This Black History Month, celebrate black voices and representation in children’s books. Here at World Book Day, we want to share more diverse stories where all identities are given a voice.
We’ve put together a list of some of our favourite books for all ages, that celebrate black lives and explore black history both in the UK and around the globe.
We’ve also included some titles that support conversations about race and racism in a child-friendly way. These books can be used for Black History Month, when many schools and families spend time researching and talking about Britain’s black history but we believe these books are just as important all year round, too.
To start conversations about race and racism:
Wish We Knew What to Say is a timely and urgent book that gives scenarios, questions, thought starters, resources and advice in an accessible manner on how to tackle tricky conversations around race and racism with confidence and awareness. it brings in the science of how children perceive race and form racial identity, combining it with personal stories and experiences to create a handy guide that every parent would refer to again and again.
Written by behavioural and data scientist, Dr Pragya Agarwal, Wish We Knew What to Say will help all parents, carers and educators give children the tools and vocabulary to talk about people’s differences and similarities in an open, non-judgemental, curious way, and help them address any unfairness they might see or encounter.
Written by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison, published by Puffin
From Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colourism, self-esteem and learning that true beauty comes from within.
Sulwe’s skin is the colour of midnight. She’s darker than everyone in her family, and everyone at school. All she wants is to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister.
Then a magical journey through the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.
Written by Benjamin Zephaniah, published by Scholastic
In this heart-stopping adventure, Benjamin Zephaniah shows us what it was like to be a child of the Windrush generation.
Leonard is shocked when he arrives with his mother in the port of Southampton. His father is a stranger to him, it’s cold and even the Jamaican food doesn’t taste the same as it did back home in Maroon Town. But his parents have brought him here to try to make a better life, so Leonard does his best not to complain, to make new friends, to do well at school – even when people hurt him with their words and with their fists. How can a boy so far from home learn to enjoy his new life when so many things count against him?
What is Race? Who are Racists? Why Does Skin Colour Matter? And Other Big Questions,
Written by Nikesh Shukla and Claire Heuchan, published by Wayland
An important and timely book on race and racism, encouraging children to think for themselves about the issues involved.
Talk about race is often discouraged, but this book aims to bring everyone into the conversation. It explores the history of race and society, giving context to how racist attitudes come into being. It looks at belonging and identity, the damaging effects of stereotyping and the benefits of positive representation. The authors talk sensitively about how to identify and challenge racism, and how to protect against and stop racist behaviour.
The Hate U Give
Written by Angie Thomas, published by Walker
For older readers
A powerful, gripping and piercingly relevant YA novel about inequality, police violence, 21st century prejudice and one girl’s struggle for justice.
Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer.
Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed.
Biography and Non-Fiction:
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
Written by Vashti Harrison, published by Puffin
Featuring 40 trailblazing black women in the world’s history, this book educates and inspires as it relates true stories of women who broke boundaries and exceeded all expectations.
Debut author/illustrator Vashti Harrison pairs captivating text with stunning illustrations as she tells the stories of both iconic and lesser-known female figures of black history.
Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History
Written by Vashti Harrison, published by Puffin
Learn all about the exceptional black men who broke barriers and fought injustice to realise their dreams and make the world a better place.
With Vashti Harrison’s beautiful illustrations and illuminating writing, discover the stories of black men from all walks of life.
Little People, Big Dreams: Rosa Parks
Written by Lisbeth Kaiser, illustrated by Marta Antelo, published by Lincoln Children’s Books
Rosa Parks grew up in Alabama, where she learned to stand up for herself at an early age. Rosa went on to become a civil rights activist. In 1955, she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her courageous decision had a huge impact on civil rights, eventually leading to the end of segregation on public transport. She never stopped working for equal rights. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the activist’s life.
Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present
Written by Jamia Wilson, illustrated Andrea Pippins, published by Wide Eyed Editions
Meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement—a collection of stories about changemakers to encourage, inspire and empower the next generation of changemakers. Jamia Wilson has carefully curated this range of black icons and the book is stylishly brought together by Andrea Pippins’ colourful and celebratory illustrations.
You Are a Champion: How to Be the Best You Can Be
Written by by Marcus Rashford and Carl Anka, published by Macmillan Children’s Books
For older readers
I want to show you how you can be a champion in almost anything you put your mind to.
Marcus Rashford MBE is famous worldwide for his skills both on and off the pitch – but before he was a Manchester United and England footballer, and long before he started his inspiring campaign to end child food poverty, he was just an ordinary kid from Wythenshawe, South Manchester. Now the nation’s favourite footballer wants to show YOU how to achieve your dreams, in this positive and inspiring guide for life.
Written with journalist Carl Anka, You Are a Champion is packed full of stories from Marcus’s own life, brilliant advice and top-tips from performance psychologist Katie Warriner. It will show you how to be the very BEST that you can be.
A story about the triumph of hope, love, and determination, Coming to England is the inspiring true story of Baroness Floella Benjamin: from Trinidad, to London as part of the Windrush generation, to the House of Lords.
Follow ten-year-old Floella as she and her family set sail from the Caribbean to a new life in London. Alone on a huge ship for two weeks, then tumbled into a cold and unfriendly London, coming to England wasn’t at all what Floella had expected . . . What will her new school be like? Will she meet the Queen?
Filled with optimism and joy, yet deeply personal and relevant, young children will follow Floella’s experiences of moving home and making friends. Alongside vibrant illustrations by Diane Ewen, this powerful story shows little people how courage and determination can always overcome adversity.
Happy Here: 10 stories from Black British authors & illustrators
Written by by Dean Atta, Joseph Coelho, Kereen Getten, Patrice Lawrence, Theresa Lola, E.L. Norry, Jasmine Richards, Alexandra Sheppard, Yomi Sode, published by Knights Of
With an introduction from bestselling author Sharna Jackson, Happy Here features stories and poems by 10 Black British authors for readers aged 7+. Exploring themes of joy, home and family through a wide range of genres and styles, each author has been paired with a different illustrator to spotlight Black British artistic talent.
Written by Catherine Johnson, published by Scholastic
An action-packed and pacey story about a boy’s experience of slavery in Britain.
Nathaniel doesn’t want to move to England with his master’s family, leaving behind his mother and sister on the Jamaican plantation. But then he remembers what his mother told him: once a slave sets foot on English soil, they’re free. Perhaps he can earn his fortune and buy his family’s freedom, too.
Timelines from Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies
Introduction by Mireille Harper, published by DK Children
Erased. Ignored. Hidden. Lost. Underappreciated. No longer. Delve into the unique, inspiring, and world-changing history of Black people.
From Frederick Douglass to Oprah Winfrey, and the achievements of ancient African kingdoms to those of the US Civil Rights Movement, Timelines From Black History: Leaders, Legends, Legacies takes kids on an exceptional journey from prehistory to modern times.
Black and British: A short, essential history
Written by David Olusoga, published by Macmillan Children’s Books
For older readers
A short, essential introduction to Black British history for readers of 12+ by award-winning historian and broadcaster David Olusoga.
When did Africans first come to Britain?
Who are the well-dressed black children in Georgian paintings?
Why did the American Civil War disrupt the Industrial Revolution?
These and many other questions are answered in this essential introduction to 1800 years of the Black British history: from the Roman Africans who guarded Hadrian’s Wall right up to the present day.