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Some of you may not know this but before I was getting stress-induced upper respiratory infections from litigating in front of the crabbiest judges in South Florida, I spent most of my time in libraries digging up dusty old books and looking at microfiche (not a single Gen Z-er knows what microfiche is). I love history and I think it’s crucial that our children start learning about history as early as possible. Rigel may not completely understand the impact of some of the people and events that we read about yet but I can tell that he connects with the stories. And more importantly, I want him to develop a lifelong interest in history so he knows what we’ve accomplished, how far we’ve come, and what we still need to do.
February is Black History Month. A whole month to learn about all the cool things Black People have done. And also a whole month to learn about everything that Black People have overcome. There are absolutely ways to introduce these stories to our toddlers. Rigel has been learning about this history since about 9 months old, so at this point he has some favorites. We’ve come up with a list of some of Rigel’s favorite books for Black History Month:
Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History ($13.27, Target.com) – We got Rigel this book last summer. It features the stories of some of history’s most impactful Black men. This book could be considered advanced for a toddler, so the way we use it with Rigel right now is we pick one person every week and read that story. It’s got illustrations of the men profiled that are really cute so he looks at the pictures while we talk about what the man did. If you watch Rigel on my stories you can probably imagine which stories are his favorites: inventors, lawmen, and aviators. He really likes Garrett Morgan and Bass Reeves. There’s also another volume in this series Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History which features women and their important contributions.
The Story of Rap ($7.64, Target.com) – Rigel actually picked this book out on a trip we took to Barnes and Noble just before the world got locked down. I always try to give Rigel agency by asking him what he likes and letting him choose things. He must have known that his Dad, a hip-hop junkie, was going to get a real kick out this book. This book is for toddlers and tells the story of rap, starting with Grandmaster Flash to the present. The book has great illustrations with all shades represented.
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race ($10.46, Amazon) – We actually received the Kindle version of this book free as part of our FreeTime Subscription. FreeTime is a service offered by Amazon which offers kid-friendly apps, games, videos, and books; so your kid can use their Amazon Fire Tablet without you worrying about what they’re being exposed to. This book is intended for a slightly older reader but the illustrations are so good that Rigel knows exactly what’s going on without me reading it. If you’ve been around for a bit you know Rigel loves rockets and space so he loves when we read this book. Bonus he gets to learn that Black Women can do anything.
Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr? ($7.99, Amazon) – We got this book digitally too, though it’s a proper board book, meant for toddlers. I just couldn’t wait to read it to him. I also like having books available digitally because it means that I always have a book to read to him. This book presents the biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. in a toddler digestible format. Read this book to your kid and find out what their dream is. By the way, another great book in this series is Who Was Jackie Robinson? for your little baseball lover out there.
Mae Jemison: A Kid’s Book About Reaching Your Dreams ($11.99, Amazon) – Again if space is involved then Rigel will definitely like it. I love Mae Jemison’s story, it’s so inspiring but more than that I love exposing Rigel to stories of achievement and giving him real examples of people who accomplished extraordinary things. Our children learn best by mirroring the things they see. If they never see someone that looks like them achieving great things how will they know what they can do? Conversely, if they never see someone who looks different than them doing something, how will they learn that everyone is capable of big things?
Honorable Mentions: These are books that we’re planning to add to our collection in the next few weeks and books that I think could be good options if you already have the books we love above.
Get Up, Stand Up ($12.59, Target.com) – This book is based on the Bob Marley song. So you get Black History and some Music History in one. Not to mention you’ll encourage a new generation of activists.
Harriet Tubman (Little People, Big Dreams Series) ($7.29, Amazon) – This book is part of a series of books that are short biographies on some of history’s most important figures. It’s a little wordy for a young toddler but if they’re a little more patient you could probably get through it.
I am Rosa Parks (Ordinary People Change the World Series) ($13.99, Amazon) – This is another important story that kids should learn pretty early on in life. Its part of another kids’ history book series that I think has some great options not just for Black History Month but to learn history overall.
I hope this list can give you some ideas of things to read to your toddler for Black History Month. Whatever you choose to read to them, I hope you will start sharing some history with them. I still remember my early exposure to history with my Mom who would read me books (slightly too advanced for me) and take me to every museum she could.
By the way, is anyone else’s toddler extra defiant right now. Normally I try to get some fresh snaps with Rigel for these posts but he was NOT having it. He also hasn’t been fond of watching me type on the laptop or otherwise do any work. I can’t blame him for wanting my undivided attention though. Let me know in the comments what your toddler is doing. Also, shoot me over any history books that you’ve found that your little one loves.
Catch you later,