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Ways to Engage With African American History All Year Around

African American History Month was established in 1976, and it was meant to help folks learn about the contributions of African Americans to the world. For years, African American history was relegated to the month of February and elective classes.

While African American History Month is still a great way to honor the contribution of African Americans, we must also recognize that there is no reason to relegate that history to one month because African American history is American history.

As you are speaking with your child this month about African American History, remind them that they can read books, listen to music, enjoy paintings, watch movies and learn the history of Blacks Americans any time of the year. Not only can they; they should.

Below is a list of resources for students of all ages that you and your child can enjoy throughout the year.

Ages 4-7

Change Sings by Amanda Gorman and Loren Long (2021)

You may remember Amanda Gorman from President Biden's Inauguration. She wrote and read a poem that had the country filled with hope and pride.

In this picture book, you will meet a young girl who goes on a musical journey where she meets a host of characters and teaches them about the power they have to make changes.

You Can Do It by Tony Dungy

Yes, that Tony Dungy of the NFL. This is a story about Dungy’s little brother who is living in a family where it seems everyone knows what their “thing” is. The little brother, Linden, is on a journey to find out what his talent is.

Becoming by Michelle Obama- adapted for young readers

How fun would this be as a mother-daughter read? Mom can read the adult version; the daughter will read the adapted version. Imagine the discussions that will emerge and the closeness that would result. In this book, Michelle Obama discusses her humble beginnings, her family and education and the value that hard work had in her life.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson (2014)

Written by an award-winning author, Brown Girl Dreaming is Woodson’s own story of what it was like growing up in the 1960s-70s.

Ages 8-13

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Short biographies of amazing Black women in all areas: music, science, theater and more.

It Doesn’t Take A Genius by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich

A hilarious and moving coming-of-age tale that explores the intersection between self and community and the complexity of Black identity as a boy wonders: if he's not who he's always thought he was, who exactly can he be?

New Kid by Jerry Craft

This is a graphic novel about a young boy who goes to an elite art school. It is funny and relatable. Everyone, especially middle school students, can relate to trying to fit in.

Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof by Ivy Clair and Kobe Bryant

Set in an alternate classical world dominated by sports and a magical power called grana, Epoca: The Tree of Ecrof is the story of two children: the lowly born Rovi and the crown princess Pretia who uncover and battle terrible evil and discover their inner strength along the way.

If your family has a movie night, maybe you want to try some of these

A Ballerina’s Tale (best for kids over age 7)

While some kids aspire to become doctors or scientists, others are more creatively included and want to pursue a career in sports. If that’s the case with your kid(s), then this uplifting documentary will be a smart choice. A Ballerina’s Tale is the true story told and featured by the real-life African American legend, the ballerina Misty Copeland.

Akeelah and the Bee (best for kids over age 7)

Akeelah, an 11-year-old girl living in South Los Angeles, discovers she has a talent for spelling, which she hopes will take her to the National Spelling Bee. Despite her mother's objections, Akeelah doesn't give up on her goal. She finds help in the form of a mysterious teacher, and along with overwhelming support from her community, Akeelah might just have what it takes to make her dream come true.

Hidden Figures (best for kids over 10)

Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi, based on the non-fiction book by Margot Lee Shetterly. The story of a team of female African-American mathematicians who served a vital role in NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program

Harriet (best for kids over 12)

Harriet is a 2019 American biographical film directed by Kasi Lemmons, based on the life of abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman escapes slavery and leads hundreds of enslaved people to freedom on the Underground Railroad

Self Made (best for high school-aged kids)

Another promising release last year was the inspiring story about the first female, African American, a self-made millionaire. This movie follows the story of Madam C.J. Walker who built a haircare empire in the late 1800s.

Self Made is a drama series that parents love for its inspirational messages and positive role models.

These books and movies can be spread throughout the year as a way to help our kids and ourselves understand that Black American stories are American stories.

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