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Celebrating Our President and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

January 21, 2013

Today, we celebrate President Obama’s Inauguration and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday. We thought it would be nice to share a few of our favorite picturebooks that celebrate these leaders, as well as others that help educate children on the Civil Rights movement, slavery and African-American history. Since February is almost here, you should be able to find many of these titles in bookstores as part of Black History Month displays.

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I Have a Dream by Kadir Nelson

2013 marks the 50 year anniversary of Dr. King’s most memorable speech, and this stunningly illustrated book by Caldecott Honor winner Kadir Nelson is the perfect way to introduce the speech to children. Dr. King’s inspirational, hopeful words are just as relevant today as they were 50 years ago, and the rich paintings and CD of Dr. King giving the speech make this a package families and educators will treasure.

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Of Thee I Sing by Barack Obama and Loren Long

This touching book is both a tribute to 13 groundbreaking Americans and a father’s letter to his daughters. President Obama shares traits that he finds inspirational in these heroes, as well as the ways he sees those traits exemplified in his children, and children across the country. Loren Long captures the playfulness and innocence of youth in his illustrations. This is a wonderful book for families to read together, an ode to pursuing your dreams and celebrating your own unique strengths.

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Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton and Raul Colon

This is a fascinating look at the Civil Rights movement and the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, written by the daughter of a Civil Rights activist. Paula Young Shelton grew up deep within the movement, even calling Dr. King “Uncle Martin,” and this thoughtful book shares not only her intimate perspective, but the views of a child growing up in such turbulent times. Raul Colon’s vibrant, colorful art pairs perfectly with the text in this highly-acclaimed picturebook, named Best Children’s Book of the Year by Bank Street College of Education.

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The People Could Fly by Virginia Hamilton and Leo and Diane Dillon

This classic story was taken from Virginia Hamilton’s Coretta Scott King Award-winning collection of folktales with the same name. It’s the story of slaves who used magic words to fly away to freedom, as well as the story of those who were less fortunate, and had only the dream of freedom to imagine as they told and retold this story. Illustrated by her long-time collaborators, The Dillons, this is a full-color, beautiful edition of a powerful tale.

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Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson and Christian Robinson

Full of interesting, dynamic art, this biography of a lesser-known member of the Harlem Renaissance, singer Florence Mills, will inspire and educate children. Born to former slaves and gifted with an amazing voice, Florence made it to Broadway but turned down a coveted Ziegfeld role in order to support all-black musicals. Check out a behind-the-scenes conversation about the making of the book with its editor here.

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Never Forgotten by Patricia McKissack and Leo and Diane Dillon

This gorgeous Coretta Scott King Honor award winner tells the story of a young black boy sold into slavery in Africa and shipped to America, and his devoted father who is left behind to mourn him. Written in verse, it is sad, moving and lushly illustrated by the Dillons.

Do you have a favorite book you like to read for Black History month? We’d love to hear your recommendations!

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 21, 2013 9:12 pm

    Thank you for your recommendations. I introduced my young students to I Have a Dream and it inspired them to speak of their own dreams – some were surprising and delightful. I imagine my students would enjoy the other books from your list. I’ll be looking for them.

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