Here are five books for the youngest readers that focus on different African Americans. Some you may have heard of before, others may be new to you!
(Perhaps these will help you go beyond the big five.)
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave by Laban Carrick Hill, illustrated by Bryan Collier.
Dave must have been very strong, as he was able to create pottery that not many could. He knew how to read and write, because he wrote poems on the side of some of his pottery. This book shares the beauty and artistry of his life without ever ignoring the harsh reality that he was a slave.
Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Meyers, illustrated by Bonnie Christensen.
This picture book does a great job of presenting the life story of Ida B. Wells, including difficult topics such as lynching. Because of the subject matter, I’d recommend this for older picture book readers, or as a family read so parents can address any questions children might have.
Major Taylor: Champion Cyclist by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome.
Did you know that Major Taylor was the first black world champion bicyclist? He used hard work and athleticism to prove that race did not determine ability at a time when the world was determined to prove him otherwise. This would be a great book to read before or after a bike ride, or when the weather keeps you indoors!
Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story by Ruby Bridges.
This nonfiction early reader is actually written by Ruby Bridges herself, and includes photos of her historic integration of a New Orleans elementary school. This is one of my earliest reviews for this blog, so I was hesitant to link it, but there aren’t enough diverse early readers and this book should be better known.
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip-Hop by Laban Carrick Hill, Illustrated by Theodore Taylor III.
I’m not much of a music person, so it’s surprising how much this book delighted me. The story of DJ Kool Herc is fascinating and covers topics like immigration, community, and of course music! The illustrations never fail to delight new readers and this remains a favorite in our house.
(Note: technically Kool Herc is a Jamaican-American, but he’s seen as part of the African-American community, which is why I included him on this list.)