Beautiful Feet Books honors Black History Month with a collection of six children’s picture books and a PDF guide.
The picture books are a mix of hardcover and paperback, each 32 to 40 pages in length. They are an inspiring collection that highlights the contributions of black people in music, exploration, teaching, scientific discovery, and leadership from the eighteenth through the twentieth century. Four of the main characters were born into slavery, while two were not. Two stories focus on women while the other four are about men. And one story takes place in the West Indies and France. Because of this diversity, these stories provide children with a broad view of the black experience.
The titles and authors of the books are:
- Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George
- Mumbet’s Declaration of Independence by Gretchen Woelfle
- The Journey of York: The Unsung Hero of the Lewis and Clark Expedition by Hasan Davis
- A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki
- Midnight Teacher: Lilly Ann Granderson and Her Secret School by Janet Halfmann
- Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Doreen Rappaport
The Black History Month Guide (PDF) leads us through the six picture books with discussion questions, online resources, and activities. While the guide is especially appropriate for February, designated as Black History Month in 1976, it can be used any time of the year.
The ten-page guide is much briefer than most guides from Beautiful Feet Books since it is intended to be completed within a month. To this end, you will find only one or two pages of material for each picture book, including discussion prompts--a series of questions or topics, such as these two examples from the story of York:
“What do you think of Captain Clark forcing York to perform for the leaders of the Native tribes they encountered? Compare this with the respect he received from the Native tribes.”
“How do you think we can honor the unrecognized contribution of York to the history of the United States?”
Some of the book studies include URLs for images, information, and activities. For instance, children can try making their own ink following online instructions, listen to musical compositions by Joseph Boulogne, listen to Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, or view a captioned collage of photos documenting King’s life.
The guide presents the books in chronological order, but you can read them in whatever order you wish. You might consider spacing the study out over more than a month, but keep in mind that the final question in the guide asks students to compare character qualities of the key figures in all six books. Children might forget some of the character qualities if you space out the study for more than a few months.
You can order this set of books (which includes the guide for free) directly from Beautiful Feet Books. Or you can purchase the guide and either buy or borrow from the library the individual picture books. The guide and the books can be used with children in kindergarten through fourth grade, although Before There was Mozart, The Journey of York, and Midnight Teacher are likely to also be of interest to children beyond that age range.
The Black History Month Guide introduces children to heroic black people who made important contributions yet suffered from the evils of racism. This collection is especially helpful because it explores the black experience in different times and places.