By Stacy Shaneyfelt
Ready to immerse your students, kids, and tweens in books that truly mirror their own lives and also introduce them to diverse characters, authentic settings, riveting social justice themes, and greater tolerance for others? Well, I’ve briefly selected some of my favorite books for younger ages to celebrate Black History Month, not just this month but year-round! Get your book buzz on and dive into diversity with us!
Rhythm Nation: I Got The Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison and illustrated by Frank Morrison
Adults will likely remember Janet Jackson’s revolutionary “Rhythm Nation” song and music video. Well, take a blast from the past via this bubbly book’s musicality and superb celebration of Black culture (and all ethnicities, worldviews, lifestyles, and differences, for that matter!), via a narrative poem of sorts in style. This amazing husband-wife duo definitely delivers love, hip hop flair, and inclusive communalism in I Got The Rhythm.
Pedagogically, the book oozes with onomatopoeia, rhyme scheme, alliteration, and all those perfect poetic devices that teachers will devour! The book is also excellent for kids and tweens who exhibit ADD/ADHD, dyslexia, kinesthetic, visual, auditory, and tactile learning styles, students who are English Language Learners, as well as any readers with sensory challenges, since it’s a terrific text for adding motions, choral readings, and movements. Move and groove with this one for sure, technically targeted at 3-6, but this 45-year-old mom loves it for all ages! I totally embarrassed my kids and husband after I incorporated a few of my old school running man moves -- look out MC Hammer!
The illustrations are picture perfect and really transport you to a scene where we’re invited to open our minds, hearts, and bodies to the rhythm of life and the richness of multiculturalism. What a better way to take an urban road trip if you can’t make the NYC flight this winter? Broadway, anyone?
Holla for History: I Am Martin Luther King, Jr.: Ordinary People Change the World by Brad Meltzer, My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner, and Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America by Andrea Davis Pinkney
Check out this triple delight of titles, since nonfiction can often be a bit dull, overwhelming, or inaccessible for some students, teachers, and parents. This trio is targeted for older readers, ages 6-12, but I’m here to divulge a former English teacher classified insight that these texts have secret testing powers: in reality, most of the states’ standardized, high stakes tests are currently comprised of nonfiction questions and contents, yet it is often an ignored and underrepresented part of lessons and curricular planning. Shhh, though, we don’t want kids and tweens to realize they are test prepping while learning about history, resilience, cultural affirmation, and social justice. Best test in the East or West with these reading for pleasure picks. You’ll definitely want to bookmark this source since it allows you to search by specific age groups, themes, and more. It’s a great resource for everyone this winter, whether you are in Boston, Berlin, Baghdad, Banff, Big Sur, Bangkok, Bermuda, or Boise!
In addition to social activism, Stacy is the mindful mamacita to two fierce and fabulous females, ages 1 and 4 and two frisky fur babies. Stacy was an English/Drama educator for 16 years but now works as a virtual freelancer, online teacher, and editor at Upwork.com, BrainMass.com, and Wyzant.com. Stacy enjoys travel, films, coffee, art, and blogs!
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