Whether your child can recite from memory the names and philosophies of Black leaders like W.E.B. DuBois and Angela Davis or they need an introduction or refresher on pivotal Black figures, February is a good time for children to learn more about Black history.
Of course, learning about Black history and culture, along with racial justice, should always be a priority. Still, there’s no federal mandate for teaching Black history and it can sometimes be overlooked, according to Insider. (Although some states‘ curricula are changing).
You can bolster your children’s learning with digital resources. The ones below represent a variety of tools from national museums and educational nonprofits. They educate and engage children in Black history and culture through interactive events, entertaining videos, and content that profile Black visionaries and leaders. Whether you’re a parent or a teacher, head on over to these websites to spark children’s curiosity or continue their education.
When the pandemic hit last year, the nonprofit Common Sense (which helps parents and teachers choose appropriate kids’ media and technology) created a free, online hub with learning resources to help families and educators transition to remote learning. Called Wide Open School, it has a variety of videos, online activities, articles, and games for K-12 students from well-known publishers, nonprofits, and education companies like National Geographic, Scholastic, and Khan Academy.
For Black History Month, Common Sense points parents to its Wide Open School’s Black History and Culture section, where your kid can access a variety of engaging articles, videos, and more. For example, they can listen to actress Angela Bassett read the book Trombone Shorty, recommended for kids in preschool to third grade. Troy Andrews wrote the autobiographical picture book, which explains how he received his stage name Trombone Shorty and why music enraptured him as a child in New Orleans.
Or children can listen to an episode of the podcast Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls that tells the true story of Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to travel into space. The episode, appropriate for students in grades three through five, traces Jemison’s journey as a little girl who spoke out when her teacher discouraged her from pursuing a career in science, got goose bumps as she watched Neil Armstrong land on the moon, and long after she became the first Black woman to go to space.
Kids can also travel to the North Pole via a video and article, appropriate for kids in third grade through high school, to learn about the explorer, Matthew Henson. Henson, who was Black, may have been the first person to reach the the North Pole.
Students can also use Wide Open School’s Black History e-cards to encourage their friends to learn about Black history. Each brightly colored card includes information about Black history or a Black luminary like journalist Gwen Ifill, painter Kehinde Wiley, and poet lizabeth Acevedo. You can download cards to mail them or send them online.
Wide Open School’s also gathered resources for kids to learn about and act on equity and social justice, such as tips for young people to get involved with activism. There’s also advice for parents and caregivers on how to approach difficult subjects with their kids, like this podcast episode that explores how to talk about race and racism with children.
2. The National Museum of African American History and Culture
The only national museum dedicated exclusively to the documentation of “African-American life, history, and culture,” points parents of young children to its Joyful Fridays series, held virtually every Friday throughout February from 11 to 11:45 am ET.
As part of this program, children ages 4 to 8 are invited to create art that “celebrates Black joy, history and culture,” according to the museum’s website. You’ll receive details, like a list of required supplies needed to participate, the Monday before. While it’s free, you’ll need to register to attend.
Teachers with students in grades three to eight can help them learn about Black artists with the museum’s Artists at Home: School Outreach, a digital and interactive program running February through April. A museum educator leads each hour-long session, teaching students about a visual artist and leading discussions about the artist’s work. As part of the program, students can also participate in an art project with materials commonly found at home. Like Joyful Fridays, it’s free but only teachers can register (however, all sessions through March are booked).
The museum also encourages parents and educators to take advantage of the museum’s Talking about Race online portal to help children understand key topics like how to be anti-racist and why the idea of race is such a dominant force in our world.
The New York Public Library encourages parents and their children to check out its Black Month History Storytimes, as part of its wider Black History Month offerings. In them, child librarians “read beloved books, sing songs, and share early literacy tips.”
You can access story videos here. Recently, Anne-Marie Braithwaite, a NYPL librarian, read Hair Love, a story about a Black dad who learns to style his daughter’s hair that was also an Academy-award winning animated short.
Stories are recommended for kids 18 months old to three years old.
PBS has a slew of online resources, categorized by age, to teach kids about Black History and anti-racism. For example, parents of kids aged two to five can use PBS’ drawing activity to help their children understand the power of advocacy and reflect on the times they stood up for someone. They can also think about and write down the characteristics of great heroes with a printable work page. Afterward, take a look at PBS’ Questions to Ask Your Child to engage your kid in a discussion about Black heroes. You can ask them questions like “What Black role models helped to make the world a better place?”
Children six through eight can watch animated videos about Black people whose accomplishments secured them a place in the history books. For example, check out scientist and inventor , who invented more than 300 products from peanuts, and writer Zora Neale Hurston, whose work explored Black people’s stories in the South. After watching the videos, explore PBS’ supplemental activities, like a colorfully illustrated pdf you can download that inspires children to share their own stories like Hurston did.
As part of PBS’ anti-racism resources, educators can use PBS’ “Creating a Caring Classroom Community” hub to learn how to nurture a caring classroom, teach students to celebrate diversity, and talk about why racism hurts. You can kick off a class with this video from the show Arthur that teaches kids about racism.
Whichever digital resource you use to teach your kids or students to learn and celebrate Black history and culture, in February and throughout the year, it can help lay the foundation for a more knowledgeable and antiracist future.