30 Important Children’s Books About Black History in Chinese and English

20 Important Children's Books About Black History 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 about Black history in our homes and schools!

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

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 also told them about the discrimination that I’ve experienced which contributed to my reluctance to speak Chinese during my childhood.

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Appreciating Black history through 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 habit, and books are are essential tools for growing the heart. In turn, discussions with parents and teachers are crucial for preventing stereotypes and bulllying.

Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors, ” 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.”

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

30 books about Black history and Black protagonists

In this post, I’m sharing a list of children’s books about Black history in Chinese and English plus ISBN information. This is not an exhaustive list but just a starting point for adding diversity into daily routine.

I believe that 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 Black teacher moms, especially, 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.

Asian daughter reading about Martin Luther King junior in Chinese

This booklist is divided into 3 sections:

  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.

If you’re not sure where to start, I suggest first sharing narratives that highlight the joy of the 2nd and 3rd types of books 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 picture books have Mandarin Chinese narration via Luka Reading Robot and Ximalaya FM. For other books, we are using the Youdao Dictionary Pen to help with new words.

I hope you can find them at your library or favorite bookstore!

Children’s books about Black heroes with a civil rights focus

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.

A) 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 books takes us through his peaceful protests and “I have a dream” speech and ends with mention of his unfortunate death.

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

B) 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 while he was enslaved.

自由的苹果 An Apple for Harriet Tubman
自由的苹果 / An Apple for Harriet Tubman

C) 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
亨利的自由之箱 / Henry’s Freedom Box

D) 亨利的自由之箱 / Henry’s Freedom Box

Based on a true story from the underground railroad, Henry “Box” Brown dreams about freedom when he is taken from his family and loses his own children when they are sold by their enslavers. With the help of his Black friend and white doctor, 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

E) 摘棉花 / Working Cotton

Another Caldecott Honor Book, Working Cotton is about author Sherley Anne Williams’ own 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
普通人改变世界 / Ordinary People Change the World

F) 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.

Children’s books about other Black American trailblazers

We’re inspired by these brilliant and talented Black Americans in sports, art, and science!

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

A) 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 ultimately led to his success. 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

B) 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 which 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

C) 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 a navel engineer who overcame discrimination and racism to pursue her career. In English, the story is written with rhyme. We do not have this 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

D) 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, and she pursued her talent and dreams while facing racism.

Like “The Girl with a Mind for Math”, this book also rhymes in English.

长号矮子 Trombone Shorty Picture book about Black history for kids
长号矮子 Trombone Shorty

E) 长号矮子 / Trombone Shorty

This book celebrates Troy Andrews, a Grammy-nominated musician who grew up in New Orleans. As a child, he dreamed of becoming a musicians, 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 - Chinese picture book
和平树 / 和平樹 Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa

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

This story celebrates Wangari Maathai, environmentalist and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. As a child, Wangari’s home town in Kenya was filled with trees. Years later when she visits her home, she is alarmed to see entire forests being destroyed. She begins to plant her own trees and passion for environmental activism grows.

The Water Princess - Children's picture book about Africa
水公主 The Water Princess

G) 水公主 / The Water Princess

With stunning illustrations and poetic text, we learn about activist and supermodel Georgie Badiel’s childhood experience with 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 books.

Children’s picture books with Black protagonists

Although the following books are fiction, we love them because they are very realistic and relatable. They show that children of all races experience wonder, joy, disappointment, and love.

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

A) 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 that we’ve read.

The story begins with how a little boy looks 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 many kids to grow up without their fathers.

Ada Twist, Scientist - English and Chinese picture book for black history month
阿达想当科学家 / 阿達想當科學家 Ada Twist, Scientist

B) 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, trial and error, and continuing to stay curious!

NOTE: a mom alerted me that 阿达, the simplified Chinese translation of Ada, is unfortunately 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.

下雪天 The Snowy Day Chinese and English picture book by Ezra Jack Keats
下雪天 The Snowy Day

C, D, E) Ezra Jack Keats Books in Chinese and English

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, foot prints, 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 and wonder that children of all races deserve to experience.

Big font in both languages makes my nearsighted eyes happy. Also great for budding readers!

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
下雪天 The Snowy Day
Peter's Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
彼得的椅子 Peter’s Chair

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 paint’s Peter’s old cradle, crib, and chair pink. Peter is upset and runs off with his dog and hides in his house, but eventually 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 suddenly a stray cat who 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 comes around to think of the cat as a new friend.

  • Where to buy:
    • Traditional Chinese with Zhuyin ISBN: 9789577624673
    • English ISBN: 9780670885466
  • Audio narration:
    • Mandarin Chinese via Luka Reading Robot

F) 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.

During the quiet dawn 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.

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

G) 市场街最后一站 / Last Stop on Market Street

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

H) 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.

只有你 / No One But You picture book with diverse children, Black and White friends
只有你 No One But You

I) 只有你 / No One But You

This is a gorgeous book about children experiencing the wonderful sensory experiences of nature. The cover features a Black child, but other illustrations include children of other races.

Children's books with black protagonists

More must-read English children’s books about Black history

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (Vashti Harrison)

What are your favorite picture books that celebrate Black history?

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

Let’s keep learning together!

11 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

  5. 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!

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