African American History month is a time to reflect on the contributions of African Americans and important events that have shaped our nation. Although African American history is should not only reflect the Civil Rights Movement of the mid-twentieth century, this is a period that deeply moves and inspires our family.
Our latest read to recommend is A Sweet Smell of Roses by Angela Johnson. It tells the story of two sisters who join others in their neighborhood to march peacefully for equal rights, and their experience listening to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The illustrations are incredible charcoal drawings that add to the greatness of the historic moments the book encompasses.
Please feel free to share a book that you are reading for African American History month!
Best Ages: kindergarten – 2nd grade
*For further exploration and ideas on how to explore African American History this month, check out this website, with contributing work from the Library of Congress, the National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian Institution and more. You can access easy links for audio and video archives and teacher ideas from the top left panel on the home page.
At our library’s annual book sale a couple weeks ago, this copy of My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr. by Marion Dane Bauer caught my eye. Finding age-appropriate and engaging non-fiction for young children can be a challenge. I was delighted to discover that this book gives an excellent explanation of the civil rights movement, the life of Dr. King and the result of his work and countless others who tirelessly fought alongside him for the rights of all people in our country.
This book is a great introduction to non-fiction for young children and early readers while providing exposure to the realities that people of color faced, such as separate schools and restaurants. Though the topic may be challenging or uncomfortable for some teachers and parents, I find it important to address the history of racial disparity with our children in a straightforward and simple manner as demonstrated in My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr. Although current events and politics in our country have shown that racial tensions are not a thing of the past, this gem of a book reminds me to be thankful that many people are carrying on Dr. King’s legacy. And the life and work of people like Martin Luther King, Jr. has impacted my family’s life in a personally significant way: my husband and I are a biracial, bicultural couple who would not have been able to legally drink from the same water fountain a century ago, much less be married and raise our beautiful kids. How wonderful to share with our children the incredible contributions of public servants such as Dr. King who inspires us to continue the work of improving race relations and valuing and upholding the inherent dignity of all people.
Best Age: prek – 2nd grade
After reading My First Biography: Martin Luther King, Jr., ask your child: What did his mom always tell him? Did Dr. King believe his mom? (Note: this is a powerful reminder to parents of the influence our words can have on our children.)
Remind your child of the importance to show respect and kindness to everyone, even if they look different or act different from us. What are ways that your child shows kindness and respect to others at school, the park, the library, etc.?
Create a T-chart with a column for Before and a column for After. Ask students what life was like for Dr. King before he told people they were “just as good as anybody.” And what was life likeafter people believed his message and the laws changed?
Remind your students of the importance to show respect and kindness to everyone, even if they look different or act different from us. What are ways that your class shows respect toward each other? Toward people outside the class/school?
Show a clip of the most well-known except of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (I recommend stopping at 1:47). What was their reaction? Ask them why people were clapping and cheering when Dr. King spoke.