a soft light of hope―and friendship.

With stunning paintings from Thomas Gonzalez, master storyteller Carmen Agra Deedy (in collaboration with Naiyomah) hits all the right notes in this elegant story of generosity that crosses boundaries, nations, and cultures. (From Amazon)


Together for Kwanzaa, by Juwanda G. Ford

Together for Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa? A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday. (From Amazon)



Please, Puppy, Please, by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee

Please, Puppy, Please

What happens when a couple of high-energy toddlers meet their match in an adventurous pup who has no plans of letting up? Irresistible illustrations by Coretta Scott King Award winner Kadir Nelson unleash countless memorable moments of toddlerhood and puppyhood, which families with four-legged friends will enjoy over and over again. (From Amazon)





Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad, by Ellen Levine

Henrys Freedom Box

A stirring, dramatic story of a slave who mails himself to freedom by Jane Addams Peace Award-winning author Ellen Levine and Coretta Scott King Award-winning artist Kadir Nelson.

Henry Brown doesn’t know how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. All the time he dreams about freedom, but that dream seems farther away than ever when he is torn from his family and put to work in a warehouse. Henry grows up and marries, but he is again devastated when his family is sold at the slave market. Then one day, as he lifts a crate at the warehouse, he knows exactly what he must do: He will mail himself to the North. After an arduous journey in the crate, Henry finally has a birthday -- his first day of freedom. (From Amazon)

What Is Given from the Heart, by Patricia C. McKissack

What Is Given from the Heart

This final, magnificent picture book from three-time Coretta Scott King Award winner and Newbery Honor author Patricia McKissack is a poignant and uplifting celebration of the joy of giving. 

“Misery loves company,” Mama says to James Otis. It’s been a rough couple of months for them, but Mama says as long as they have their health and strength, they’re blessed. One Sunday before Valentine’s Day, Reverend Dennis makes an announcement during the service: the Temples have lost everything in a fire, and the church is collecting anything that might be useful to them. James thinks hard about what he can add to the Temple’s “love box,” but what does he have worth giving? With her extraordinary gift for storytelling, McKissack—with stunning illustrations by April Harrison—delivers a touching, powerful tale of compassion and reminds us all that what is given from the heart, reaches the heart. (From Amazon)


Nelson Mandela, by Kadir Nelson

Nelson Mandela

This stunning picture book biography of Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson is a recipient of the Coretta Scott King Honor award.

In this lush, acclaimed book, award-winning author-illustrator Kadir Nelson tells the story of global icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela in poignant free verse and glorious illustrations.

It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa, and of the struggles of a man who eventually became the president of his country. Mandela believed in equality for all people, no matter the color of their skin. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world.

Resources in the back include an author’s note and a bibliography listing additional sources for readers who want to find out more. (From Amazon)

Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah, by Laurie Ann Thompson

Emmanuel’s Dream

Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah's inspiring true story—which was turned into a film, Emmanuel's Gift, narrated by Oprah Winfrey—is nothing short of remarkable.

Born in Ghana, West Africa, with one deformed leg, he was dismissed by most people—but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. As a boy, Emmanuel hopped to school more than two miles each way, learned to play soccer, left home at age thirteen to provide for his family, and, eventually, became a cyclist. He rode an astonishing 400 miles across Ghana in 2001, spreading his powerful message: disability is not inability. Today, Emmanuel continues to work on behalf of the disabled.

Thompson’s lyrical prose and Sean Qualls’s bold collage illustrations offer a powerful celebration of triumphing over adversity. (From Amazon)


Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family, by Elizabeth Zunon

Grandpa Cacao

Chocolate is the perfect treat, everywhere!

As a little girl and her father bake her birthday cake together, Daddy tells the story of her Grandpa Cacao, a farmer from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. In a land where elephants roam and the air is hot and damp, Grandpa Cacao worked in his village to harvest cacao, the most important ingredient in chocolate. “Chocolate is a gift to you from Grandpa Cacao,” Daddy says. “We can only enjoy chocolate treats thanks to farmers like him.” Once the cake is baked, it’s ready to eat, but this isn’t her only birthday present. There’s a special surprise waiting at the front door…

This beautifully illustrated story connects past and present as a girl bakes a chocolate cake with her father and learns about her grandfather harvesting cacao beans in West Africa. (From Amazon)