Upper Elementary Read Alouds for Black History Month

Black History Month is a special time to honor many of the influential African Americans who have shaped history. Students enjoy listening to narratives and biographical accounts about Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King Jr., Coretta Scott, Wilma Rudolph, Ruby Bridges, and many others. Below are some of my favorite books to celebrate black history month with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students.

Ruth and the Green Book

Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey is an excellent text to introduce students to the history of Jim Crow Laws and The Green Book. This is a great mentor text for explaining historical events and teaching cause and effect.

Through My Eyes

Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges is an eye-opening autobiography that includes multiple accounts of her experience as one of the first African American students to attend an integrated elementary school in the South. I highly recommend this book for 4th and 5th grade students comparing firsthand and secondhand accounts.

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman

Fly High! The Story of Bessie Coleman by Louise Borden is a wonderful biography about the early life of Bessie Coleman, who grew up to become the first African-American female to hold a pilot’s license. This book is fabulous for biography studies anytime of year!

More Than Anything Else

More Than Anything Else by Marie Bradby is a fictional story about the life of Booker T. Washington and his desire to read. I highly recommend this mentor text for teaching descriptive language.

Henry’s Freedom Box

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine tells the amazing true story of a slave, Henry “Box” Brown, who mails himself to north to Philadelphia to escape slavery. This is an excellent book for teaching character traits and introducing readers to the history of the Underground Railroad.

Wilma Unlimited

Wilma Unlimited by Kathleen Krull is another great read aloud to share during Black History Month. Although the focus of this book is not about Wilma Rudolph as a civil rights leader, it still alludes to the struggles Wilma faced in receiving medical care as a child, which leads to great discussion about integration and equality. Wilma Unlimited is sure to inspire even the most reluctant readers.

Martin’s Big Words

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport is a phenomenal book to read during Black History Month, Martin Luther King Day, or anytime of year! This biography uses the famous words of Martin Luther King, Jr. to tell the story of his life. I highly recommend this book for teaching main idea and supporting details. Student’s will also enjoy interpreting Martin’s words.

Rosa’s Bus

Rosa’s Bus by Jo Kittinger tells the story of Rosa Parks and her arrest that sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott. This is another great text for explaining historical events.

The Undefeated

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander is a nonfiction poem about the perseverance of civil rights heroes. This is an excellent mentor text for poetry studies, analyzing text structure, and more.

The Other Side

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson tells the story of a friendship between two girls who live on opposite sides of a fence segregating the African-American side of town from the white side of town. The Other Side is a wonderful story to help students ask and answer questions and make inferences while reading.

Counting on Katherine

Counting on Katherine by Helaine Becker tells the story of Katherine Johnson, an African-American mathematician who worked for NASA and saved Apollo 13. Counting on Katherine is a must-read during Black History Month, Women’s History Month, or anytime of year!

Coretta Scott

Coretta Scott by Ntozake Shange is an inspiring and beautifully-written biography about the civil rights pioneer Coretta Scott. Coretta Scott is another great book for poetry studies and explaining historical events.

I hope you enjoy!

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