In honor of Black History Month, I’ve started sharing a beautifully illustrated new book with my kids that introduces them to 200 years of poetry from some of the most influential African-American poets. Even more than a history book, these words will paint a picture in their minds of a time in the not-so-distant-past when their own friends would not have been allowed to share an ice cream at the restaurant or ride bikes down the street.
The latest in the Poetry for Young People series, their collection African American Poetry includes over 30 poems from household names like Maya Angelou and Alice Walker, to lesser known–but still incredibly powerful–poets whose words deserve to be heard.
I especially love that each poem includes a short editor’s note with details about the poet, the time in which they were writing, and some information about the poem itself. This is so helpful for those of us who aren’t as comfortable reading poetry to kids who ask What does that mean? as soon as the words come out.
A detailed and smart Introduction also helps lay out the content of the book and gives better context for the time periods in which the different pieces were written. As a generation who has grown up with a black president and will quickly agree that “all are created equal”, it has been eye-opening for my kids to learn that such oppression happened (and, frankly, continues to happen) so recently.
Adding to the words themselves are the illustrations by artist Karen Barbour whose drawings of people evoke hope, strength, sadness, and beauty. It seems fitting that her pictures are includes with the last poem, Landston Hughes’ My People which begins The night is beautiful, So the faces of my people. -Christina
Also don’t miss some of our other picks for Black History Month such as the trio of wonderful Scholastic DVD’s that include March On!, Duke Ellington and More Stories to Celebrate Great Figures in African American History, and Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears. These three DVD’s have just been reissued as a single set.