After attending the Children’s Social Justice Reading Group at East Lansing Public Library last month, I jumped at the chance to volunteer in any way to help broaden awareness about this much-needed program in the greater-Lansing community (much-needed and instantly popular: they initially anticipated 30 participants, had 150 register, and 209 attend). So I was geeked when the Youth Services Librarian contacted me a few days later to assist with a Black History Month reading for their Family Storytime.
It was such a pleasure to collaborate with Miss Eva on book selection and to share ideas about activities. In fact, I knew we were on the same page the moment she pulled out Be Boy Buzz by bell hooks from a stack of first picks. I was over the moon to get the chance to read it at storytime! It will always be one my favorites not only because it’s a celebration of black boy joy, but also for creating one of my sweetest memories of K when I read it to him years ago — inspiring my then-toddler to recite the words along with me unprompted for the very first time. Sharing this story with her, we both agreed that instead of focusing strictly on historical figures — who were either dead or old and less relatable — it was important to show black characters and real life black kids doing ordinary and extraordinary things. Simply living, enjoying time with family and friends, using their imaginations, building, playing, problem-solving, taking care of pets. Just like them. Just like their friends, classmates, and neighbors. Just like the little girl in another book on our list that I got to read: Lola at the Library! And just like brave and talented kids such as fellow Michigander Amariyanna Copeny, who wrote to President Obama about the Flint water crisis, and Robby Novak, the adorable ambassador of kindness popularly known as Kid President. Both were among the group of smart and creative kidtrepreneurs and big dreamers featured in the Who Is Your Hero? craft, which Miss Eva modeled after the Black Heritage Series stamps with blank frames for the kids to create portraits of people they admired.
Offering lessons specifically tied to Black History Month, we decided to open storytime with We March; let the kids get their wiggles out by playing the Stoplight Game, which was the ideal moment to teach them about its inventor, Garrett Morgan; and created a final interactive activity based on 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World. The latter was too text-heavy for the age group, so I suggested we invite the kids to pick a number and have their parents read about the corresponding day (check the photo gallery to see how Miss Eva set it up). For Day 29, there’s a beautiful poem that I thought tied perfectly to the question Miss Eva would ask the kids and parents to consider — a question that we hope will resound beyond this moment — What Kind of Community Do You Want to Live In?
What will today bring,
what will today be,
will today be the day you make history?
Will your thoughts evolve science,
will you skill earn gold,
will your life story be
one worth being told?
Will your questions change laws,
will your words inspire others,
will your name be passed on
by fathers and mothers?
Will the fire in your spirit
spark a revolution,
will your actions advance
Will others follow you into battle
to defend liberty,
will today be the day
you add to history?
Today is the day,
today is to be.
Family Storytime Reading List
- We March | Shane Evans
- Be Boy Buzz | bell hooks
- Lola at the Library | Anna McQuinn
(Check out The Complete Lola Series)
- 28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World | Charles Smith Jr.
See what else we’re reading:
bodhicitta bookshelf | not just black history
Other teaching resources:
ABC Me Flashcards
Buzzfeed List of 26 Children’s Books That Celebrate Black Heroes
9 Craft Activities That Teach Preschoolers About Black History + Culture