Tag Archives: civil rights

Nonfiction 10 for 10 2017 – Black History Month

Every year there is a meme for lists of nonfiction picture books called the 10 for 10. I don’t always remember to participate, but I am thrilled that I managed to get my act together this year. I started thinking about my list when I was deep in the throws of Multicultural Children’s Book Day and also finding some really wonderful books about strong women. So for my contribution this year, I give you 10 picture books about important aspects in African American History and one book that is less picture book and more a great listing of important people and moments in Black History.

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Thank you to Cathy Mere from Reflect and RefineMandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning  and Julie Balen of Write at the Edge for hosting this meme. Click here to read all of the top ten lists shared.

28daysEvery February we are reminded that it is Black History month. Author Charles R. Smith, Jr. admits that he has a love-hate relationship with Black History Month and I can see his point. Why? Because school children hear the same few stories over and over again and don’t really learn anything. In 28 Days, we are shown 28 subjects in chronological order from Crispus Attucks in 1776 through Barack Obama. This masterpiece brings Black History month to life.

apple-for-harrietAn Apple for Harriet Tubman brings to life what it was like to be a slave, to work endlessly but never taste the fruits of your labor in a way that children can understand. To continuously fear being whipped, to fear that you would be sold and separated from your family. It also teaches of the miracles that Harriet Tubman and those working on the Underground Railroad achieved.

henry-boxThe stories that people tell of escaping from slavery through the Underground Railroad are amazing, but learning of Henry’s story in Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad was astonishing. As a slave, his life was difficult, but with his family around him he made it through. When his wife and children were sold to different owners, however, he could no longer take his life. A few weeks later, he devised a plan along with help from others to literally ship himself to freedom.  His story became famous and is a very interesting perspective for children to read.

juneteenthEvery year there is apparently a celebration of freedom that I had never heard of. According to author Floyd Cooper in Juneteenth for Mazie, every June 19th “Juneteenth commemorates the announcement of the abolition of slavery and the emancipation of African-American citizens throughout the entire United States.” This sweet story is told as a father reminds young Mazie of the important time when her great-great-great-grandfather crossed into liberty. It reminds all children of the hardships that African-Americans faced in this country, the struggles that they continued to deal with after earning their freedom, and just how far they have come.

first-stepWhen we think about the fight to end segregation in schools, we usually think about Brown vs the Board of Education in 1954. But in The First Step: How One Girl Put Segregation on Trial, we learn the story of how Sarah Roberts and her family started that fight back in 1847 in Boston. Her family knew that the Otis School was for white students only, but it was also tremendously closer than the closest school for African-Americans and far superior. She went to the Otis school without a problem until the school board realized and a policeman came and escorted her out. Her parents fought the rule of school segregation, led by a law team of Robert Morris and Charles Sumner, an African-American and a white man who “despised the way his country treated African Americans.” They lost, but they started a spark. Sarah’s father got people to sign petitions that said that all children should be able to attend their neighborhood schools and the people of Boston agreed. In 1855, Boston became the first major American city to integrate its schools. This outstanding book showed how the fight had to continue through the Civil War, the KKK, Jim Crow laws and finally with Linda Brown and her family taking the case to the Supreme Court but this time winning. A very powerful and moving book.

books-and-bricksEducation plays a common theme in books about the African American experience. In With Books & Bricks: How Booker T. Washington Built a School, we see the amazing story of how Booker T. Washington created what is now Tuskeegee University. As a child, Booker T. Washington got a glimpse of a schoolhouse while a slave and felt a magical pull. When slavery ended, Washington wanted to learn to read more than anything else, and while he did learn, he still had to work back-breaking hours in salt and coal mines. When he heard of a school in Virginia that actually taught Black students, he saved money to find his way there.  After getting his own education, he became a teacher himself. He got a job in Tuskegee, but there was no building. He slowly built a school, brick by brick. Amazing perseverance and determination.

thestoryofrubybridgesWe can all learn an invaluable lesson from young Ruby Bridges as eloquently described in The Story of Ruby Bridges. In 1960 she was the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. Every day, she was ushered into school with Federal Marshalls because the local police didn’t want to help her and there were large crowds of angry white people telling her that she didn’t belong. She learned to read and write in a classroom all by herself for, out of protest, none of the white children were sent to school. Each day, before and after school, she prayed for the people around her, not for herself, “because even if they say those bad things, they don’t know what they’re doing.” Ruby Bridges showed true bravery and this is a wonderful tribute to her.

