African American History Month starts next week, and schools across the country have a variety of activities planned to celebrate. In addition to being a middle grade writer and blogger, I am the PTA President at my kids’ elementary school, and so I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in our school’s planning for this special time. Of course, reading had to be a big part of it!
We decided to welcome parents into the classroom to read works by and about African Americans. First, we met with principal, and discussed our mutual goal of enhancing kids’ understanding of the breadth of the contribution of African Americans to American history. Often, kids point to the same five or seven famous African Americans, without a sense of how many more people have shaped our society in a broad range of ways. We then put together a list of books that included biography, fiction, poetry, and more, all by or about African Americans. We worked with the librarian to find out which of those titles our library already contains, and created an Amazon wishlist of the remaining. We will send that out to parents, to see if anyone would like to contribute. The librarian will collect the selected books onto a few shelves of the library for parents to choose from when they come in to do their reading at the appointed time.
As we planned, we came across a number of other ideas and resources for those putting together literary activities for African American History Month. Here are a few:
- Marley Dias is a young reading hero, who made it her mission to collect 1000 books about African American girls. She eventually collected over 11,000! She has shared what she found through her 1000 Black Girl Book Resource Guide. Marley would be a fun lesson in herself, and the booklist is a goldmine.
- Reading Rainbow has a great list of resources and ideas, including a series of video interviews with African American authors and illustrators. These would be fun to pair with a reading by that author.
- Read a play! The August Wilson Education Project has the text of his plays along with educator guides on its website.
- There are also some fun ideas on Scholastic’s website, like watching Newbery Winner Christopher Paul Curtis’s advice to young writers.
- Also, check out these resources from the National Education Association.
I hope this African American History Month is filled with fun, discovery, and plenty of great books!