Black History Storytime

Posted on February 15, 2017

by Angela B

Blog post by TLCPL Librarians Angela Bronson and Rebecca Roberts

African American history is an important part of our programming, all year round. Thankfully, the Kent Branch Library has a special collection, the Art Tatum African American Resource Center, which helps us achieve our goals. The Tatum Center is filled with books written by or written about African Americans. This is an excellent resource for librarians, teachers, parents, or students who are looking for important materials about African American history.

Songs for Storytime

Storytimes about Black history are valuable for all children, no matter what their heritage might be. We created a few rhymes, collected a couple songs, and put a list together of books, both digital and physical, that you hopefully can use in your next storytime.

First, we combined four famous quotes from four African American leaders from four different time periods to create an inspiring song for children:

  1. “I would unite with anybody to do right; and with nobody to do wrong.” – Frederick Douglass
  2. “One chance is all you need.” – Jesse Owens
  3. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
  4. “We are the change that we seek.” – President Barack Obama

You can print out portraits of these leaders and hold them up when singing.

Barack Obama - 44th President of the United StatesPhoto by Janeb13

Sung to “London Bridges”

We unite to do what’s right Do what’s right, do what’s right We unite to do what’s right For our freedom

One chance is all we need All we need, all we need One chance is all we need To succeed

We will drive out the darkness Out the darkness, out the darkness We will drive out the darkness With our light

We are the change that we seek That we seek, that we seek We are the change that we seek Hope and change

FirefightersPhoto by Skeeze

Sung to “I’m A Little Teapot”

I am a firefighter dressed in red I wear a safety mask on my head It helps me to breathe, fight fire too Don’t you worry, I’ll help you

Traffic LightsPhoto by Draconianimages

In 1923, Garrett Morgan also created a safer type of traffic light with three lights instead of two. Storytime children will enjoy this movement song that celebrates Morgan’s traffic light, “Green Light, Go!” by The Not-Its. Also, this idea for a Traffic Light Graham Cracker snack would make a great activity for little ones.

Full MoonPhoto by Mhy

“Hidden Figures,” the popular book and movie from 2016, is an account of the previously unheralded but pivotal contributions of NASA’s African-American women mathematicians to America’s space program. It also tells the story of Katherine G. Johnson, who worked at NASA to help calculate space and moon travel. Here’s a fun rhyme to use when telling children about their accomplishments:

Zoom, zoom, zoom We’re going to the moon. Zoom, zoom, zoom We’ll be there very soon So, if you’d like to take a trip Just step inside my rocket ship. Zoom, zoom, zoom We’re going to the moon. Zoom, zoom, zoom We’ll be there very soon 10 – 9 – 8 -7 – 6 – 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1 – 0 – Lift OFF !!

George Washington Carver
Photo by Frances Benjamin Johnston

Everyone knows about George Washington Carver, the African American scientist who studied peanuts. While, he didn’t create peanut butter, like many believe, kids will still love to sing and dance to this peanut butter song, “Peanut Butter and Jelly Song” performed by The Learning Station.

Ice Cream

Photo by Eakkkk

Augustus Jackson was an African American White House Cook in the 1820’s. He developed an improved way to make ice cream, which lead to his nickname, “Father of Ice Cream.” Pair this song about Augustus Jackson by Ellis Paul with a flannel board or craft about ice cream. Or, if you are really ambitious, try to make this 5 minute ice cream recipe.


Another great resource provided by the Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL) is BookFlix, a digital literacy resource that pairs over 120 animated stories from Weston Woods with a best-selling nonfiction eBook from Scholastic. TLCPL cardholders can access this great service through our eMedia page.

Animated books to use during storytime

Martin's Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
“Martin’s Big Words” by Doreen Rappaport

Book | eAudiobook | eVideo

This biography of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. brings his life and the profound nature of his message to young children through his own words. Martin Luther King, Jr., was one of the most influential and gifted speakers of all time. Doreen Rappaport uses quotes from some of his most beloved speeches to tell the story of his life and his work in a simple, direct way.

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni
“Rosa” by Nikki Giovanni

Book | eBook | eVideo

Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Mrs. Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. Award-winning poet, writer, and activist Nikki Giovanni’s evocative text combines with Bryan Collier’s striking cut-paper images to retell the story of this historic event from a wholly unique and original perspective.

