black history

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:

The One Crazy Summer Trilogy

Can I tell you how much I love Delphine and her sisters, cause I surely do!

I finished the second book of this trilogy, P.S. Be Eleven, a few weeks ago (after finishing the third, Gone Crazy in Alabama, last year) and was reminded again of how special these books, and these girls are.

Author Focus: Steve Sheinken

Sometimes history gets the bad rap of being boring. If your kids think this, or if they think the opposite and LOVE history, I have an author for you to check out immediately.

Steve Sheinken used to write history textbooks, but don’t let that stop you from picking up one of his middle grade or young adult books. His first book King George: What Was His Problem? is filled with stories from the American Revolution they wouldn’t let him put in the history books. It has a cover that is anything but boring and might be the perfect way to help your kids dip their toes into the subject of history in a way that is not at all boring.

In one of Steve’s most recent books for elementary-school aged kids, Abraham Lincoln, Pro Wrestler, I found the following quote:

“‘Kids say [history] is… Abby lowered her voice to a whisper, ‘boring.’

‘Some shows are boring, some books,’ Mr. Douglass said. ‘But history is just stories. Surprising, sad, funny, gross stories. Set in all different times and places. What’s boring about that?’”

To me, this feels like the perfect description of what Steve accomplishes with his books. He finds and shares unique stories from history that have been overlooked or forgotten and shares them in an exciting and very readable way. His knack for creating historical books that read like suspenseful novels is legit.

10 Books to Celebrate and Learn from Black History

February is Black History month, and in my mind there is no better way to learn about and from history than through the power of story. From slavery to the civil rights movement, African Americans in our country have walked a road marked with hate and injustice. That said, I am reminded of a quote by Fred Rogers:  When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.

It's true. In the midst of tough and scary things, there are always helpers; and in the darkest times of African American history in our country, there were bold and brave, multi-colored helpers. 

Obviously, racial issues are still a struggle today. Reading stories of others who stood up to hate or were the target of it builds compassion in our kids. It opens the door to conversations that need to happen in our homes and in the larger world abroad. I hope this list of books is one that will help all of us seek to understand, help us to remember the past, and inspire us to continue to work towards healing and compassion in the future.  

The Lions of Little Rock

The Little Rock 9 are a well-known group of brave African American students who enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. The following year, the Little Rock High School (with the blessing of the governor of Arkansas) made the decision to close instead of allowing desegregation to take place. The Lions of Little Rock follows an unlikely friendship between two junior high girls in 1958, the year the high school closed. This was a piece of history that I was unfamiliar with, and I loved learning about it through the eyes of Marlee. 

Inspiring Biographies for Black History Month

Black History Month began this week. In an effort to celebrate the contributions and beautiful color so many African Americans have added to our country I thought I’d highlight a few inspiring biographies I’ve discovered over the years. I hope these are titles that will connect with your kids, engage their hearts, and inspire them to learn more about these amazing people who have impacted our country in big ways.