Here are five of my favourite read-aloud books that I like to use with my students during Black History Month. Don’t get me wrong…these books can (and should be) used year-round to discuss issues around equity and diversity. However, if you are looking for something specific for Black History Month then I strongly recommend these books. I will also include links to the books in French but keep in mind that if a book is not available in French, it is still a valuable read in English. At the end of the day, it is not always the language that something important is taught in, but rather the message students take away from the read-aloud.
I have also included three free activities that you can do with your students at the end of this post. These are activities that can be used with ANY read-aloud but are especially great with books about diversity.
- I Am Enough by Grace Byers
I Am Enough is a story about loving who we are and respecting others despite our differences. The book is beautifully written in simple to understand metaphors and rhymes. One of my favourite quotes in the book is “I’m not meant to be like you; you’re not meant to be like me.”. This quote always resonates with my students because the word “meant” in that context implies that we are meant to be different. These differences are what make us unique. They are what make us “enough”.
- Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Warner
This book tells the story of a courageous black woman from Nova Scotia. Her name is Viola Desmond. In 1946, Viola Desmond attended a movie theater. Shortly after, an usher asked Viola to move from the downstairs level up to the balcony because of the colour of her skin. Viola did not budge. She knew it was unfair and stood up for herself. Soon after, the police were called and Viola Desmond was arrested and fined. When she was released, she continued to fight against the segregation of black people, even after her appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada was refused.
Her fight prompted other members of the community to come together and fight against injustice and racial discrimination. Viola Desmond is a true hero. She is the first black woman to be represented on the Canadian 10 dollar bill.
- Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’O
Sulwe is a book about a girl whose skin is darker than everyone’s, including her own sister and her parents. At school, Sulwe is called many hurtful nicknames because of the colour of her skin. Sulwe desperately tries different things to lighten the colour of her skin. When she wakes up one morning, she is discouraged that her prayer was not answered. Her mother has a conversation with her about the meaning of her name and what it really means to be beautiful. That night, a shooting star appears in her bedroom. Sulwe follows the shooting star who tells her a story about the two sisters, Day and Night. It is only then that Sulwe realizes that together we make the world we know. Sulwe finally feels confident and beautiful. She no longer wants to hide and is ready to go out into the world again.
- You Matter by Christian Robinson
You Matter is a book with beautiful illustrations and an equally beautiful message. Christian Robinson beautiful explains how everything, no matter how little, how far or how lost matters. He does a fantastic job of including animals, nature and humans in his list of things that matter. After reading this book, I ask students to think about what matters to them, who they matter to and why they matter. Even during our highest highs and our lowest lows, it is important to remember that we always matter.
- Little Leaders – Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
This book is a great collection of mini-biographies about 40 influential black women in black history. Each biography is one page long and touches on their personal life, accomplishments, struggles and contributions to society. It is a great book to keep in your classroom library if students are working on biography writing. My students usually complete a Biography Lapbook (read more about it here) about an influential person and this serves as a great reference and resource for their project. At the end of the book, there are also two pages worth of recommended resources including websites, books, recordings and films that students can watch or listen to.
There are so many great books to use during Black History Month. These are just a few of my favourite ones.
If you are looking for some activities to do after your read-aloud, here are three that you can download for free when you sign up below. These can be used with any book or story but are especially great with books about diversity.