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson
“Show Way” by Jacqueline Woodson

Book | DVD

Soonie’s great-grandma was just seven years old when she was sold to a big plantation without her ma and pa, and with only some fabric and needles to call her own. She pieced together bright patches with names like North Star and Crossroads, patches with secret meanings made into quilts called Show Ways — maps for slaves to follow to freedom. When she grew up and had a little girl, she passed on this knowledge. And generations later, Soonie — who was born free — taught her own daughter how to sew beautiful quilts to be sold at market and how to read.

From slavery to freedom, through segregation, freedom marches and the fight for literacy, the tradition they called Show Way has been passed down by the women in Jacqueline Woodson’s family as a way to remember the past and celebrate the possibilities of the future. Beautifully rendered in Hudson Talbott’s luminous art, this moving, lyrical account pays tribute to women whose strength and knowledge illuminate their daughters’ lives.

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
“Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman

Book | eBook | eAudiobook

Although a classmate says that she cannot play Peter Pan in the school play because she is black, Grace discovers that she can do anything she sets her mind to do.

Of course, you can’t have a storytime without picture books. The books featured below are picks from TLCPL librarians – some explain historical events, while others are about creating a bright history.

Picture Book Picks from TLCPL Librarians

These Hands by Hope Lynne Price
These Hands by Hope Lynne Price

“These Hands” reminds us of the simple beauty that comes from touching, writing, holding, playing, and helping. All the loving things we do with our hands. Hope Lynne Price’s spare, lyrical poetry pays tribute to the grace and power of hands, while Bryan Collier’s bold collage art lovingly depicts a family’s everyday life. You and your young readers will want to hold this stunning book in your own hands and recite its rhymes over and over.

Read and Rise by Sandra L. Pinkney ; photographs by Myles C. Pinkney ; foreword by Maya Angelou
Read and Rise by Sandra L. Pinkney

Photographs and poetic text celebrate reading as a means of encouraging African American children to pursue their dreams.

Underground : [finding the light to freedom] by Shane W. Evans
Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom by Shane W. Evans

A stellar introduction to the Underground Railroad, narrated by a group of slaves. Readers experience the fugitives’ escape, their long nighttime journey punctuated by meetings with friends and enemies, and their final glorious arrival in a place of freedom.

I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes
I, Too, Am America by Langston Hughes

Presents the popular poem by one of the central figures in the Harlem Renaissance, highlighting the courage and dignity of the African American Pullman porters in the early twentieth century.

This Little Light of Mine - illustrated by E.B. Lewis
This Little Light of Mine illustrated by E.B. Lewis

Through the words of a well-known African-American spiritual dating back to the days of slavery, a little boy finds that through simple, kind acts he has the power to let his light shine and warm the world around him.

Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler; illustrations by R. Gregory Christie
Jazz Baby by Lisa Wheeler

With a clap of his tiny hands and tap of his teeny feet, a musically-inclined baby inspires his finger-snapping sister, scat-singing granny, soft-shoe dancing uncle, and the rest of his loving family to get in on the fun!

Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee; illustrated by Sean Qualls Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee

Pursuing one’s own path in life takes courage, strength, and perseverance, as demonstrated by such inspirational leaders as Barack Obama, Albert Einstein, and Muhammad Ali.

From Slavery to Freedom - written by Melinda Lilly; illustrated by Lori McElrath-Eslick
From Slavery to Freedom by Melinda Lilly

Introduces the Underground Railroad, a group of people and places through which runaway slaves escaped to freedom before the Civil War.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson

A picture-book interpretation of one of America’s best-known songs, focusing on landscapes and images of a boy and his family. Includes printed melody-line and all four verses.

This Jazz Man - written by Karen Ehrhardt; pictures by R.G. Roth
This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt

Presents an introduction to jazz music and nine well-known jazz musicians, set to the rhythm of the traditional song, “This Old Man.” Includes brief facts about each musician.

Arts & Crafts

Lastly, Marian Wright Edelman, an African American civil rights activist and lawyer, has a valuable quote:

“If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.”

Use this quote as inspiration to create world crafts or print the coloring page below that we created.

Marian Wright Edelman quote

These ideas will help to get you started when creating some great Black history storytimes for all year round.

Looking for additional recommendations?

Ask us – we’d love to help you find your next great read.

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