Six Picture Books & Chapter Book Guides to Celebrate Black History Month with Young Students

by Andy Minshew


February marks Black History Month, a dedicated observance of the achievements, heritage, and contributions of Black Americans. It can also be an opportunity to find resources to integrate Black history into your curriculum throughout the year.

In this article, we’ll talk about the connection between Black History Month and the concept of Windows and Mirrors, a framework that can inform your inclusive curriculum plans. Plus, you’ll find activities—including picture books and classroom discussion guides—for elementary educators that honor Black history and heritage.

Windows and Mirrors: Honoring Black History and Heritage

Windows and Mirrors in education is a powerful framework that encourages inclusive excellence in the classroom. It suggests that literature should act as both a “window” through which readers can gain insights into the experiences of others and as a “mirror” reflecting their own identities and experiences. These windows and mirrors also function as “sliding glass doors” readers can walk through to explore the world created by the author.

In the context of observing Black History Month, incorporating mirrors means including literature that reflects the identities and experiences of Black learners in your curriculum throughout the year. Representation in stories allows young readers to see themselves positively portrayed, fostering a sense of belonging and self-worth.

Additionally, including windows means introducing children to stories that offer a view into the heritage and history of Black individuals through classroom lessons and activities. These narratives provide opportunities for readers to develop empathy for those whose experiences are different from their own and to gain more informed perspectives.

Observing Black History Month with 6 Children’s Books

Black History Month Picture Books

Defying Gravity cover1. Defying Gravity: The Story of Mae Jemison by Elizabeth Gray (Spanish: Desafiando la gravedad: La historia de Mae Jemison)

Reflecting on the life of Mae Jemison, a NASA astronaut and the first Black woman to travel in space, this picture book biography is written to inspire young readers. In it they will discover Jemison’s resilience and how she utilized her passion for science, art, and the stars to achieve her dreams.

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2. Taking Flight: The Story of Bessie Coleman by Elizabeth Grey (Spanish: Tomando vuelo: La historia de Bessie Coleman)

This picture book biography introduces students to the life of Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to hold a pilot’s license. It is a thoughtfully written tribute to an aviation pioneer, reminding readers that with perseverance and passion, they too can soar to new heights.

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3. I Want to Be a Scientist Like George Washington Carver (Spanish: Quiero ser un científico como George Washington Carver)

Explore the legacy of George Washington Carver, inventor and botanist, with your students. Through engaging storytelling and vibrant illustrations, young readers will discover how Carver’s deep appreciation for nature led to his journey to become a trailblazing agricultural innovator.

4. Good Trouble: The Story of John Lewis (Spanish: Buenos problemas: La historia de John Lewis)

Use this picture book biography to teach students about Civil Rights activist and congressman John Lewis. It is a tribute to a man who dedicated his life to making “good trouble” and encourages children to stand up for what is right, even when it’s not easy to do so.

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Black History Month Chapter Book Activity Guides

Bud not Buddy cover5. Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renée Watson (Second Grade)

Harlem’s Little Blackbird explores the remarkable life of the influential Black singer Florence Mills during the Harlem Renaissance. Mills broke racial barriers and championed Civil Rights through her art.

6. I Am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer (Third Grade)

This biography distills the essence of the Civil Rights leader’s life for young readers. The narrative focuses on King’s unwavering commitment to equality, reminding readers of the power of individuals to ignite change.

7. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (Fourth Grade)

This Newbery Medal-winning story follows the ten-year-old protagonist, Bud Caldwell, against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Determined to find his father, who he believes is the jazz musician Herman E. Calloway, Bud embarks on an unforgettable journey across the United States.


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