February marks Black History Month, a time for recognizing and celebrating the achievements of Black Americans throughout U.S. history. Knowing that picture books are often the best way to teach our young children about the influential people who have helped shape our nation, we’ve rounded up the best Black History Month books for kids you should add to your bookshelf.

Children’s books are the perfect way to spark important discussions about race and equality. Books make things like diversity, empowerment and history accessible to even the youngest among us. Also, Black History Month is a good time to ensure that we are educating our children about all types of influential Black leaders and that our books and conversations extend well beyond figures like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, Jr. Because although their contributions were and continue to be vital in the development of our nation, there is an endless list of other names our children should know as well.

Related: Kamala Harris makes history as VP: What this means for girls + mothers

What types of Black History Month read alouds are best for kids?

Kids can learn about and appreciate Black history not just by reading true stories, but fiction books as well. Whether written as historical or in the modern day, fictional Black History Month read alouds reflect the reality of what it is like to grow up Black in America. It is through this lens—the turning of pages, the connection to characters whether real or not, and the discussions we have with them about these books—that all of our children can learn about and appreciate Black history, and in turn, American history.

Related: 9 Kwanzaa books that are perfect to help young kids learn & celebrate

26 Black History Month picture books to add to your library

change sings

Change Sings: A Children's Anthem by Amanda Gorman, illustrated by Loren Long

We still have chills from Amanda Gorman’s brilliant recitation of her poem “The Hill We Climb” at the 2021 Presidential Inauguration. Her equally beautiful lyrical picture book follows a young girl who leads a cast of characters on a musical journey, learning along the way that together, they have the power to make meaningful change.

opal lee

Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

On June 19, 1865, Union General Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, informing enslaved African Americans that they were finally free and that the Civil War was over. But it wasn’t until 2021 that it would be honored as a federal holiday. Celebrate the vision and tenacity of one of the women who made it happen–activist Opal Lee, the “Grandmother of Juneteenth” with a message of hope, unity, joy, and strength.

because claudette

Because Claudette by Tracey Baptiste, illustrated by Tonya Engel

They’ve likely heard of Rosa Parks, but there were many inspiring people behind the Montgomery bus boycott. Expand your children’s view of history with the lesser-known story of Claudette Colvin–the teen whose activism set off the chain of events nine months earlier.

the 1619 project born on the water

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illustrated by Nikkolas Smith

Detailing the rich history of Black Americans’ origin story with powerful verse and striking illustrations, this lyrical picture book is a must-have.

Hey Black Child

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Hey black child
Do you know who you are?
Who really are?

Do you know you can be
What you want to be
If you try to be
What you can be?

This lyrical poem celebrates black children and inspires them to find their voice—and their dreams.

Hidden Figures - The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly, illustrated by Laura Freeman

Based on the bestselling book and Academy Award-nominated movie, this is the true story of four Black women who helped NASA launch into space.

Radiant Child - The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe

The vibrant, beautiful collage-style illustrations in this book bring to life this story of a talented young artist.

Crown - An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James

The rhythmic prose and larger than life illustrations make this ode to the barbershop a perfect read-aloud and a celebration of black boys’ self-esteem and confidence.

Little Leaders - Bold Women in Black History

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

This bestselling book introduces readers to 40 women who changed the world.

Princess Hair

Princess Hair by Sharee Miller

Every kind of hair is princess hair—and deserves to be celebrated!

My Name Is Truth - The Life of Sojourner Truth

My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth by Ann Turner, illustrated by James Ransome

The true story of how a former slave transformed herself into an inspirational preacher.

Look What Brown Can Do

Look What Brown Can Do! by T. Marie Harris, illustrated by Neda Ivanova

Dream big with this inspirational picture book for the youngest of readers.

Henry's Freedom Box - A True Story from the Underground Railroad

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

A dramatic true story of a slave who mails himself to freedom, coupled with astoundingly beautiful art from superstar Kadir Nelson.

Let The Children March

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson, illustrated by Frank Morrison

The true story behind the 1963 Children’s Crusade march in Birmingham, Alabama following Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech.

I, Too, Am America

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Bryan Collier

Langston Hughes’ celebrated poem is brought to life in this moving ode to unity.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

Breathtaking paintings accompany poignant verse in this autobiography of Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier

An accessible and inspiring picture book biography of one of history’s most influential leaders.

Juneteenth for Mazie

Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper

This bright, lively picture book celebrates Juneteenth, the day that commemorates emancipation from slavery in Texas in 1865.

You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce!

You Gotta Meet Mr. Pierce! The Storied Life of Folk Artist Elijah Pierce by Chiquita Mullins Lee and Carmella Van Vleet, illustrated by Jennifer Mack-Watkins

In this celebration of Black art history, Mr. Pierce is a woodcarver and barber. After what a young boy thinks will be a routine haircut, he now realizes he’s met someone really special and tells everyone “You gotta meet Mr. Pierce!”

Mae Among the Stars

Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, illustrated by Stasia Burrington

Mae Jemison was the first African American woman to travel to space and her story will inspire young readers to reach for the stars!

Malcom Little - The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz, illustrated by Ag Ford

Malcolm X’s daughter shares the story of her father’s childhood in this acclaimed picture book biography.

Before She Was Harriet

Before She Was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Harriet Tubman was many things before she was the courageous woman we know today; this lyrical biography captures her story.

The Other Side

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

This classic tells the story behind an unlikely friendship formed in the midst of segregation.

Seeds of Freedom - The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama

Seeds of Freedom: The Peaceful Integration of Huntsville, Alabama by Hester Bass, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

This honest, hopeful picture book tells one of the lesser known stories of the Civil Rights Movement.

Ice Cream Man: How Augustus Jackson Made a Sweet Treat Better

Ice Cream Man: How Augustus Jackson Made a Sweet Treat Better by Glenda Armand and Kim Freeman, illustrated by Keith Mallett

Augustus Jackson grew up poor, but he had a dream of being a cook someday. This book tells his inspirational story of becoming an an entrepreneur known as the “Father of Ice Cream” who worked his way up to becoming a cook in the White House—and served under three different presidents!

Your Name is a Song

Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Luisa Uribe

When a young girl becomes frustrated about people mispronouncing her name, her mother tells her of the way her name is like music and empowers her to face the world and appreciate its beautiful sound.

My Red, White, and Blue

My Red, White, and Blue by Alana Tyson, illustrated by London Ladd

Through the eyes of a young Black boy talking to his grandfather, we hear of one child’s take on the American flag and how it means different things to different people in this country.

A version of this article was originally published February 15, 2018. It has been updated.