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Woman with small child in lap, young boy beside all reading a book

Honoring Black Voices With Books


February is Black History Month, an opportunity to “honor the contributions and sacrifices of African Americans who have helped shape the nation” ( As a parent and an early childhood educator, holidays, seasons and significant events throughout the year provide opportunities to engage our littlest learners in conversations and experiences beyond those happening in our daily lives. There are events to attend this month and exhibits to experience however our babies are sleeping through museum tours while our toddlers are asking for snacks and pretending the bench is a balance beam. So how do we honor Black voices and stories with young children? The answer is books.

Early Exposure

Early literacy is crucial to a child’s development. From birth, reading with a child sets the stage for joint attention, visual representations of language and vocabulary bombardment. While all these foundational skills are developing, the content and images offer our children opportunities to see faces like their own and not like their own… to imagine families that look like theirs and do not look like theirs… to see that their world matters and that other worlds matter.

We cannot create what we cannot imagine. Lucille Clifton, African American poet and children's author

When my own children were little, books allowed me to shower while my girls sat and explored the pages. Books offered a signal that it was time to wind down before naps or bedtime. In restaurants, a few books in my bag gave us a distraction to talk about and engage in together while waiting for food. A surprise bag of new library books at the start of a road trip kicked off the day with fresh stories to get lost in.

Pages Not Pixels

All too often the situations mentioned above now lean on technology to fill a gap, to keep a child “entertained.” I would challenge caregivers and early childhood educators to lean elsewhere. The flashing pixels and quickly changing images are not engaging a young brain. They are not stimulating a child’s imagination. According to Lucille Clifton, an African American poet and children’s author, “we cannot create what we cannot imagine”.

The moments to bring out a book are infinite - which means the opportunities to embed the stories and voices of others are unlimited. Let there be no excuses preventing us from raising children surrounded by books and all the history and culture they contain.

Where To Begin

Here are some resources to use with your child as part of Black History Month. Find some new stories and new authors to read together. Begin early the exposure and conversations about the celebrations, the struggles and the lives of one another.

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