Celebrate Black History Month Books in Chinese and English

20 Important children's books to celebrate Black History Month in Chinese and English

Although my children are Asian and learning Chinese, stories that celebrate Black heroes and regular kids are relevant to everyone. We all need children’s books for Black History Month and the whole year in our homes and schools.

My kids are only 3 and 6 years old, but we’ve had to discuss the history of enslavement and the racism that still exists today. I’ve shared about discrimination, which made me reluctant to speak Chinese as a child.

Chalk Academy is reader-supported. Some of the links are affiliate links. When you buy something through an affiliate link, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. More details here.

Appreciating Black History Month through children’s books

Since we live in a small, homogeneous town, books are among the best ways that we can learn stories from people of all races, especially black, indigenous, and people of color.

The importance of acknowledging color

As tough as these conversations can be, change begins with honest discussions at home.

To quote Carlos Rodriguez:

“I see no color” is not the goal.

“I see your color and I honor you. I value your input. I will be educated about your lived experiences. I will work against the racism that harms you. You are beautiful. Tell me how to do better.”

…That’s the goal.

Kindness often takes practice to become a habit, and books are essential tools for growing the heart. Discussion with parents and teachers are crucial for preventing stereotypes and bulllying.

Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors, ” quote by Black American educator Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop
Infographic inspired by Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop

Mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors

In her article “Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors, ” Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop wrote: “Books are sometimes windows, offering views of worlds that may be real or imagined, familiar or strange. These windows are also sliding glass doors, and readers have only to walk through in imagination to become part of whatever world has been created and recreated by the author. But if the light is right, the window becomes a mirror. Literature transforms human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience.”

Asian child reading important children's picture books about black history in Chinese and English

30 picture books for Black History Month and all year

We’ve read all of these children’s books in Chinese and English for Black History Month and throughout the year. It’s not an exhaustive list but a starting point for adding diversity to the daily routine.

Each of the stories here can be appreciated by kids and adults alike! We found many of these books when searching for stories with realistic illustrations. Special mention to Here Wee Read and Read Like a Rockstar for introducing many of these books to our family. Their recommendations inspired the structure of this post.

The Black History Month books are grouped into 3 categories:

  1. Biography-based English and Chinese picture books about enslavement and the Civil Rights movement.
  2. Notable Black trailblazers in art, music, sports, and science.
  3. Kids’ literature with young Black protagonists.

Start with books that highlight Black joy before delving into the darker parts of our country’s history.

10 Important Children's Books About Black History in Chinese and English

Almost all of these Black History Month picture books have Mandarin Chinese narration via Luka Reading Robot and Ximalaya FM. The Youdao Dictionary Pen can also help with new Chinese words. I hope you can find them at your library or favorite bookstore!

Black History Month children’s books about heroes in civil rights

These children’s books celebrate brave Black Americans during enslavement and the Civil Rights movement.

Martin's Big Words The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
我有一个梦想 Martin’s Big Words The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

我有一个梦想 / Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

我有一个梦想 begins during Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s childhood when he sees a “WHITE ONLY” sign with his mother and learns about segregation. Growing up, Dr. King attends church and learns that God loves everyone the same. He becomes a minister like his father and feels hope for the future. The book takes us through his peaceful protests and “I Have a Dream” speech and ends with his unfortunate death.

Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave black history month book
陶工戴夫:藝術家,詩人,奴隸 Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

陶工戴夫:藝術家,詩人,奴隸 / Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave

This Caldecott Honor and Coretta Scott King award-winning book celebrates the life of Dave Drake. Known as “Dave the Potter,” he carved beautiful poems in pottery during his enslavement.

自由的苹果 An Apple for Harriet Tubman Black History Month picture book
自由的苹果 / An Apple for Harriet Tubman

自由的苹果 / An Apple for Harriet Tubman

In the 1800s, Harriet Tubman spent long hours picking apples that she was not allowed to eat. But she was determined to be free someday and grow her own apple trees. Eventually, she escaped to the North and repeatedly risked her life to return and lead many African Americans to freedom. TRIGGER WARNING: Some pages in this book have illustrations that suggest whipping.

亨利的自由之箱 / Henry's Freedom Box - children's book for Black History Month
亨利的自由之箱 / Henry’s Freedom Box

亨利的自由之箱 / Henry’s Freedom Box

Based on a true story, Henry “Box” Brown is taken from his family and loses his children when they are sold. With the help of friends, this brave man escapes to freedom by mailing himself in a crate to the North.

TRIGGER WARNING: Enslavement and forced separation from family.

Working Cotton - Children's picture book for black history month
摘棉花 Working Cotton

摘棉花 / Working Cotton

Another Caldecott Honor Book, Working Cotton is about author Sherley Anne Williams’ childhood life, laboring in the fields. The illustrations show the family strenuously picking cotton during hot, long days.

  • Where to buy:
  • Audio narration: Mandarin Chinese via Luka Reading Robot

普通人改变世界 / Ordinary People Change the World Black History Month books

普通人改变世界 / Ordinary People Change the World
普通人改变世界 / Ordinary People Change the World

This series of biographical picture books includes Martin Luther King Junior, Rosa Parks, and Jackie Robinson.

