iRead features the best ebooks and eaudiobooks for children and teens curated by the Children's Room and Teen Center staff.
Augusta Baker, librarian, storyteller and early advocate for diverse books, always made the point that adults have their attitudes about many things already formed. Although attitudes can be changed, it can be harder once someone has lived with them for many years.
When it comes to children, adults have the opportunity, through literature and stories, to help children form attitudes which support equity and inclusion, so we have not only an opportunity, but an obligation, to share books reflecting the black experience and written by black authors, with children.
Literature brings us closest to the human heart, and help a child empathize and understand. And the books children see and hear depend on the adults in their lives. It’s up to us to shine a light and infuse love.
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson | illustrated by E. B. Lewis
available as an eaudiobook and streaming video through Hoopla
available as a streaming video through Kanopy
Two young girls, one black, Clover, and one white, Annie, each live on opposite sides of a fence. Both of them have been told to not go on the other side because it’s not safe. One day Annie gets on top of the fence and asks Clover's friends if she can jump rope with them. They say no. Clover is torn, and unsure what she would have said. Later, the girls see each other on the street as they walk with their mothers, and they are told when they ask why their mothers do not talk to each other, “Because that’s the way things have always been.” Seasons pass, and Clover’s mother tells her she must stay inside when it rains, while Annie enjoys playing outside in her raincoat. When the sun emerges and Clover gets to come outside again, she and Annie get together and decide to sit on top of the fence together, since that doesn’t seem to be against any rules. And in the end, when Clover’s friends join them to sit on the fence, and she declares, metaphorically, “Someday, somebody’s going to come along and knock this old fence down.” We are all reminded that it only takes a simple act of friendship to break down barriers, like a fence.
Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills written by Renée Watson | illustrated by Christian Robinson
This charming and captivating picture book biography of jazz singer and dancer Florence Mills, who died too young at the age of 31, will engage young readers with her story of singing for equal rights. Florence performed in Lincoln Theater in Harlem before she was 20-years-old, and was instrumental in introducing jazz to white audiences. Watson intermingles song lyrics as part of the telling of Florence’s life story which includes Florence declining an opportunity to sing with the Ziegfield Follies and instead choosing to perform with African American performers of the time, standing up for equal rights. Jazzy and beautiful illustrations by Robinson capture Florence and her time.
A Ride to Remember by Sharon Langley & Amy Nathan | illustrated by Floyd Cooper
available as an eaudiobook and streaming video through Hoopla
This picture book, based on Sharon Langley’s childhood, introduces children to a story of segregation in the 1960’s. During the Civil Rights movement, most amusement parks were segregated and black families were denied entry. In the summer of 1963, protests and demonstrations erupted in Maryland, and the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Langley’s hometown was opened for all. Langley just happened to be the very first black child to enjoy the merry-go-round. Actual photos of Langley riding the merry-go-round, a timeline, author’s note, and additional list of books are included. Beautifully illustrated by award-winning Floyd Cooper.
Blended by Sharon Draper
available as an ebook and eaudiobook through Overdrive
“This novel is a book that offers a stark look at the apartheidlike reality that exists for black people in America.”--Kirkus Review
Eleven-year-old Isabella is a gifted musician who plays the piano. She also divides her time between her two parents, a mother who is white and a father who is black. They are divorced and have new partners, and also different sets of rules at each house. She calls the handing off from one parent to the other The Great Exchange, which occurs at the local mall. Being bi-racial makes Isabella feel as if she has no identity. She endures insensitive comments from strangers: “You’re so exotic. You look so unusual.” When her parents both become engaged, basically at the same time, she feels even more torn, especially when they have a horrible fight. But the worst is yet to come, as she and Darren, her father’s partner’s son, are pulled over by the police, who see a cell phone, and believes it is a gun. Shots are fired, and Isabella must confront the racism before her in a gut-wrenching scene. Isabella’s voice rings true, and the events that take place are all too common.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
available as an eaudiobook through Overdrive
Mildred Taylor’s Newbery award winning novel is set during the Great Depression in the Jim Crow south. Told through the eyes of nine year old Cassie Logan readers will get an accurate portrayal of life during this time and step into the shoes of the Logan family as they deal with the racism and prejudice that is a part of their everyday life.
Cassie’s family owns the land they live on. The land is a precious legacy handed down in the family and through it; the family is able to have hope for the future and avoid becoming sharecroppers on land owned by others. Cassie struggles to understand why things are “the way they are”. Through her story, we see the cruelty and horror of racism and watch her family bond together to care for each other and their community. Mildred Taylor is the great-granddaughter of a former slave and bases her works on stories handed down orally in her family. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is a sensitive look at racism told in the structure of a compelling historical novel.
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