February is Black History Month. It’s a time to remember the past and pay tribute to the heroes who paved the way for change. It’s also a great time to introduce your child to books that show a diverse cast of characters living life and telling their stories. Keep reading for our pick of age-appropriate books that can help teach your child about respect and empathy for themselves and for others in the world.
Books for Kids Ages 18-24 Months
At this age, kids are starting to build their own identity. They love using words like “me” and “mine,” and try to do many things independently. You might also notice that they copy you and other people they see around them. These two sweet and simple stories about kids noticing things about themselves and their surroundings are fun and lyrical. As a bonus, your 18-24 month old will get early exposure to the fact that regardless of their skin-tone, other kids are exploring just like them.
Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim
Reading tip: Read this book with your child on your lap and point to your little one’s knees, both the left and the right, as you read.
Peekaboo Morning by Rachel Isadora
Reading tip: This book is perfect to read in the morning — once you’ve finished reading, you can go on your own peek-a-boo adventure. This story shows a child exploring his home and playing peek-a-boo, and you can do the same with your child! It’s a great game for developing object permanence, which basically means showing kids that objects still exist, even when they cannot be seen.
Books for Kids Ages 2-3
Between the ages 2-3, kids are really starting to exert their independence. It’s not called the terrible twos for nothing! They also start noticing the differences between themselves and others. For example, this is the age when they might start noticing the differences between boys and girls. Reading stories that show characters with different skin tones having regular, run-of-the-mill days, just like they would, can help them to realize that despite being different, all people share things in common.
Lola at the Library (Lola Reads) by Anna McQuinn
Reading tip: At this age, kids generally have started understanding a lot of words, but they aren’t necessarily talking much. They might ask for information by pointing and using one or two words, e.g. “teddy?” Encourage your child to ask questions by modeling it yourself. As you read through the book, pause and ask yourself questions as you look at the pictures.
Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
This book is a fun way to introduce some winter activities. If it’s not cold or snowy where you are, check out our Winter Indoor Activities to make your own snowy day together.
Books for Kids Ages 4-5
At this age, kids may start to become aware of the expectations, whether it be gender or racial, that society can place on them. Kids at this age don’t necessarily have the skills to manage the emotions that come with noticing these differences, so books like these can help them understand their own emotions and the emotions of others around them. As one Scholastic reader said, the power of diverse books is that they can “change everything for one kid, and you create empathy in 100 more.”
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
Reading tip: This book tackles the issue of being different from everyone, including the people in your family. Reading this book together is a great way to start a conversation about the things that make your child feel alone and help them build their self-worth.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
Reading tip: This book might seem like it’s for girls because the main character is a girl and the story is all about getting your hair done, but this book is great for boys too! Zuri’s father does her hair, and in doing so, can show boys that masculinity comes in all shapes and forms. And in the end, Zuri’s hair is part of her superhero costume — all kids, regardless of gender or color can appreciate that! This story just won an Oscar, so if you want to read the book and then watch it come to life, you’ll find the short film here.
Books for Kids Ages 5+
Kids at the age of 5 and above may be starting to read on their own, and they are more project-minded than they have been previously. You’ll notice that their play becomes more about building structures or acting out scenarios. These stories help kids to develop a growth mindset and show that with dedication and hard work, they can do anything!
Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed
Reading tip: This book is based on the story of Dr. Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel into space. It shows how as a child she was discouraged from dreaming big. Once you’ve read this book to your child, you can start to ask them what big dreams they might have for themselves.
I Can Be Anything! Don’t Tell Me I Can’t by Diane Dillon
Reading tip: This book is great for helping your child to dream big and talk to that inner voice that tells them they can’t. Take a minute after reading this book to talk to your child about their big dreams and what small goals they need to achieve before they get there.
Books for Kids Ages 100+
We’re all kids at heart, some of us have just been on the planet a little longer! This inspiring book is a lovely reminder that no matter how old you are, you can always learn a new skill.
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard, Oge Mora (Illustrator)
Reading tip: No matter how old you are, you’ll wish you could be like Mary Walker when you grow up. Read this book when you’re feeling in a bit of slump, and let Mary Walker’s uplifting story of learning to read at 101 years old turn your day around.
We hoped you like our list of books by black authors or featuring black characters. We wanted to give you a list of books that help kids form better connections with their inner selves and with the world around them. If you’re looking to talk to your kids more about Black History Month, there are a lot of great lists of books about historical and current black cultural icons that you can find.