I’m continuing with my series of posts about great children’s U.S. history books. This list will cover topics throughout the Civil Rights Movement. We have found tons of great picture books through our library system about the Civil Rights Movement. Especially with this topic, I want my children to realize what the world used to be like and how far we’ve come. I still remember the day that my sweet girl came to me in shock when she read that children didn’t used to all drink from the same drinking fountain. I think she was crying as she realized that she and her brother literally couldn’t have shared a drink just because they had different shades of skin. I want my children to realize that our country used to do this, but that people fought (in a non-violent way for the most part) to change that.
By the way, in case you missed my post about how to create a lifestyle of learning with books, I wanted to mention that when we are “reading to learn”, I often select books below my children’s reading level. This makes it much easier for them to learn new concepts since they aren’t struggling with actually reading the text.
After the End of Slavery and Before the Civil Rights Movement:
The Forty-Acre Swindle is a Christian, historical fiction chapter book about a family in Alabama in the late 1800s. The family is struggling (like many former slaves) to make ends meet when they meet George Washington Carver. I look forward to reading this with the family.
Athletes who crossed the color barrier: You might wonder why I’ve included all these books about athletes, but men like Jesse Owens and Jackie Robinson helped to bring about change in our country. People cheered for them, and children wanted to grow up to be them – regardless of what they looked like.
Jesse Owens: Fastest Man Alive is a picture book. If you don’t remember Jesse Owens, he ran in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. I’m sure Hitler just loved it when he won the gold medal (and Jackie Robinson’s brother took the silver).
Jesse Owens: Running into History is an easy reader biography also about Jesse Owens.
Play Ball, Jackie! is a picture book about Jackie Robinson (who was the first African American baseball player to play in the Major Leagues).
The Value of Courage: The Story of Jackie Robinson is a Value Tales book we own about Jackie Robinson. The Value Tales have a lot of text but are picture books.
Jackie Robinson: Strong Inside and Out is an easy reader biography about Robinson.
Jackie Robinson and the Story of All Black Baseball is another easy reader biography.
Satchel Paige: Don’t Look Back is a picture book about one of the first African American pitchers in the Major Leagues. I appreciated learning about him because he was an older athlete by the time he got to cross the color barrier.
Events and People during the Civil Rights Movement (weeks 13 and 20 of Cycle 3):
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down is a picture book about the Greensboro lunch counter sit-in.
The Bus Ride that Changed History is a picture book about Rosa Parks (who wouldn’t give up her seat on a bus). This one is told in a repetitive way where new information is added to the previous pages and repeated. Each page ends with “which was overturned because one woman was brave.”
I Am Rosa Parks is an easy reader, simple chapter book that is written by Rosa Parks (and another author). You can the chance to learn about the Civil Rights Movement through her eyes.
Martin Luther King Jr. and the March on Washington is an easy reader book about Martin Luther King. If you remember, the March on Washington is where he gave his famous “I have a Dream” speech. My favorite quote from that speech is when King said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I have 4 children and that’s what I want for my children, too.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is an easy reader biography from National Geographic Readers.
What Was Your Dream, Dr. King?: And Other Questions About… Martin Luther King Jr. is a picture book with lots of great overview information about the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and what things were like during that time in our history. Each set of 2 pages has a question with answer and an illustration to go with it.
Martin Luther King Jr. from the series Rookie Biographies is an easier reader biography than the others listed.
The Story Of Ruby Bridges is a picture book that tells the story of a little girl sent to an all-white school. She had to be escorted by Marshals through protesters into an empty school building because parents refused to send their children to school with her. Yet, this little girl prayed for the protesters every day. What a beautiful example!
Through My Eyes is an incredible book about Ruby Bridges. The book is filled with her recollections of the events as well as what others went through during this time. There are thoughts from her teacher, quotes from many famous people including JFK and Steinbeck, and even experts from newspaper articles. The photographs from the protests and this year of Ruby Bridges going to school escorted by U.S. Marshalls are really powerful. I cried my way through reading this book (even without the kids). While this is an incredible book, I may wait to read it with the children until our next time around this cycle.
Ben Carson: A Chance at Life is a chapter book I hope to use as a read aloud this year. Ben Carson’s story includes him facing racial troubles during the Civil Rights Movement and also rising above all the challenges he faced. I also just love how his mom made him read to learn since we do that so much in our family. I hope my children find his story as inspiring as I do.
Do you have any favorite books about the Civil Rights Movement?
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