Black History Month is only a couple weeks away, and there are so many wonderful ways to celebrate with your children. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or complicated, but there are some easy and fun ways to honor the occasion. The recommendations in this post are really for the under 10 crowd, understanding that different children are more or less prepared for various types of conversations and that non-neural typical children may need additional scaffolding or engagement.
There are lots of reasons to begin conversations regarding race and Black history with young children. First off, you normalize talking about race in a healthy way. When you talk about race in your home you are giving your child the vocabulary they need to talk about what they observe in the world around them. If the conversation is happening in your home with you, your child learns that race is not a bad thing to talk about, and that it is safe to come to you for information and guidance.
We also know that much of our internal bias and negative stereotypes come from passively absorbing the way race is presented in our culture. As a parent or care provider, you have the opportunity to disrupt that narrative and help your child internalize positive messages.
Celebrating events such as Black History Month also provides a really easy opportunity to introduce your child to Black heroes/heroines and role models. Black children in particular need to see mirrors of themselves in all arenas. There is no dream too big for them, and they come from a long history of courage, resilience, and excellence.
As a mom of 4 kids, I know that fitting extra anything into the day can feel like a lot. Between school, practice, church, and other activities, its hard sometimes to squeeze more in. So for many families this will take intentionality. Listen to Black musical artists from various eras and styles and talk about them as you drive everywhere you have to go, have the bedtime story be about Black history, the nights you get to sit down to dinner together have a couple facts prepared to share, or change up the movie for family movie night to be related to Black history. As I said, this doesn’t have to be a big production, rework some things you already do to tailor them to your goals.
So let’s get down to resources. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel here, there is so much amazing material out there for families to utilize!
Start at the library. While ordering books, movies, and music is convenient, its also an expense not everyone can fit in the budget right now. That’s ok, your library should have a ton of options for resources for you. Get some checked out now before the February rush too! If your library is lacking, be sure to put in a request for specific materials you’d like to see.
Here’s the books I have in my library at home that are kid tested and approved. If you click on the picture you will be taken to a link to be able to purchase the book. The list starts with stories of slavery and escaping to freedom, to the Civil Rights Movement, to modern day excellence and history making. When you get an array of books, be sure to not just find ones that focus on the struggle, but on the success as well.
Introducing slavery to young children can be tricky, but starting with people’s stories makes it not such an overwhelming, nebulous concept. Both of these books help do that.
In talking about slavery, its also always good to focus on the strength and resiliency that led even children to escape oppression.
We Shall Overcome is a song that began during the slave era and continued to be a powerful anthem through the Civil Rights Movement. This book reads like a song and tells the history of the tune, and the spirit behind it.
Kids love to hear the story of Ruby Bridges because it connects with their lives, going to school is not a foreign concept to them. As kids age, its an easy way to bring up the continued problem of school segregation.
These books are all a way to discuss the Civil Rights Movement in a way that makes sense to kids, speaks honestly to the injustice and cruelty, but also is age appropriate in terms of discussing violence and hatred.
Your little sports lover can follow the story of a White father and son attending Jackie Robinson’s first game in Major League Baseball, and the mixed reactions that created for people.
This book is one you will find yourself wanting to read even if you child has wandered off! The simple illustrations and encouraging words are empowering.
If you can only invest in one book for this month, this is a great one for it. 1-2 pages of reading with your kids each day will introduce them to heroes of Black history through poems and stories.
I love this book because it doesn’t focus on famous people from Black history, but on the intelligence and ingenuity of little known Black inventors.
This book is stunning. The illustrations and story are positively captivating as you learn about the first Black female principal dancer with the American Ballet Theater.
Regardless of your politics, Obama’s presidency was historic and worth celebrating. My kids adore this book because it includes all the best pictures of Obama with kids.
What are you doing to celebrate Black history month with young kids? What books do your kids love? Feel free to drop more recommendations in the comments!