Black History Month books about American trailblazers in art, music, sports, and science

These books celebrate brilliant and talented Black Americans in various careers, such as art, music, sports, and science.

鞋子里的盐 / 鞋子裡的鹽 / Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream

Chinese Black History Month book for kids about Michael Jordan
鞋子里的盐 / 鞋子裡的鹽 Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream

This is a heartwarming story of famous basketball legend Michael Jordan, who almost gave up on his dreams as a child. His parents taught him patience, faith, and determination that led to his success. This Black history book is very uplifting and inspiring.

发光的孩子 Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

发光的孩子 Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
发光的孩子 Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat

Jean-Michel Basquiat was a famous artist who made a huge impact during his short life. Born in Brooklyn, he was influenced by art museum trips with his Puerto Rican mother, as well as listening to jazz music with his Haitian father. He became known for his unique, collage-style paintings. This Black history book shows that art doesn’t need to follow strict rules or stay neatly inside the lines to be beautiful!

  • Where to buy:
  • Audio narration:
    • Mandarin Chinese via Luka Reading Robot

有數學頭腦的女孩:工程師瑞‧蒙特固的故事 / The Girl with a Mind for Math

有數學頭腦的女孩:工程師瑞‧蒙特固的故事 / The Girl with a Mind for Math picture book for Black History Month
有數學頭腦的女孩:工程師瑞‧蒙特固的故事 The Girl with a Mind for Math

Raye Montague was an engineer who overcame discrimination and racism to pursue her career. In English, the story is written with rhyme. We do not have this Black history book in Chinese, so I’m not sure if it rhymes in this language. Please let me know if you’ve read the Chinese version in the comments and share your thoughts!

眼光獨到的女孩: 派翠西亞‧巴斯醫師的故事 / The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath

眼光獨到的女孩: 派翠西亞‧巴斯醫師的故事 / The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath picture book for Black History Month
眼光獨到的女孩: 派翠西亞‧巴斯醫師的故事 The Doctor with an Eye for Eyes: The Story of Dr. Patricia Bath

This inspiring story is based on Dr. Patricia Bath’s life experience. Dr. Patricia Bath is an ophthalmologist, laser scientist, and inventor. She pursued her talent and dreams while facing racism. Like “The Girl with a Mind for Math,” this Black history book also rhymes in English.

长号矮子 / Trombone Shorty

长号矮子 Trombone Shorty Picture book about Black American History for kids
长号矮子 Trombone Shorty

This Black history book celebrates Troy Andrews, a Grammy-nominated musician who grew up in New Orleans. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a musician, so he and his friends created their own instruments and played together. Eventually, he discovers a big, old, beat-up trombone and becomes a jazz star!

  • Where to buy:
  • Audio narration:
    • Mandarin Chinese via Luka Reading Robot

和平树 / 和平樹 Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

和平树 / 和平樹 Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa - Chinese picture book for Black History Month
和平树 / 和平樹 Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

This Black History story celebrates Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. As a child, Wangari’s hometown in Kenya was filled with trees. Years later, forests are being destroyed, and Wangari is devastated. She begins to plant her own trees, and her passion for environmental activism grows.

  • Where to buy:
  • Audio narration:
    • Mandarin Chinese via Luka Reading Robot

水公主 / The Water Princess

The Water Princess - Children's picture book about Africa for Black History Month
水公主 The Water Princess

With stunning illustrations and poetic text, we learn about activist and supermodel Georgie Badiel’s childhood experience of working hard to collect clean water. The end of the book shows real photographs of children in Africa collecting water. This is one of my daughter’s favorite picture books.

  • Where to buy:
    • Simplified Chinese ISBN: 9787559804174
    • Traditional Chinese ISBN: 9789864001750
    • English ISBN: 9780399172588
    • Spanish ISBN: 9786070133282

Children’s picture books with Black protagonists for Black History Month

Although the following books are fiction, we love them because they are realistic and relatable. These are wonderful books for Black History Month and all year round! They show that children of all races experience wonder, joy, disappointment, and love.

等爸爸来敲门 / Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me

Knock Knock My Dad's Dream for Me - Children's picture book for black history month
等爸爸来敲门 Knock Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me

Although there are just 1-2 lines of text per page, this is one of the most powerful books. The story begins with a little boy looking forward to his dad waking him up with a knock on his door. But one day, the knock doesn’t come, and he doesn’t know if or when his father will return.

He writes a letter to his dad to let him know that he misses him and that there are so many things that his father needs to teach him.

After a few months, his father replies that he won’t be able to return. However, the dad lovingly encourages the child to depend on himself and to knock open doors that he could not – to follow his dreams, a metaphor for the systemic oppression that Black Americans have faced for centuries, resulting in kids growing up without their fathers.

阿达想当科学家 / 我做得到! 小科學家艾達 / Ada Twist, Scientist

Ada Twist, Scientist - English and Chinese picture book for black history month
阿达想当科学家 / 我做得到! 小科學家艾達 Ada Twist, Scientist

Inspired by scientists Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, this New York Times best-selling book celebrates a bright and curious girl, Ada.

