Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Recognizing African American History {Children's Literature Reviews}

So many children today have a very limited knowledge about the influence of American Americans in the United States. A great way to teach students about this is by reading them biographies, historical fiction and non-fiction text. I enjoy reading aloud to children in my speech-language therapy lessons. They learn factual informational while also practicing their speech-language skills. 

Here are 3 of my recommendations that I  read and discussed with my students this month. Although Black History is celebrated during the month of February in the U.S., these books can be read at any time of the year. Likewise, students should continue to learn about African American History all year long as well. 

This is an engaging biography that describes Hank Aaron's determination to play professional baseball at a time when Jackie Robinson was the only other black player. The illustrations are excellent and truly help the story come alive as Hank Aaron beat Babe Ruth's record of hitting the most home runs. In 1974, he hit his 715th home run! The book also tells the story about how he persevered despite the discriminatory threats that he received because of the color of his skin. My speech language students enjoyed learning that he played for the Atlanta Braves, when his original professional team, the Milwaukee Braves moved south to Georgia. That detail helped them connect to the story since we live in metro Atlanta, Ga. 

Grandma's Pride is a beautifully written historical fiction book told from the perspective of a little girl, Sarah Marie, who travels to the south with her family during the summer to visit her grandmother. The precious little girl quickly learns the differences between how blacks experience life in the northern U.S. versus the southern U.S. On her journey, she experiences having to sit in the back of a bus, not being able to use certain public restrooms, not being able to eat at certain downtown restaurants, and the tenacity of her grandmother whose pride would not allow her to ride the city bus. I like this book because it gives children a glimpse into what life was like during the civil rights era of the 1960s when Jim Crow laws were enforced. Through the voice of a child, they are also able to hear how in a later summer visit, the unjust rules of the south were no more!   

Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-Ins  is another excellent historical fiction book that tells the story about a young girl, Connie, who sees first hand the boldness of four college students from North Carolina A & T. The young men, her brother's friends,  decided that enough was enough and they planned a "sit in" to quietly protest their lack of service at a lunch counter in Woolworth's, a popular downtown department store. They sat at the lunch counter and requested to order food. They were denied and asked to leave due to the Jim Crow laws. This book will evoke questions and emotions from children. Most will empathize with Connie, who wanted to order a banana split at Woolworth's the day she saw her brother's friends. This story also comes full circle as the author summarizes events that this incident sparked such as more lunch counter "sit ins", a visit to Greensboro by Dr. Martin Luther King, and additional non-violent protests for civil rights for African-Americans. I love that this story is also told through the eyes of a child who was able to sit at any lunch counter and enjoy her banana split after the Supreme Court ruling that those Jim Crow laws were unconstitutional!

There are so many great books out there to help children recognize and understand African American History in the United States! I also created a non-fiction curriculum unit so children can learn about historical African Americans. You may check out that resource here:

Thanks for reading the blog today. 

Tamara Anderson

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