Books Featuring African-American Children

February is African American History Month, so what better time than to intentionally seek out some books that feature African American children? Whatever your family or classroom’s racial and ethnic make-up, it’s always positive to show our children and students diverse people in the books we read with them.

Picture Books

When I Am Old With You by Angela Johnson

A grandson spends the day with his grandfather. As they do various activities together, he imagines that he will be able to do all of those things with his grandpa each day when he is grown up. Such a sweet read with beautiful illustrations!

Grandma Lena’s Big Ol’ Turnip by Denia Lewis Hester

Adapted from a Russian folktale, Grandma Lena discovers an enormous turnip growing in her garden… And calls on the whole family to help pull it up out of the ground! The ending is a fun celebration with the whole community.

Lola in the Library by Anna McQuinn

One of our favorite books to read as a family! Bold, heart-warming illustrations make this an eye-catching book for children. And the story of Lola’s regular trips to the library resonate with many families who also enjoy spending time together.

Is It My Turn Now? by Catherine Lukas

Part of a series of Little Bill, this book is one that our family often reads. It shows a tight-knit family that  pulls together to help each other out in the children’s various activities, ranging from chess to basketball to a school play.

Board Books

In the Wind by Elizabeth Spurr

A great book as spring is around the corner, this is the story of a little girl who plays with her kite on a windy day. Just when she thinks it may have blown away and lost forever, she gets a lovely surprise!

Good Night Baby by Cheryl Willis Hudson

A slightly older board book that has a timeless quality about it. The whole family is pictured in the book as they get Baby read for bedtime.

Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim

Loving and playful text from a parent’s point of view. My children loved this book as babies and toddlers, and they giggled every time we read it!

Kia Tanisha Drives Her Car by Eloise Greenfield

A girl plays outside and visits her friend down the street while trying out some newfound freedom in a play car. Very short text that would be great for a child with a shorter attention span.




Slowing Down as a Family

When my daughters and I snuggled on the couch this week to read Quiet in the Garden by Aliki, it reminded me of the importance of slowing down as a family. I loved that this book emphasized the need to slow down and enjoy quiet. In fact, when we do slow down, we notice things that we didn’t notice before because we were too frenzied to notice! We wear ourselves out, run ourselves ragged, become stressed and irritable and exhausted… until we force ourselves to slow down and rest.

My husband and I plan regular intervals of experiencing quiet and rest as a family. We find that we need to slow down from extra activity and just enjoy one another and the world around us. We do this as individuals, as a couple and as an entire family. Here are some of our favorite ways to slow down with our kids:

  1. Leave an open weekend on your calendar. Sometimes our weekends fill up quickly with birthday parties, church events, appointments, trips or guests visiting our home. My husband and I enjoy having an occasional weekend that is reserved for family time.
  2. Make breakfast together. My husband likes to mix up homemade waffles or blueberry pancakes and cook with my oldest daughter. My youngest daughter and I help set the table. We enjoy sharing a yummy, special breakfast together!
  3. Spend time in nature or outdoors. Take a walk on a local trail, bike to the park or play a game outside in the yard. Our girls enjoy kicking around soccer balls, playing tag, hide-and-seek and red light, green light. This is also a good time of the year to check out a neighborhood farmer’s market, go apple picking or visit a pumpkin patch.
  4. Play board games or do a puzzle. Even though our girls are young, we play games like Hi Ho Cherry-O, Chutes & Ladders and Candy Land. We also enjoy doing puzzles together on the floor in our sunroom. Almost all of our games and puzzles came from thrift stores. If you don’t have many games and puzzles, these can be great gift suggestions for relatives who ask!

These are just some ideas to get you started in taking some time to slow down with your family. I would love to hear how your family intentionally slows down, whatever the age of your children! My husband and I continue to make it a habit because that time is so refreshing to our family and reminds us of the joy of experiencing life together.

Best Ages: pre-k – 2nd grade

For Parents:

  • When you reach the last page of Quiet in the Garden, ask your child to find all the animal friends who join the boy for a picnic.
  • Visit a local gardening center and buy some supplies to plant a flower or vegetable in a pot. Even though we live in the city, we have been able to grow cherry tomatoes and flowers in pots on the back steps of our apartment home. Our daughters particularly like to help with the watering and picking of the cherry tomatoes!

For Teachers:

  • Do a matching activity of the garden animals and the foods they eat as the boy observes what is happening around him in the garden. Print out free clipart and tape or hang with magnets on your board for the whole class to see.
  • Take your class outside and be nature observers. Set a timer for 1, 2 or 3 minutes depending on the age of your students and ask them sit to quietly and observe what is going on around them. Then sit in a circle as a class and share what you saw. Finish up the time by playing fun group games, such as freeze tag or red light, green light.

Back to School Read

August means preparing for the new school year. Even now, many parents are trying to fit in a whirlwind of activity before September: last-minute play dates and family getaways, shopping for new clothes and class supplies, paying school fees and arranging car pools. Teachers are enjoying the last days of “freedom”…. or scrambling to get their classroom and curriculum in order! Children are experiencing a wide range of emotions about going to school for the first time or returning to school (as are their parents!). No matter where you are on the “back-to-school” spectrum, Keisha Ann Can! by Daniel Kirk is worth a read with your child.

Keisha Ann Can! provides endearing and gentle encouragement for students who are entering preschool-1st grade. It was a library favorite in our home this past week. I liked it because the title character is African-American and the illustrations feature a multi-ethnic classroom. The text had questions that made for a fun read-aloud with young children who can chime in the response line: “Keisha Ann Can!” My preschool-aged daughter liked the book because it spoke to her own desire to be independent. This week as I washed dishes, threw laundry in the washing machine and chased a messy toddler around our home, I frequently heard my preschooler turning the pages of this book while reciting lines or making up new ones altogether, followed by the exuberant title line:“Keisha Ann Can!” This picture book added lots of sunshine to our home for several days.

Join in the read-aloud fun with Keisha Ann Can! as you prepare for the new school year!

Best Age: entering pre-k to 1st grade

For Parents:

  • Ask your child what he/she enjoys doing independently. After reading, discuss which things Keisha Ann did in the book that your child looks forward to doing at school this year.
  • Have your child draw a picture of what he/she is looking forward to doing at school this year.

For Teachers:

  • Read aloud Keisha Ann Can! in the first week of school. Ask students what they have enjoyed doing so far at school or in your classroom. Record answers on the white board or butcher block paper.
  • Look back at pictures in the book and compare what Keisha Ann does during the school day to what your students enjoy doing. Which are the same? Which are different?
  • Create a class book of  “_____ Can!” such as “Kindergarten Can!” or “Our Class Can!” Have students write one line of what he/she can do at school (or provide written statements in advance for students who are not yet writing independently) and allow students to illustrate their page. Compile and read through the book together as a class.