Ada is determined to explore her many questions through science experiments, but they don’t always go as planned. Over time, she learns about the power of perseverance and curiosity!

NOTE: a mom alerted me that 阿达, the simplified Chinese translation of Ada, is a slang term for “idiot” in older generations in Taiwan and southern China. This slang does not seem to be used in younger generations or other parts of China. However, the traditional Chinese translation, 艾達, is neutral.

  • Where to buy:
  • Audio narration: Mandarin Chinese via Luka Reading Robot

Ezra Jack Keats books for Black History Month in Chinese and English

Although Ezra Jack Keats is Jewish of European heritage, his picture books are historically notable. They were among the first to feature a black protagonist.

下雪天 The Snowy Day Chinese and English picture books for Black History Month by Ezra Jack Keats
下雪天 The Snowy Day

下雪天 / The Snowy Day

This Caldecott Medal book by Ezra Jack Keats is so cute and relatable, featuring a child who experiences the magic of first snowfall, footprints, and snow angels. Published in 1962, it was one of the first children’s books that featured a Black protagonist in a positive context. It highlights the joy that children deserve to experience. The big words in both languages make the book comfortable to read.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
下雪天 The Snowy Day

彼得的椅子 / Peter’s Chair

Peter's Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
彼得的椅子 Peter’s Chair

This cute picture book by Ezra Jack Keats is great for kids learning how to cope with a new sibling. To prepare for Peter’s baby sister, his father paints Peter’s old cradle, crib, and chair pink. Peter is upset and runs off with his dog and hides in his house, but he learns to love his sister!

嗨,小猫 / 嗨!小貓 / Hi, Cat!

Archie is heading out to meet his friend Peter for a performance when a stray cat suddenly follows him. The cat ruins their performance, the audience leaves, and Peter blames the cat. On the way home, the cat continues to follow Archie who begins to think of the cat as a friend.

  • Where to buy:
  • Audio narration:
    • Mandarin Chinese via Luka Reading Robot

小报童 / 送報男孩/ The Paper Boy

This gorgeous Caldecott Honor-winning picture book celebrates the peace of a little boy’s morning job with his puppy companion.

In the morning, when everyone else is asleep, a little boy and his dog get up early to deliver newspapers. There’s something so calming and charming about this boy’s start to each day.

市场街最后一站 / Last Stop on Market Street

Last Stop on Market Street Chinese and English
市场街最后一站 Last Stop on Market Street

This book about gratitude is wonderful in both languages. While riding a bus from church to a soup kitchen, a little boy asks his grandmother about their circumstances, like why they don’t have a car or iPod. Grandma’s heartwarming answers help children see the positive and cultivate a thankful heart.

乌龟阿尔菲 / 艾飛不見了 / Alfie: The turtle that disappeared

On Nia’s 6th birthday, she gets a pet turtle, Alfie, and initially is very interested in her turtle. Over time, she loses interest until her 7th birthday when Alfie disappears. Alfie is gone because he’s searching for the perfect gift for Nia and returns on her 8th birthday.

More great Black History Month books for kids in English

Children's Black History Month books with Black American leaders and protagonists

What are your favorite picture books for celebrating Black History Month?

If you end up getting these books, please share your favorites in the comments below! I hope these recommendations can bring new insight and experiences to your family!

We’d also love to hear if you have other recommendations for diverse books!

More diverse picture books for kids in Chinese and English

11 Comments

  1. Hi, Betty, thank you very much for this great list! I followed your recommendations and ordered a lot of them from JD. These stories about black people are fascinating for my 7-year-old boy. Last year at Kinder, he learned about Martin Luthern King at school with his English teacher too. I am happy to read to him about MLK in Chinese.

    1. Hi Vivian! So glad that your son is learning about MLK in school and that you were able to find many of these books on JD! Thanks for taking the time to comment; it’s great to hear from you!

  2. Love your posts as I’m a new mama and don’t have much knowledge on most things. Getting great information and ideas here

    1. Hi Ada! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. I’m glad to hear the post is helpful! I have to credit a lot of great Black teacher mamas who inspired me to put together this post!

  3. I love Peace Tree 和平樹

  4. Thank you so much for your blog and book recommendations! I haven’t bought any books that has some diversity in it, most of our books were hand me downs and haven’t seen any diversity in them as well. These would be great to start.

  5. Sarah Nguyen says:

    Thanks for curating this list of books, and also taking the time to provide links to Traditional Chinese versions. I’m going to buy a bunch of these!

    1. Hi Sarah! Thanks for the kind note! I’m glad that you were able to find books for your family!

  6. These are wonderful resources! It’s fantastic that they also come with audio narration for a full immersive experience =)

  7. Cathy Phan says:

    Thank you for sharing these great resources! I love your blog and it’s helpful for me during shelter in place and coming up with activities for my two children for Chinese immersion.

    1. Hi Cathy! Thank you for taking the time to write! I’m so glad to hear the ideas and resources have been helpful for your family! 🙂 Please let me know if I can help with anything else!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *