Tag Archives: Black History Month

Explore STEM and Language

44204085370_3461ea189c_zWeekly storytimes continue!

Ora Copiilor – Family Storytime in Romanian
Sunday, January 20, 3-4 p.m.
Age group: Children
Va invitam sa participați la programul de povesti și cântece în limba romana. Va așteptam cu drag. Intrarea gratuita. (Please note, this storytime is presented entirely in Romanian.) Drop in.

Monday, January 21, 2-3 p.m.
Grades K–5, K with an adult
From robots to building sets, Cubelets to weaving, try out a variety of different technologies every month. Drop in.

Minecraft Club Open Play
Tuesday, January 22, 3-5 p.m.
Grades 3–12
Join us for open game play! Bring your Fountaindale Public Library card and Minecraft account information if you have them. We have a limited number of guest accounts that you can use. Drop in.

Please note that the Family Storytime on Tuesday, January 22 will be without music.

Young Writers’ Club
Wednesday, January 23, 4:15-5:15 p.m.
Grades 2–5
Get together with fellow writers for activities and fun designed to foster creativity, self-expression and excitement about writing. Drop in.

Preschool Activity Time – Without Music
Friday, January 25, 10-11 a.m.
Ages 2–6 with an adult
The library meeting room becomes a playground filled with games, blocks, a parachute, and more. This session will be offered without music. See how much fun it can be! Drop in.

Rodzinne Czytanie Bajeczek po Polsku – Family Storytime in Polish
Saturday, January 26, 10:30-11:15 a.m.
Age group: Children
Zapraszamy wszystkie dzieci od 2–6 lat, ale każdy jest mile widziany. Na czytanie bajeczek, spiewanie piosenek i uczenie się nowych wierszyków po Polsku wraz. (This storytime is entirely in Polish.) Drop in.

Don’t forget to join us next week for

Roots – George Washington Carver and Katherine Johnson
Sunday, January 27, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Grades K–5
Join Judith and Ernie Davis for books, activities and snacks as we explore the lives of African American heroes. This month we’ll cover George Washington Carver and Katherine Johnson. Drop in.

From stories to songs

CSD_Oba William King

Weekly storytimes and Crazy 8s Club continue!

The Poetic Storyteller: Oba William King – Part of The Great Read
Sunday, February 25, 2-3 p.m.
All ages, preschoolers with an adult
Celebrate Black History Month with stories, songs and drums from storyteller Oba William King. This lively presentation will delight your whole family. Drop in.

Minecraft Club
Tuesday, February 27, 3:30-5 p.m.
Grades 3–12
Join us for open game play! Bring your Fountaindale Public Library card and Minecraft account information. Drop in.

S’mores Book Club – Martin’s Big Words and Civil Rights Stories
Wednesday, February 28, 4:15-5:15 p.m.
Grades 3–6
Do you devour a book like a great after-school snack? If so, sign up for the S’mores Book Club! We will eat a snack and talk about a different topic each month. This month you will have a chance to make a video review of the book you read. Register.

The Great Read Finale – (Off site)
Joliet Public Library – 3395 Black Rd, Joliet, IL 60431
Wednesday, February 28, 6-8 p.m.
All ages
Vocal artist, songwriter and educator Maggie Brown will perform songs inspired by the Civil Rights movement and Dr. King’s impact and legacy. Refreshments and giveaways, while supplies last. Drop in.

Panera Bread Milk & Cookies Storytime – (Off site)
Panera Bread – 855 E. Boughton Road
Thursday, March 1, 9:30-10:30 a.m.
Ages 2–6

Enjoy free milk and a cookie while we read a story and play with puppets, music and movement. Please call 630.685.4230 with questions or for assistance with registration.

Minecraft Club
Thursday, March 1, 3:30-5 p.m.
Grades 3–12
Join us for open game play! Bring your Fountaindale Public Library card and Minecraft account information. Drop in.

St. Dominic Early Childhood Open House – (Off site)
St. Dominic Catholic School – 420 E. Briarcliff Road
Thursday, March 1, 6-7:30 p.m.
Visit the Bookmobile during St. Dominic School’s Early Childhood Open House, get a library card, check out and return library materials.

Arts and Fables – In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb
Friday, March 2, 9:30-10:15 a.m.
Friday, March 2, 10:30-11:15 a.m.
Ages 2–6 with an adult
Join us for a story, and then make a craft about it! Drop in.

Imagineers Club – Cinderella Around the World
Saturday, March 3, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Grades 2-5
Play games, use new technologies and explore science in this fun and educational program. We’ll focus on a different book series each month. Register.

Pete the Cat: I’m Reading in My School Shoes! 
Saturday, March 3, 3-5 p.m.
Grades K–1
Do you like to read in your school shoes? COOL! Come in and read a book to us! All participants will earn a “Pete the Cat” headband, reading certificate and bookmark! Drop in.

Don’t forget that storytime in Romanian will take place next Sunday, March 4!

