I thought I knew what hip hop was, but after picking up the kids’ CD-and-book set Hip Hop Speaks to Children, I have a whole new appreciation for this diverse and often moving art form of “poetry with a beat.”

Edited by poet, writer and activist Nikki Giovanni, this children’s book gave my decidedly white family a glimpse of what it means to grow up black in America–not in some dry, textbooky way, but through incredibly creative poetry and a toe-tapping beat. With fifty poems from the likes of Maya Angelou and Ja Jahanes on colorful, full-page illustrations, my kids were delighted to pore through the pages while I read aloud.

But to really make the poetry come alive, I turned on the companion CD so the kids and I could bop around to Rapper’s Delight and strut our stuff to Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First.” I tear up every time I hear Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Dat Dere,” which sweetly talks about the swift passage of childhood, and of course we are always moved to hear Dr. King reciting “I Have a Dream.”

Cool Mom Picks Pick of the Year badgeNo matter how you feel–or think you feel–about hip hop or poetry, this is one book that should be a must-have for every home. Don’t miss it. -Christina

Hip Hop Speaks to Children is available on Amazon.