June 15, 2022

Celebrating Juneteenth: Children’s Books on Freedom, History, and Joy

Explore a list of children’s books to learn more about Juneteenth history, celebrate Black childhood, and spark conversations about creating more inclusive communities for all.

Child looking through a selection of books.

For many years, African American communities have gathered to celebrate Juneteenth (June 19), which marks the anniversary of the emancipation of enslaved Black Americans in Texas and the end of chattel slavery in the U.S. In 2021, Juneteenth officially became a national holiday.

As we all commemorate Juneteenth, we invite you to explore a list of children’s books to learn more about history, celebrate the rich complexities of Black childhood, and encourage children, caregivers, families, and educators to spark conversations about creating more inclusive and just communities for all.

Consider adding these to your summer reading list and book recommendations for students throughout the year!

Juneteenth Reading List

Freedom, We Sing by Amyra León (author), Molly Mendoza (illustrator)

Age Level: 3-7 Years

What Experts Say: "As powerful as it is beautiful, Freedom, We Sing is a lyrical picture book designed to inspire and give hope to readers around the world... It’s the perfect book for parents who want a way to gently start the conversation with their kids about finding hope in these very tense times we are living in." – Alaina Leary, We Need Diverse Books

All Because You Matter by Tami Charles (author), Bryan Collier (illustrator)

Age Level: 4-8 years

What Experts Say: "Two accomplished creators invite Black children to take up their spaces in the world... the journey from beginning to end of the book sends a message that is nurturing, nourishing, loving, and reassuring, expanding and deepening the words of the movement it echoes. Collier's trademark paint-and-collage illustrations use petal shapes with patterns and faces, blue and brown hues, and family scenes and close-ups to embody the child's growth within affectionate circles of family, community, and universe. A gem for every household." – Kirkus Reviews

Caregiver reading book with child.

Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper

Age Level: 6-9 years

What Experts Say: "[Cooper's] full-page artwork—oil paintings in softly textured yellows and browns—captures the tender relationship between a father and daughter and the sadness and pride of their family story. Broad sweeps of history are encapsulated in double-page spreads focusing on determined, prayerful and happy faces. A quiet and informative picture of belated emancipation." – Kirkus Reviews

The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson (authors), Nikkolas Smith (illustrator)

Age Level: 7-10 years

What Experts Say: “A stunning work, providing a glimpse into the history of the Black experience before and after the slave trade; the poetic language and breathtaking artwork will have a lasting effect on readers.” – School Library Journal
Children enjoying reading time together.

Black Boy Joy: 17 Stories Celebrating Black Boyhood by Kwame Mbalia (editor)

Age Level: 8+ years

What Experts Say: “Luminous.. Filtering perennial subjects such as friendships, gender identity, and family through the lenses of magic, science, space travel, superheroes, and more, this is an exuberant celebration of carefree Black experiences; while it will especially resonate with Black readers, any reader will appreciate how this genre-bending collection expands the horizons of what joy for Black boys can be." – Publishers Weekly

This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell (author) and Aurélia Durand (illustrator)

Age Level: 12+ years

What Experts Say: “A book that brings together kids, families, teachers, and administrators in conversation. Tough, vulnerable, important conversation.” – Matthew Winner, The Children's Book Podcast

What are you reading in celebration of Juneteenth? Tag @HealthierGen on Twitter or @healthiergeneration on Instagram to share your thoughts using #Juneteenth and #HealthyFuture.

See More Juneteenth Educational Resources

From Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture:

New York Public Library: Engaging Books to Commemorate Juneteenth in the Classroom

Harper Collins: 18 Children's Books to Honor Juneteenth and Black History

Nicole Blanton

Manager, Culturally Responsive Communications | Alliance for a Healthier Generation