Exposing preschool aged children to black history

"History is a story like any other, but black history is a story so devoid of logic that it frustrates the young reader. The young reader in my house, told of slavery and segregation, asked in disbelief, 'What? Why?'. We - the parents of black children, the parents of all children - still need to tell that story."[1]

These sentiments, shared by author, Rumaan Alam, are the sentiments of many parents. Still, other parents question, "Why should we teach Black History?" "Why does it need to be singled out, at all?"

"Should the subject be reserved for when they are older and can better understand it?" "Won't this be taught when they are in school?" "Do schools even address Black History adequately?"

Ultimately, if we are to be our child's first teacher, and we will teach them any history at all, Black history is a part of American history.

Whether you are that parent who chooses to celebrate and embrace a specified time to honor the history of Black Americans, or whether you choose to incorporate Black history as you teach your child about history all year long, the Alachua County Library District has resources available for you.

Let's consider some titles that make what may seem like a heavy topic, which can only be understood by older generations, a little lighter - stories written and illustrated in a manner to catch the attention of even the youngest of our children.

Black history is not all about slavery and losses. These stories highlight the historical successes and contributions of African Americans in America.

What a great opportunity to inspire hope and vision for young black children, to have example of persons who resemble them and have achieved great things throughout history.

What an equally great opportunity to instill a sense of compassion and oneness in our children who do not look like the characters in these books with those who share their American history and have contributed to the comforts, technologies and liberties that we have come to enjoy in this country.

Click on any of the titles below to place a hold and check it out using our Outside Service or during Browsing Hours at any location:

Dream Big, Little One book cover Two Friends book coverBrave Ballerina book coverMahalia Jackson Walking with Kings and Queens book coverMae Among the Stars book coverFancy Party Gowns book coverWe March book coverBe A King book cover

As author, John Ridley, states ... 

"For children, diversity needs to be real and not merely relegated to learning the names of the usual suspects during Black History month or enjoying south-of-the-border cuisine on Cinco de Mayo. It means talking to and spending time with kids not like them so that they may discover those kids are in fact just like them."[2]

As we work our way through the current pandemic, we can begin to help our nonblack children experience the reality that black children are just like them through the safety of interaction with books, especially if the majority of their literary exposure has portrayed characters who look like themselves.

These are some books containing young, black fictional characters that preschool aged children can enjoy:

please, baby, please book coverShades of Black book coverLola at the Library book coverPeekaboo MorningWhistle for Willie book cover Peter's Chair book coverWhose Toes are Those? book cover

Hopefully, after the pandemic, our children will meet each other in person with a greater sense of oneness, equality and admiration - and we will be the proud parents who taught it to them first.

Check out the works of author, Rachel Isadora, for retellings of traditional fairytales, including black characters, to help further generalize the concept of sameness in small children.

Click here to access guides and tips on how to start the conversation about race, social justice and inclusion with young chidren.


[1] Alam, Rumaan. "Children’S Books About Black History, Heavy On Biographies (Published 2018)". Nytimes.Com, 2021, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/02/books/review/black-history-month-childrens-picture.html.

[2] "John Ridley Quotes." BrainyQuote.com. BrainyMedia Inc, 2021. 13 January 2021. https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/john_ridley_614942

Posted by TabreW on January 19, 2021