Feb 23, 2024 4 min read

Celebrating Diversity: ECE Books for Black History Month

Leah Woodbury By: Leah Woodbury
Teacher in preschool classroom reads a book to students during story time.

Black History Month provides a perfect opportunity to introduce early childhood education books that celebrate Black heritage and triumphs while helping children envision themselves as part of a vibrant history and a future full of potential!

Why ECE Literature Matters in Black History Month

The celebration of Black History Month in ECE helps cultivate a sense of inclusion and respect for diversity. By carefully selecting books that reflect the lives and accomplishments of Black individuals and communities, you can instill a deeper understanding of history and the value of representation.

Throughout this month and all year round, consider leaning into literature that not only recounts the past but inspires the next generation. 

Let’s take a look at one such book that does just that.

“Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children”

This beautifully illustrated children’s book by Sandra L. Pinkney celebrates the diverse shades of skin color found in children around the world. It emphasizes the beauty and uniqueness of each person’s skin tone. From deep ebony to creamy caramel, every shade is celebrated as a reflection of the beauty of diversity.

In addition to showcasing the physical differences in skin color, the book celebrates the diversity of experiences, cultures and backgrounds represented by the children in its pages. It encourages young readers to embrace and appreciate the beauty of their own skin while fostering empathy and understanding for others.

Learning Activity: To accompany reading this book, preschoolers can engage in a simple but meaningful activity that reinforces the book’s themes of diversity and inclusion.

Materials needed:

  • Paper plates or construction paper in various shades of brown, black, and beige
  • Crayons, markers or paint in a variety of skin tones
  • Glue
  • Scissors
  • Magazines or catalogs with images of people from diverse backgrounds

Activity Steps:

  1. Begin by reading “Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children” to the class, discussing the different skin tones and celebrating the beauty of diversity.
  2. Provide each child with a paper plate or a piece of construction paper in a shade similar to their own skin tone.
  3. Encourage children to use crayons, markers or paint to create self-portraits on their paper plates or paper, incorporating their unique features and characteristics.
  4. Next, show children images from magazines or catalogs featuring people from diverse backgrounds. Discuss the different skin tones, facial features and cultural clothing represented in the images.
  5. Invite the children to cut out pictures of people from the magazines or catalogs and glue them onto their self-portraits, creating a collage that celebrates diversity.
  6. Once the collages are complete, display them in the classroom or a communal area, encouraging the children to appreciate the beauty of diversity and celebrate the uniqueness of each individual.

Through this activity, preschoolers reinforce their understanding of different skin tones and cultural diversity and learn to appreciate and celebrate the beauty of their own uniqueness and that of others.

Make the Most of Black History Month Resources

Beyond bookshelves, Black History Month is the perfect time to incorporate various educational resources into your lesson plans:

Interactive Multimedia: Videos and music that pay homage to Black history can be a dynamic addition to your curriculum.

Classroom Decoration: Celebrate Black heritage by decorating classroom spaces with artwork, quotes and displays that honor Black history.

Community Engagement: Invite local Black leaders or storytellers to share their experiences with your class, offering a live glimpse into the narratives that have shaped their lives.

Want to learn more about Black leaders in ECE? Check out this blog that details the accomplishments of three leaders, including Fannie C. Williams, who opened the first nursery school and kindergarten classes for Black children in New Orleans in the early years of the Depression; of Dr. Edmund Gordon, who helped design the Head Start program; and of Dr. Evangeline Ward, who created a code of ethics for early childhood professionals that provides a foundation of professionalism for educators that continues to guide and motivate child care advocates today.

And if you’re looking for more book ideas, this list from Scholastic Schoolworks includes beloved stories for Black History Month, including a powerful play about a child who led a series of sit-down strikes to a gripping nonfiction article about the co-discoverer of the North Pole. 

Penguin Random House Education shares another list of Black History books you might find helpful!

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Leah Woodbury

Leah Woodbury is the head of content at Procare Solutions. Her job includes writing about topics that matter to child care professionals and finding ways to help them do their important work. She’s a mom of two who loves getting updates about what her preschooler is doing during the day via the Procare child care mobile app!

Leah Woodbury