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Water Cooler: Black Month History reads for the family

UPDATED: Tue., Feb. 9, 2021

“Salt in His Shoes” tells the story of how Michael Jordan’s parents taught him patience.  (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books)
“Salt in His Shoes” tells the story of how Michael Jordan’s parents taught him patience. (Courtesy of Simon & Schuster Books)

Stories have an incredible power to help us relate to one another. This makes them a great avenue for learning during Black History Month, especially for younger audiences. Here are some children’s books to try out for Black History Month that can help make important conversations and history more accessible and relatable for kids.

“Trombone Shorty,” written by Troy Andrews, illustrated by Bryan Collier – Troy Andrews was nicknamed “Trombone Shorty” because his trombone was twice as big as he was, but that didn’t hold him back from his dream of playing music. Today, Troy Andrews is a musician who tours the world with his band, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue.

“Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad,” written by Levine Ellen, illustrated by Kadir Nelson – Henry Brown dreams of freedom, but his dream seems out of reach after he is taken away from his family to work in a warehouse. He comes up with a plan to escape to freedom – by mailing himself to the North.

“Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Brian Pinkney,” – Learn about Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington, “King of the Keys,” who was playing compositions for audiences as a teenager and went on to be one of the most iconic figures in the history of jazz music.

“The Story of Ruby Bridges,” written by Robert Coles, illustrated by George Ford – After a judge orders Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary, Ruby must face angry mobs of parents, community members and other kids who are outraged at her attendance of an all-white school.

“If a Bus Could Talk,” written and illustrated by Faith Ringgold – On riding the bus on her way to school, a young girl named Marcie learns the story of Rosa Parks and how she became a major figure of the civil rights movement. With a small stroke of magic, Marcie gets to meet Rosa Parks at a birthday party alongside other distinguished guests.

“Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream,” written by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan, illustrated by Kadir Nelson – You might not know it now, but as a child, Michael Jordan was ready to give up on his dreams of playing basketball out of a fear that he might not grow tall enough to be a famous athlete. His parents found a creative way to teach him about what it really takes to achieve your dreams, such as determination and patience.

“The Patchwork Path: A Quilt Map to Freedom,” written by Bettye Stroud, illustrated by Erin Susanne Bennett – Hannah’s papa has decided to try to escape to freedom. He leaves her a patchwork quilt containing a series of clues that serve as a guide along the Underground Railroad, leading to escape in Canada.

“Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker,” written by Patricia Hruby Powell, illustrated by Christian Robinson – Through vibrant illustrations and powerful verse, learn the story of world-renowned performer and civil rights activist, Josephine Baker, who worked her way to some of the grandest stages in the world and continues to inspire today.

“The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem’s Greatest Bookstore,” written by Vaunda Micheux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie – Lewis’s dad, Lewis Michaux Sr., opened a bookstore in Harlem called the National Memorial African Bookstore. People from all over would come to visit, foster new ideas and learn from one another.

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