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Feb 28, 2024 4 min read

How ECE Books Can Help Celebrate 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.

“I Look Up to … Misty Copeland”

“I Look Up to … Misty Copeland” is an inspiring picture book that introduces young readers to the groundbreaking Black ballerina Misty Copeland. Each spread highlights an important trait and includes a quote from Misty.

Activities for Preschoolers

Dance and Read Session

Begin by reading select passages from the book and follow the reading with a session in which children are encouraged to express themselves through dance, mimicking ballet movements or freestyle dancing to a selection of classical music. This activity highlights the importance of perseverance, self-expression and the joy of dancing.

Dance Exploration Activity

Children can connect with their bodies and express themselves through movement, just as Misty Copeland does through her art. This activity requires minimal preparation and materials, focusing instead on imagination and the joy of movement.

Materials Needed:

  • Open space clear of obstacles
  • Music player
  • Selection of classical and ballet-inspired music
  1. Begin by briefly discussing Misty Copeland’s story, emphasizing her dedication to ballet and how she expresses herself through dance.
  2. Explain to the children they will be exploring movement and dance, much like Misty does on stage. Reiterate that dance is a form of expression and there are no right or wrong moves.
  3. Play a selection of classical and ballet-inspired music, encouraging the children to move freely around the space. Suggest they imagine themselves performing in front of an audience or perhaps dancing in a specific scene from a ballet.
  4. Periodically, pause the music and introduce simple ballet positions or movements, demonstrating them and inviting the children to try. Use terms Misty Copeland would be familiar with but explain them in kid-friendly language.
  5. Conclude the activity with a short performance in which each child or a small group of children can showcase their favorite move or dance sequence.

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