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11 Great Juneteenth Reads for Kids

Not just for celebration, Juneteenth is a day for reflection and learning, and these books are here to help!

Daniel Fernandez · 4 months ago

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Even though America gained its independence from Britain back in 1776, African Americans were still enslaved on the day we celebrate as Independence Day, and while most Americans think that slavery was abolished when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, true freedom for enslaved people did not arrive for another two full years. 

June 19th, also known as “Juneteenth,” commemorates June 19, 1865, the date when federal troops arrived in Galveston, Texas, to take control of the state and ensure all enslaved people were freed. Juneteenth is widely considered “African American Independence Day” by Black Americans, and it marks a hugely important date in American history. 

These books will help you and your kids in understanding the historical significance of Juneteenth as a holiday. Let’s get to reading!

Anti-Racist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi

Racism has no place in a just society and it is never too early to help children understand the concepts of anti-racism, fairness, and equality so they can play their part in creating a more equitable world as they grow up. Skillfully using a combination of rhyme and playful illustrations, Ibram X. Kendi does a fantastic job of showing us that no matter how old you are, equality starts in our minds, thoughts, and the ways in which we interact with others.

Juneteenth: A Children’s Story, by Opal Lee

Texas native Opal Lee is widely considered the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.” In 2016, she walked from Texas to Washington, D.C. (yes, walked), with the goal of getting 100,000 petition signatures to persuade Congress to name Juneteenth an official holiday. Since then, she’s gotten over 1.5 million signatures and written her very own book to educate young children ages K-5 about what Juneteenth is and means — and at 94 years old, she shows no signs of stopping! Her book also features teacher’s notes to help facilitate conversations about American history in the classroom and at home.

Juneteenth for Mazie, by Floyd Cooper

Juneteenth for Mazie tells the story of a young African American girl named Mazie who learns that her great-great-great grandfather was a slave the day before Juneteenth. By exploring Mazie’s family history and heritage, Floyd Cooper is able to shine a light on how enslaved African Americans overcame obstacles. Mazie is able to take these lessons into her own life while also celebrating Juneteenth with more understanding and respect for what the day means.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom, by Angela Johnson

All Different Now: Juneteenth, The First Day of Freedom, tells a beautiful story of how the freedom that enslaved people hoped for but never expected to come finally arrived on June 19, 1865. With gorgeous watercolor illustrations, Angela Johnson tells the story of enslaved people in Texas coming together after hearing the news of their freedom and how from this news, hope springs from this community for a better future for African Americans. All Different Now also includes notes by the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates related to African American history and Juneteenth, and a glossary of relevant terms. 

The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure, by Steven Otfinoski

Steven Otfinoski takes an unconventional approach to telling the story of Juneteenth in The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure. Following a “choose your own adventure” format, readers can choose from three different storylines centered around the different trials and tribulations African Americans endured in claiming their freedom after they were declared independent. With 22 possible endings, there are plenty of opportunities for children to explore the African American experience and give greater meaning to Juneteenth. 

Timelines From Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies, by DK Books

Timelines from Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies showcases Black figures who changed both American and world history. With more than 30 different visual timelines, readers are able to explore the biographies of Black Americans — many of whom have been marginalized and ignored due to their race — who have played pivotal roles in making the world what it is today.

Like a Bird: The Art of the American Slave Song, by Cynthia Grady

While awaiting a freedom that many did not believe would ever come, enslaved African Americans would write and craft songs to sing as they worked and struggled throughout their lives. These songs were a source of comfort, strength, and hope, and they are documented in Cynthia Grady’s Like A Bird: The Art of the American Slave Song, alongside music notation. This book is a great way of teaching children who love music valuable lessons about the Black experience and why Juneteenth remains important and significant to this day. 

Little People, Big Dreams: Black Voices Book Set

The bestselling and widely popular Little People, Big Dreams book series includes fun and accessible books for children of all ages to learn more about heroes that have made a large impact on the world today. This particular set focuses on the pivotal voices of three inspirational figures from Black culture: Maya Angelou, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther KIng. These books serve as a reminder that despite the abolition of slavery and Juneteenth, the fight for equality continues, and we must continually strive towards a more equal society. 

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes From Past and Present Book, by Jamia Wilson

Young, Gifted and Black is a vibrant, colorful, and insightful collection of 52 Black heroes who have made significant contributions to the world and to Black history. Each featured hero has their own illustrated profile elaborating on their biography, accomplishments, and some of the struggles they overcame related to slavery, gender equality, and racism. With 52 Black heroes to choose from, you and your child can make this book last an entire year by learning about one new figure a week!

This Book Is Anti-Racist, by Tiffany Jewell

While celebrating and honoring Juneteenth, your child may ask questions like: “What is racism?” “How did we end up here?” “How was slavery ever allowed?” Tiffany Jewell’s This Book Is Anti-Racist helps children understand how racism and slavery originated, how and what certain individuals did to fight against these harmful ideas, how important the language we use is, and how they can empower themselves to be actively anti-racist. By actively working against racism, we honor those whom Juneteenth celebrates!

Of Thee I Sing, by Barack Obama

In this book, former president Barack Obama writes a letter to his two young daughters in which he poses questions to them such as: “Have I told you that you are brave?” and “Have I told you that you are part of a family?” Accompanying each of these questions is a beautifully illustrated profile of an American hero who worked to embody the traits and ideals that Barack Obama believes make us the best versions of ourselves. In this book, Obama shows us that regardless of gender, race, or skin color, it is diversity and acceptance of others that makes us stronger, and within each of us is the power to achieve our wildest dreams and uplift others.