ruth-and-green-bookWe take for granted that we can drive across the country and find the amenities we need just off the road. We even have signs telling us what food, gas, and lodging awaits us at the next off-ramp. But for African-Americans, that was definitely not always the case. Ruth and the Green Book tells us of young Ruth who was leaving Chicago for the first time to drive to her grandmother’s in Alabama. Along the way, they struggled to find bathrooms and hotels that would give them the time of day. In Tennessee, a friend gave them a warning about Jim Crow laws and struggles as they went further south and told them to look out for Esso gas stations. At the first Esso they found they were told about the Negro Motorist Green Book which listed places that black people would be welcome and it changed the rest of their travels. A wonderful lesson about a trying time in American history and the power of a group of people to band together, support each other, and make the best of it. The book also has a wonderful page of the history of the Green Book in the back.

ellingtonA look at Black History would be incomplete without a look at jazz music. One of the jazz greats was Duke Ellington. This colorful book by Andrea Davis Pinkney tells of Ellington’s early years and how ragtime music brought him back to playing the piano. He became a legend in the musical world. With great illustrations and lyrical text, this book tries to bring jazz to the reader.

charlestonHey Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band brings us the history of the Charleston along with the wonderful story of Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins. Reverend Jenkins inadvertently set up an orphanage for young boys in 1891. To drown out the colorful words coming from the prison next door, Jenkins had the boys singing. That gave him the idea to teach the boys how to play musical instruments along with their regular school lessons. Before long, the Jenkins Orphanage Band was playing music with a rhythm and style known as rag and some of the boys would lead the band by doing a dance inspired by their Geechee heritage. When they went to play in New York City, people didn’t know the name of the band and would instead yell out, “Hey, Charleston! Give us some rag!” People would dance along with the leaders in what would become the Charleston. This was a fascinating book about an important part of musical and cultural history not to be missed!

willieBaseball is America’s sport. Willie and the All-Stars  gives voice to the time before Jackie Robinson, a time when African-Americans were not allowed to play on the white teams. Back then, there was the Negro League where exceptionally talented Black men could play baseball. The story is a wake-up call for young Willie who loves baseball, but doesn’t even realize that there is a Negro League. He dreams of being a baseball player and the Major League is where the “real” players play. But Ol’ Ezra teaches him that “being a Major League ballplayer is about a lot more than how good a fella is. It’s also about the color of his skin. And yours is the wrong color.” The Negro Leauge is an important part of baseball history, just as the All-American Girls’ Professional Baseball League is. This is a marvelous book for baseball fans and historians alike, although I think it would have also been great to mention the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.

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The Case for Loving – a special multicultural nonfiction picture book

Multicultural Children’s Book Day. That time every year when we get to celebrate the diversity of this great country and to promote books that allow children of all backgrounds to see themselves on the pages. This year I received a few books that also remind us that the freedoms we have now haven’t always been there and how, as a nation, we haven’t always been kind to those who were seen as “different.”

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Today, as a combination of MCBD and the nonfiction challenge from Kid Lit Frenzy, I am focusing on the beautiful book The Case for Loving, by Selina Alko. When I received this book from Scholastic, I was very excited. I had seen the book before, but wasn’t sure how my kids would react to it. Both of my girls, age 9 and 6, found the story to be quite powerful and there were a lot of questions brought up afterwards.

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The Case for Loving tells the story Mildred and Richard Loving that was recently made into a movie. The words on the front flap of the book put it perfectly – “Imagine not being able to marry the person you love, just because they were of a race different from your own. Here is the story of the love between Mildred and Richard Loving. Here is the story of the courage they needed to have that love recognized: A story about how the law changed for the better, about how the law made room for the Lovings, and by doing so, made way for love.”separate

What is shocking about this book is how well it puts really complex issues in a language that is clear for children. From describing their skin colors to explaining that while slavery ended, there were still many places where whites were not comfortable with the idea of mixing with blacks, let alone the idea of “mixed marriage.” The Lovings were able to wed in Washington, DC, but when they came home to Virginia, their marriage license was null and void and they were actually arrested for unlawful cohabitation. In order to stay married, they had to leave their home state.

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equality-now

The Lovings finally decided to fight in order to return to Virginia, but as the book points out, “by now it was 1966, and the time they were a-changin’.” Their case went to the Supreme Court, and while the state of Virginia argued against their marriage to “preserve the purity of the white race,” the court ruled in favor of the Lovings.

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This is such a powerful book that shows how love can help us overcome most things. It takes time for “unconventional” ideas become commonplace. We don’t think about interracial marriage much anymore as the newer, historically unconventional marriage is same sex marriage. But it is important for our children to understand that it wasn’t so very long ago that it was considered illegal for a white man and black woman to get married.

mccbdI received this book from Scholastic Books as a part of the 2017 Multicultural Children’s Book Day.