Black Joy


I was intrigued by an ad I saw this fall for the book Crown, for which the author and illustrator earned several honors at this month’s Youth Media Awards. At the top of the ad were the words of a writer for Kirkus Reviews: “This book oozes black cool and timely, much-needed black joy.”

I thought “black joy” was a great choice of words. While it’s important for students to learn and understand history, reading about history can be a painful experience. Children who are learning to read need to be motivated to read, and one of the best ways to do that is to let children read books they enjoy.

At a library conference I met Alan Irby, a man who really gets this. He started  Barbershop Books to “Help black boys ages 4-8 to identify as readers” by putting books in barbershops. The books he had on display were are all ones kids love to read: The Adventures of Captain Underpants, How Do Dinosaurs Go to School? and other fun things.

The author Carole Boston Weatherford wrote about how even though the number and variety of books with African American characters increased from when she was little to when she had kids, she still had trouble finding books that matched her son’s interests:

“But with the exception of Ringgold’s Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky (1992), my children went five years — an eternity for a kid — without seeing another fantasy picture book with African American characters. In five years, a child can graduate from read-alouds to read-alones. A child’s interests can change. A child can even lose interest in books.”

So here, partly inspired by Scott Woods’ list of 28 MORE Black Picture Books That Aren’t About Boycotts, Buses or Basketball (2018), are some of the most appealing new books in the library. Some will touch on serious topics, but not in a way that overwhelms the reading experience.

Becoming Kareem: Growing Up On and Off the Court by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeld
I’ve talked to a couple of people in the past year or so who hadn’t realized that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is an author; he’s covered topics like African American history and the world of Sherlock Holmes as well as fiction and nonfiction about basketball.

Dream Big Dreams: Photographs from Barack Obama’s Inspiring and Historic Presidency by Pete Souza (also available as an ebook on OverDrive)
The Chief Official White House Photographer shares his photographs of President Obama in a book especially for children.

Grandma’s Purse by Vanessa Brantley Newton
Grandma’s purse is full of things like family photos and sparkly earrings (and the art depicting her house is full of great textures)

Jake the Fake Keeps it Real by Craig Robinson and Adam Mansbach, art by Keith Knight
I’m familiar with Keith Knight’s comics for adults; to the best of my knowledge this is his first time illustrating a book (Wimpy Kid-style) just for kids.

King & Kayla series, written by Dori Hillestad Butler and illustrated by Nancy Meyers
A book from this series of beginning chapter books just earned a Geisel Honor as a distinguished title for beginning readers.

Lola Gets a Cat by Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw
Stories about Lola and her baby brother Leo are available in both Spanish and English!

A Night Out with Mama by Quvenzhané Wallis, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton
The young actress tells the story of attending a red carpet awards ceremony (and when you’re nine, who else would you bring as a date but your mom?) in a picture book full of sparkly dresses.

Shadows of Caesar’s Creek by Sharon M. Draper
Sharon Draper’s series Ziggy and the Black Dinosaurs was one of the few chapter book series featuring African American boys. The series is now being reissued with new cover illustrations and a new name, Clubhouse Mysteries. This one has a haunted forest!

Springtime Blossoms by Jerdine Nolen, illustrated by Michelle Henninger
Not many beginning reader books feature African American kids, either, but Bradford Street Buddies is a newer series that is an exception.

Where’s Rodney? by Carmen Bogan, illustrated by Floyd Cooper
Rodney’s class takes a field trip that makes a big impression on him.

series by Asia Citro, art by Marion Lindsay
I’ve seen a kid go from I-don’t-like-reading to reading-while-walking in under 5 minutes because of this book! The rest of the beginning chapter fantasy series just arrived at the library.

Here are some places to look for more fiction and nonfiction featuring African Americans:

Amistad Press is an imprint of HarperCollins and published Chasing Space (there is a Young Readers’ edition as well as an edition for adults).

Jump at the Sun is a Disney imprint. It just published a board book edition of Homemade Love by bell hooks.

The NAACP Image Awards include a category for literature. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History won in the children’s category and Clayton Byrd Goes Underground won in the youth/teens category. The nominees for the awards are also listed online.

Black Boys Matter


“First day of school” picture books are a pretty basic staple of children’s publishing. If a book about a new character does well, a common second act is So-and-so Goes to School (or Celebrates a Holiday or Has a New Baby Brother/Sister). Looking at first day of school books is kind of like taking a sample of children’s publishing as a whole.

I’m not sure when I first realized that I couldn’t find any “first day of school” picture books that featured contemporary African American boys. It may have been after years of pulling books for the annual display, or a hazy gift idea, or only after attending a conference where one of the panels addressed the need for diverse books. When I realized that there was a gap in the collection I started keeping an eye out, but I only found historical fiction to buy.

This past fall, I tried to help a mom find books for her son. Her face fell when she saw one of the books on her list–which featured an African American girl–was historical fiction. I found a book from 1990 featuring a contemporary African American girl to offer her (because the one from 2005 was already checked out) and at least one book about starting school in a diverse classroom. I figured it was time to ask for expert help.

