Teaching Character Through Literature: Citizenship (Part 2: Black American Culture)

July 2, 2020 | Wisdom Wonder Project

“What do I owe to my times, to my country, to my neighbors, to my friends? Such are the questions which a virtuous man ought often to ask himself.”
— Johann Kaspar Lavater, German poet & physiognomist (1741-1801)

CITIZENSHIP: Recognizing one’s place in the greater communities (family, school, local and country) through active service and respectful devotion to the community’s members, values and standards.

Catch phrase: Everyone counts.

Often part of exploring our own citizenship involves learning about (and from!) our community and its members. The power of story in literature is a great way to do this! Given the current events in our country, we have put together a second Citizenship book list, sharing stories about Black American culture. We hope the books on this list can be tools in your toolbox as you navigate conversations about racism and cultural awareness with your child(ren).

When choosing literature for our book lists, we use parameters such as beautiful writing, beautiful pictures, an invitation to dialogue with the content, books that help us to think deeply, and content that is developmentally appropriate for its age/audience. The result is a curated list that we are excited to share. Our book list today is no different, and our longest yet!

Though this list is lengthy, we do not want it to be overwhelming—we’ve ordered the books by age level (picture books through chapter books) to make it a little easier to peruse. You will notice some authors listed more than once (like Jacqueline Woodson), if you like one of the books from that author, consider exploring their others! We also included a graphic novels category for our adolescent readers.

Little Wonders (Preschool, Junior K, & Kindergarten)

For Ages 0-3+

Skin Again by Bell Hooks

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
From Little Leaders (3 Book Series)

When Thunder Comes: Poems for Civil Rights Leaders by J. Patrick Lewis (Children’s Poet Laureate)

It’s OK to be Different by Sharon Purtill
Gold Award Winner, Literary Titan

For Ages 4+




Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano, PhD and Marietta Collins, PhD
National Parenting Product Award Winner (NAPPA)

We’re Different, We’re the Same by Sesame Street

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena
Winner of the Newbery Medal, Caldecott Honor Book, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book, and Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book
We have a Book A Week unit for Junior K on this book to really make it come alive!

Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told by Walter Dean Myers

Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester

Hair Love by Mathew A Cherry

Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton

Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story (Scholastic Reader, Level 2) by Ruby Bridges

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

Fifty Cents and a Dream: Young Booker T. Washington by Jabari Asim and Bryan Collier

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni and Bryan Collier
Caldecott Honor Book

Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award and NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Children’s Literary Work

Hidden Figure: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
See Young Reader’s Edition (for ages 8+) and the original book (for Young Adults) to read with multiple ages

For Ages 5+

The Undefeated by Alexander Kwame
Caldecott Medal Winner, The Coretta Scott King Award, and a Newbery Honor Book

Delivering Justice: W. W. Law and the Fight for Civil Rights by James Haskins and Benny Andrews

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
#1 New York Times Bestseller

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Young Scholars (1st grade-8th grade)+

For Ages 6+

Malcolm X: A Fire Burning Brightly by Walter Dean Myers

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson and Frank Morrison
Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Illustration

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson

Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
Jane Addams Award Book

For Ages 8+

Can I Touch Your Hair (Poems of race, mistakes, and friendship) by Irene Latham

The Civil Rights Movement by Eric Braun

Glory Be by Augusta Scattergood

The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis
Newbery and Coretta Scott King Honoree

Black Heroes of the American Revolution by Burke Davis

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

New Kid by Jerry Craft
Winner of the Newbery Medal, Coretta Scott King Author Award, and Kirkus Prize for Young Readers’ Literature

Hidden Figures Young Reader’s Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly
See picture book edition (for ages 4+) and the original book (for Young Adults) to read with multiple ages

For Ages 9+

America’s Black Founders: Revolutionary Heroes and Early Leaders with 21 Activities by Nancy I. Sanders

The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon
Coretta Scott King and John Steptoe Award for New Talent

Civil Rights Then & Now: A Timeline of the Fight for Equality in America by Kristina Brooke Daniele

The Journey of Little Charlie by Christopher Paul Curtis
National Book Award finalist

Dark Sky Rising: Reconstruction and the Rise of Jim Crow by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Tonya Bolden

Never Forgotten by Patricia McKissack
2012 Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book and Junior Library Guild Selection

For Ages 10+

Witness to Freedom: Young People Who Fought for Civil Rights by Belinda Rochelle

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor
From The Logan Family Saga Book Series (entire series highly recommended)
Winner of the Newbery Medal

Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson
Book 1 from Seeds of America Series
National Book Award Finalist and Scott O’Dell Award for Historical Fiction

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
National Book Award and Newbery Honor winner

For Ages 12+

Just Mercy: Adapted for Young Adults by Bryan Stevenson
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, Booklist Editors’ Choice and a New York Public Library Best Book of the Year (For ages 12+)

Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism and You by Jason Reynolds
#1 New York Times bestseller (For ages 12+)

We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson
A Kirkus Reviews Best Book of the Year, NYPL Best Book for Teens (For ages 12+)

The Crossover (The Crossover Series) by Kwame Alexander
(For ages 12+)

A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson and Philippe Lardy
Coretta Scott King and Printz Honor Book (For ages 12+)

Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Philip M. Hoose
2009 National Book Award Winner for Young People’s Literature and a 2010 Newbery Honor Book (For ages 13+)

While the World Watched: A Birmingham Bombing Survivor Comes of Age During Civil Rights Movement by Carolyn Maull McKinstry
(For ages 13+)

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
(For ages 12+)

Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly
See picture book edition (for ages 4+) and Young Reader’s Edition (for ages 8+) to read with multiple ages (For ages 13+)

The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church’s Complicity in Racism by Jamar Tisby
(For ages 13+)

Graphic Novels

I am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
(For ages 12+)

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
(For ages 12+)

March (4 Book Series) by John Lewis
(For ages 13+)

Want more resources? Read Teaching Character Through Literature: Citizenship Part I and Character Counts: Citizenship.

Comments 2

  1. Pingback: Character Counts: Citizenship | Wisdom Wonder Project

  2. Pingback: Teaching Character Through Literature: Citizenship (Part 1) | Wisdom Wonder Project

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.