Books that Quietly Change Culture

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is a classic in children’s literature. Written in 1962, it was well-received from the get-go and even won the Caldecott Medal that year. Who can’t relate to the wonder of a fresh blanket of snow? The Snowy Day was also one of the first picture books to feature an African American child as the main character. Written in the midst of the Civil Rights movement this book quietly made a very important statement.

I read an article that ran on NPR on January 28, 2012 (the 50th anniversary of The Snowy Day) that shared one of the ways this book made an impact:

"There was a teacher [who] wrote in to Ezra, saying, 'The kids in my class, for the first time, are using brown crayons to draw themselves.' " Pope says. "These are African-American children. Before this, they drew themselves with pink crayons. But now, they can see themselves."

Books and stories have power like that. They may not start a revolution (although some have); they often, however, subtly and quietly impact the people who read them. The good ones can help us see beyond appearances and help us connect through shared experiences.

February is Black History Month. Our country has come along way concerning race relations; we also have a long way to go. In an effort to celebrate the beauty African American history and culture has brought to our country, often in the midst of the brutally hard I want to share some of my favorite books that, like The Snowy Day, feature main characters of color. Some take place in our current day and time, others take place in history, all of them offer us the chance to learn and understand as they quietly impact the culture of today.

Modern day Stories:

Biographies and Memoirs:

Historical Fiction:

Picture Books:

If you and your kids decide to pick up any one of these titles, you won’t be sorry. Each one contains an excellent story that will entertain and challenge as you read along. These books have inspired me, moved me to tears and outrage, made me laugh and filled me with wonder. I hope they do the same for you.

In case you are interested, I plan to highlight a few of them in more detail on my Instagram account over the next month.

What books would you add to the list?

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