I tried contacting Edith Campbell, who had been on a panel at a national conference I attended. She teaches grad students about the history of children’s literature; she is African American and I learned from her Tweets that she has a son. If the books existed, she would know.

She reached out to her network on Facebook and came up with the following list:

Shawn Goes to School by Petronella Breinburg, about going to nursery school (1974)

Jamal’s Busy Day by Wade Hudson (1991)
(This book shares an illustrator and publisher with Bright Eyes, Brown Skin by Cheryl Willis Hudson. Both show a typical day at school, although I’m not sure either is strictly about the first day.)

David’s Drawings by Cathryn Falwell (2001)
We own this one! Technically, it’s about the first day after transferring to a new school, rather than starting school for the first time.

Little Cliff’s First Day of School by Clifton L. Taulbert (2001)
We used to own this. It’s set during the 1950s, but it’s about the ordinary stuff (new clothes, not wanting to go, the prospect of new friends) rather than anything as scary as Ruby Bridges’ experience.

The First Day of School by Margaret McNamara (2005)
We own this one! It’s a beginning reader, so when I searched the picture book section I totally missed it.

Kindergarten with Charlie by T.J. Jeremie (2015)
This one was independently published. I couldn’t find it in WorldCat (Zetta Elliot has written about the difficulty of getting published and the stigma attached to self-published books).

School’s First Day of School by Adam Rex (2016)
The school building literally is the main character here, attended by a diverse group of children depicted by Christian Robinson, an award-winning African American illustrator.

The King of Kindergarten written by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Vanessa Brantley Newton, coming soon.

This makes fewer than 10 books in more than 40 years. It’s part of the bigger picture of children’s publishing, which you can also get a snapshot of in this infographic:


The Cooperative Children’s Book Center keeps statistics on diversity in children’s books. This was the newest infographic I could find, but you can find statistics through 2016 on their website. You can see how the numbers compare to the US population at the census website. If twice as many books were about African Americans, that would be close to the percentage of people in the country who are African American.

Even these numbers don’t tell the whole story, because it is easier to find books about African American girls than African American boys. What really brought this home to me was the blog article 2013 Middle Grade Black Boys: Seriously, People? by Elizabeth Bird. She found 5 chapter books published about African American boys that year. Readers commenting on the article added a tiny handful more. She returned to the subject last year and found 12– and a wider variety– but still fewer books about boys than girls.

Why does this matter? I’m going to defer to two authors who have the experience of having been African American boys. Walter Dean Myers wrote about the feeling of  “something missing” in the books he read as a teen. Later, when he read the work of James Baldwin as an adult, he felt recognized and valued. He wanted to give young readers the same feeling from reading his own work, as well as “a sense of who they are and what they can be.”

Towards the end of the essay that’s linked to above, he wrote about some ideas that his son, Christopher Myers, has also expressed. As important as books by and about African Americans are for African American readers, these books are also for all of the other people who are going to live and interact with African Americans. They can widen everybody’s imagination– especially if they’re not always about the same old topics.

A book about starting school is a book that helps a child imagine where he (or she) is going and who he (or she) is becoming in the most basic and practical sort of way. It’s an acknowledgement of a rite of passage and a pretty universal experience. I’m looking forward to being able to buy The King of Kindergarten. I wish I could depend on more books like it being published soon, but I suspect I might have to plan for the copies I buy to last as long as those books from the 1990s.

More formidable than the Dora Milaje?

I first became aware of this queen (whose name is spelled various ways, including Njinga and Nzinga) when I was on my honeymoon. A statue of her stood in a museum we visited in Virginia.

The main book we own about her in the library is a work of historical fiction, part of the Royal Diaries series about real-life queens and princesses.

Nzingha: Warrior Queen of Matamba by Patricia C. McKissack

She is also highlighted in Lives of Extraordinary Women: Rulers, Rebels (And What the Neighbors Thought) and The Story of the World volume 3: Early Modern Times. You may be able to find some more information in our online resources such as Gale Virtual Reference Library.

Free Resource for Teachers and Students


Are you studying any of the Coretta Scott King Award books in your classroom? TeachingBooks.net has a great collection of resources related to nearly 300 books that have won the award. Usually you need an account to access TeachingBooks.net, but “This Curriculum Resource Center was created by TeachingBooks.net with the support of the Coretta Scott King Book Award 40th Anniversary Public Awareness Campaign Committee” and you can access them without an account.

You can watch a meet-the-author video (maybe the one for Bryan Collier, who illustrated the Monarch Award nominee Trombone Shorty), listen to interviews with authors or listen to them read their books aloud. You can look for lesson plans or book discussion questions to go with a title. Teachers can even search for books to match a particular grade level, school subject, or type of reading (for example, poetry or realistic fiction).

Save the date! Sunday, February 25

The Poetic Storyteller: Oba William King – Part of The Great Read
Sunday, February 25, 2-3 p.m.
All ages, preschoolers with an adult
Celebrate Black History Month with stories, songs and drums from storyteller Oba William King. This lively presentation will delight your whole family. Drop in.