I have been involved with Multicultural Children’s Book Day since it started. Having grown up in Los Angeles, surrounded by a diverse community, I never thought about the notion of being different. Now that I live in a small town in the south, I am much more aware just how hard it can be to be a minority and to be misunderstood. I have always tried to teach my daughters to love everyone and to believe that we are all one human race and that all of our histories and differences should be celebrated.  I also know how important it is to be able to see yourself in the books you read, even more so when you are in the minority, so I look forward to this blogging event every year.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/17) is in its fourth year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

Despite census data that shows 37% of the US population consists of people of color, only 10% of children’s books published have diversity content. Using the Multicultural Children’s Book Day holiday, the MCBD Team is on a mission to change all of that.

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2017 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board. Platinum Sponsors include ScholasticBarefoot Books and Broccoli. Other Medallion Level Sponsors include heavy-hitters like Author Carole P. RomanAudrey Press, Candlewick Press,  Fathers Incorporated, KidLitTVCapstone Young Readers, ChildsPlayUsa, Author Gayle SwiftWisdom Tales PressLee& Low BooksThe Pack-n-Go GirlsLive Oak MediaAuthor Charlotte Riggle, Chronicle Books and Pomelo Books

Author Sponsor include: Karen Leggett AbourayaVeronica AppletonSusan Bernardo, Kathleen BurkinshawDelores Connors, Maria DismondyD.G. DriverGeoff Griffin Savannah HendricksStephen HodgesCarmen Bernier-Grand,Vahid ImaniGwen Jackson,  Hena, Kahn, David Kelly, Mariana LlanosNatasha Moulton-LevyTeddy O’MalleyStacy McAnulty,  Cerece MurphyMiranda PaulAnnette PimentelGreg RansomSandra Richards, Elsa TakaokaGraciela Tiscareño-Sato,  Sarah Stevenson, Monica Mathis-Stowe SmartChoiceNation, Andrea Y. Wang

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts the book review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

MCBD Links to remember:

MCBD site: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

Free Kindness Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teachers-classroom-kindness-kit/

Free Diversity Book Lists and Activities for Teachers and Parents: http://bit.ly/1sZ5s8i

Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use their official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

sitting in for change

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday, I wanted to try and bring some books about civil rights into J’s reading rotation. Since I also know that getting her to read anything other than Harry Potter and Land of Stories would be a challenge, I thought that I needed some kind of hook to entice her. I found two books about the Greensboro sit-in that fit the bill. We live an hour and a half from Greensboro and two of J’s favorite museums are there, so we were starting from a place of knowledge. The hook worked.

The first book we read, Sit-in: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down, was a true non-fiction telling of the four men who began the lunch-counter sit-in in 1960. With wonderful repetition it explains how they quietly sat at the counter and wanted only a doughnut and coffee with cream on the side. They followed Dr. King’s words and sat tall while insults were hurled at them. The book was especially powerful when it told how they sat quietly while milkshakes were thrown in their faces and ketchup was poured on their heads. The book is filled with amazing quotes in larger fonts that also teach the lesson of the Greensboro sit-ins.

“We must…meet hate with love.” 
“Being loving enough to absorb evil.”
“We must meet violence with nonviolence.”
“We are all leaders.”

The students started a nonviolent revolution that helped change a nation. This book shows how young people can truly make a difference. It was a powerful book that was great for my first grader to comprehend.

The other book that we picked up, Freedom on the Menu, was a fictionalized telling of the events around the sit-ins. As the front cover says, they “offer a child’s-eye view of how ordinary citizens stood up for themselves and caused a revolution, both close to home and far beyond.”  The story is told from a little girl’s perspective and how devastating it was for her to find signs all over town telling her where she could and couldn’t go. A dream of hers is to be able to sit at the lunch counter and order a banana split just like the little white girls.  Dr. King comes to town and soon after that, her brother and sister joined the NAACP, and they all went door to door to register people to vote.The little girl and her mother happened to be in Woolworths on the first day of the sit-ins and recognized the boys as friends of her brother. When the little girl questions that the boys should know not to sit there, her mother responds that “Some rules have to be broken.” The little girl has other questions and her family answers them in wonderful ways that a child can comprehend. This was a truly moving story which happily ends with the little girl getting her banana split.

This post is a part of Kid Lit Frenzy’s nonfiction picture book Wednesdays. We have currently read 7 non-fiction picture books this year, out of our goal of 50, but I’m holding off on reviewing some of them until upcoming Wednesdays.

Also, I am firmly standing behind Multicultural Children’s Book Day:Celebrating Diversity in Children’s. It is important for our children to the full rainbow that makes up our world. January 27th is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. For more information about Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Celebrating Diversity in Children’s Literature, please check out Jump Into a Book and Pragmatic Mom. The mission of this event is to not only raise awareness for the kid’s books that celebrate diversity, but to get more of these types of books into classrooms and libraries. The event itself is sponsored by Wisdom Tales PressLee & Low BooksChronicle Books, and Susan Daniel Fayad: Author of My Grandfather’s Masbaha.