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Celebrate African American Culture Book Collection

Written by: Jenne Parks

June 19, 2020

Hatch has received requests from our social media community for recommended child-friendly resources to help expand cultural literacy and provide some historical context around current events. Hatch’s Creative Diversity line was developed to provide learning resources that celebrate and honor all cultures. We currently offer a Celebrate African American Culture Book Collection that encourages children to understand and appreciate their cultural background. As we all work to provide a better tomorrow for our littlest learners, we also encourage you to visit our recent blog, “Talking to Children About Race.”

Celebrate African American Culture Book Collection: Encourage children to love, appreciate, and celebrate their cultural background while developing a mutual appreciation for the cultural backgrounds of other people. Set of 4 books. Ages 4+

Below are some other great titles you may want to explore.

Sulwe:.Written by Lupita Nyong’o, tells the story of a little girl who "was born the color of midnight" and feels she is treated differently from her lighter-skinned friends and family members because of it. The tale takes a magical turn when a star comes in her bedroom and takes her on a journey explaining the mythological origins of Day and Night, who are sisters. After learning about the value and beauty of the dark night, she embraces her dark skin. In an author's note at the end, Nyong'o, who was raised in Kenya, explains how she drew on her own experience to write this book: "Much like Sulwe, I got teased and taunted about my night-shade skin. ... Yes, it is important to feel good about yourself when you look in the mirror, but what is even more important is working to be beautiful inside." Ages 2-4

A Picture Book of Jesse Owens: Before Usain Bolt or Tyson Gay, Bob Beamon or Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens was perhaps the greatest and most famous athlete in track and field history. Written by David A. Adler. Illustrated by Robert Casilla Ages 4-6

Don’t Touch My Hair! This book, written and illustrated by Sharee Miller, is about an African American girl who finds herself annoyed by people who touch her hair without asking permission. There are some fantasy elements to the story, as Aria tries to escape from the world of people with grasping hands by going to outer space, under the ocean, and to other imaginary locales. The illustrations are fun, with an occasional touch of scariness: Some of the pages are framed with reaching hands, and occasionally Aria looks frightened. A lot of diversity is shown, including people of all ages, women in hijab, an elder who is using a walker, and people with a variety of skin tones. Ages 4+

Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race: This book, by Margot Lee Shetterly with Winifred Conkling, and illustrated by Laura Freeman, was named a 2019 Coretta Scott King Honor Book. This is a picture book version of the inspirational true story, now well-known from the award-winning film, in which four women of color overcame discrimination during the Jim Crow era of segregation laws in the South and excelled as human "computers" at NASA. The book includes a timeline, bios of the four women, and a glossary explaining words like "aeronautics," "sonic boom," and "turbulence." It also explains segregation and civil rights history. Ages 4-8

Jazz Age Josephine: This illustrated biography speaks to the very serious subject of racism in America in the early part of the 20th century. African Americans in St. Louis are burned out of their homes, chased by whites, and forced to flee. Josephine Baker leaves and never comes back. She makes her Broadway debut at 15 but is forced to wear blackface (kids may need some explanation of this former demeaning theatrical practice) and ultimately finds stardom and respect overseas in Paris. Ages 4+

Rosa: This illustrated biography, written by acclaimed African American poet Nikki Giovanni, deals with the historical realities of discrimination, focusing on Rosa Parks and the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955. Much of the context of these events is left unexplained, so an adult will be needed to fill in the gaps. Ages 4+

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez: Chavez is known as one of America’s greatest civil rights leaders. When he led a 340-mile peaceful protest march through California, he ignited a cause and improved the lives of thousands of migrant farm workers. But Cesar was not always a leader. As a boy, he was shy and teased at school. His family worked in the fields for barely enough money to survive. Cesar knew things had to change. When he spoke up, an entire country listened. Ages 4–7

Nelson Mandela: Award-winning author-illustrator Kadir Nelson tells the story of global icon and Nobel Peace Prize winner Nelson Mandela. It is the story of a young boy’s determination to change South Africa and his journey to become the president of his country. Mandela believed in equality for all people, no matter the color of their skin. Readers will be inspired by Mandela’s triumph and his lifelong quest to create a more just world. Ages 4–8

We March: : On August 28, 1963, a remarkable event took place: More than 250,000 people gathered in our nation’s capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic “I Have a Dream” speech that advocated for racial harmony. The thrill of the day is brought to life for even the youngest reader to experience. Ages 2–7

Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills: Born to parents who were former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing and that her sweet, bird-like voice resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway, where she inspired audiences, songwriters, and playwrights. Despite her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped the world around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by fellow Black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights. Harlem’s Little Blackbird is a timeless story about justice, equality, and the importance of following one’s heart and dreams. Ages 3–7

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