9 book ideas to celebrate Black History Month

By Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist

This month is a special time. Since 1976, February has been officially recognized as Black History Month, although the celebration goes back decades beforehand. Black History Month honors not only the achievements of African Americans, but also recognizes their importance in U.S. history.

Need some ideas for celebrating the occasion in your classroom? Below are nine great books to share with your students during Black History Month:

1. Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
By: Doreen Rappaport

In this powerful picture-book biography, Doreen Rappaport tells the story of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., from his experiences as a child to his profound impact as an adult. Rappaport mixes actual quotes from Dr. King with her own words to tell the story. The book is written with simple, direct language and features bright, vivid drawings, making it a perfect way to introduce Dr. King’s legacy to students.

2. The Story of Ruby Bridges
By: Robert Coles

Based on true events, The Story of Ruby Bridges follows the six-year-old’s journey as the first African-American student at an all-white school in New Orleans, Louisiana. Despite strong opposition, with parents pulling their students out of the school and angry protesters, Ruby perseveres. The story paints a portrait of the turmoil in 1960s America and the strength of Ruby and her family.

3. Henry’s Freedom Box
By: Ellen Levine

Henry has no idea how old he is. Nobody keeps records of slaves’ birthdays. Dreaming of freedom and a better life, Henry comes up with an idea. He’ll mail himself to the north. Written by Ellen Levine, Henry’s Freedom Box follows Henry’s thrilling journey to freedom.

4. The Other Side
By: Jacqueline Woodson

A fence separates Clover and her best friend, Annie. Because Clover’s mom won’t let her cross over to the white side of the fence, the two girls sit on top of it. The Other Side showcases the power of friendship, despite differences.

5. The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963
By: Christopher Paul Curtis

A Newbery Honor-winning classic, The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963, tells the story of ten-year-old Kenny and his family as they take a trip from their hometown in Michigan to Birmingham, Alabama.

6. Bud, Not Buddy
By: Christopher Paul Curtis

Also by Christopher Paul Curtis, Bud, Not Buddy, follows ten-year-old Bud’s journey to find his father. Taking place in the depression, Bud, Not Buddy has won a Newbery Medal and Christopher Paul Curtis was recognized with the 2000 Coretta Scott King Award, given to outstanding African-American authors.

7. Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass
By: Dean Robbins

What would Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass talk about if they were to sit down and have tea? Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass answers that exact question. Dean Robbins’ take on the conversation sees the two discussing the rights of women and African Americans in a thrilling read tailored toward students.

8. Chains
By: Laurie Halse Anderson

If an entire nation could seek its freedom, why not a girl?

Chains, a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, follows thirteen-year-old Isabel’s continuous fight for freedom after she was falsely promised it upon her previous owner’s death. The novel offers a unique viewpoint from the Revolutionary War.

9. Rosa
By: Nikki Giovanni

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, retells the classic story of how Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama during the 1950s. Told from a unique and original perspective, Rosa is a great way to introduce Rosa Park’s story to your students.


How else do you celebrate Black History Month with your students? Did we miss any books that they’re reading this month? Let us know in the comments.

Looking for more ideas? Explore Accelerated Reader Bookfinder for hundreds of book ideas and so much more!

Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet, Communications Specialist
Ken Stoflet is the communications specialist at Renaissance. He has been with the company since 2015 and can be found crafting anything from a press release to a tweet. In his spare time, Ken enjoys spending time with his friends, lifting, and making trips to the Frozen Tundra to cheer on the Green Bay Packers.


  1. S.Bellomo says:

    For older non-fiction readers, the “Who was Martin L. King, Who was Rosa Parks” are great choices!

  2. Dvawn Maza says:

    We read books and passages related to the topic. We also have a Black History program.

  3. Carly says:

    White Socks Only by Albert Whitman. In the segregated south, a young girl thinks that she can drink from a fountain marked “Whites Only” because she is wearing her white socks.

    • Carolina says:

      Love to use “white socks only” because then it starts conversations about how other races were treated as well.

  4. Narda Lugo says:

    I love to read the history that the African American’s endured…to demonsstare how much we as a country have evolved, and hopefully continue to evolve.

  5. Anne T. says:

    These are such great selections.

  6. P R says:

    We watch Discovery Education videos about famous African Americans who impacted the United States such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Tubman, Jackie Robinson, and Rosa Parks and many others.

  7. Rita Platt says:

    Great books! One of my favs is Elijah of Buxton.

    Here is an article a friend and I wrote about the literary history of African American males. https://community.theeducatorcollaborative.com/ageofliteracy-cant-read-vs-wont-read-reading-engagement-and-african-american-males/

    Here are my favorite books to engage African American boys. http://www.weteachwelearn.org/2016/04/engaging-of-african-american-boy-with-high-quality-literature/

  8. David Keech says:

    I like to point out autobiographies and biographies of black athletes. It is amazing to read stories of oppression and struggles, but refreshing to read so many examples of perseverance.

  9. Renee Graham says:

    We trace our hands in multi-colored paper and make a Martin’s Big Words bulletin board. We write a “big” word on each hand.

  10. Diamantina Garcia says:

    I love the book Rosa the students at my campus really enjoy learning about her and her determination.

  11. J. Casey Lane says:

    There is also an excellent stage adaptation of “Bud, Not Buddy.”

  12. I will share these book ideas with the teachers and display these and others in the library.

  13. Christina says:

    The Who was series is a must read. Kiddos love Martins Big Words. I haven’t read Chains sounds like a good one.

  14. Kim Mitchell says:

    We too love the book Rosa. It always starts good conversation.

  15. Lloyd says:

    We read Bud Not Buddy, watch a lot of videos about the civil rights era, and then discuss how it can relate to today’s situations.

  16. Meredith Sanders says:

    I will share these with our reading teachers!

  17. Kristina says:

    The Bus Ride is the Rosa Parks story through the eyes of a little girl. I love it!!!

  18. carol roberts says:

    Great read!

  19. Chimere McRae says:

    Great list! I have most of them in my class library.

  20. Francine Canarios says:

    The other side has been one of my favorites for years.
    Great suggestions!

  21. Michael says:

    Awesome selections! Definitely good reads.

  22. Andrea says:

    The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson is also a great resource for younger children.

  23. Deanna says:

    Thanks for sharing. This was very interesting, and I will pass it along to others on my campus.

  24. Jena says:

    Some of my favorite books to share during this month. A great list

  25. Laura Shultz says:

    We love reading and discussing the story of Ruby Bridges. My second graders are amazed that she was so brave and went through that. They kept asking this year,”What were those grown-ups thinking behaving that way!”

  26. Maurita says:

    It is really a great and useful piece of info. I am glad that you shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thanks for sharing.