In seeking to motivate students, I always find it helpful to present them with meaningful themes and inspirational accounts. So much inspiration is found when we look back into
the lives of people who struggled to endure. Black history topics achieve this pursuit nicely, yet it is often a challenge to integrate more of these topics into the curriculum. Youngsters
needing motivation derive great benefit from written accounts such as Dr. Ben Carson’s, Gifted Hands. In February 2009, Carson’s life story turned into a television movie;
we urged as many students as possible to watch what turned out to be a well-done portrayal of a boy’s journey from failure to lifelong success.
As I visit classrooms, I find that students are often deficient in their knowledge of black history. I believe that more devotion to the topic will produce more well-rounded students who
are better motivated to overcome personal obstacles. I wrote Affirmations to Successwhich encourages students’ use of uplifting affirmations;
however, knowledge of how others overcame their daunting circumstances is also crucial. Consequently, I propose a short list of books to support students of any age in availing themselves
of inspiration from the struggles of great Americans:
Although I've given suggested grade levels, I believe in picture book use on the upper grades, too (including middle school).
Moses, by Carol Boston Weatherford, is a beautifully illustrated, moving account of how Harriet Tubman remained inspired, in the face of many dangers, to flee north. (K-5)
Henry’s Freedom Box, by Ellen Levine, is a cleverly illustrated, touching depiction of how a slave’s heartbreak propels him to literally mail himself to freedom.
He courageously begins life all over again, in the north. (K-5)
Freedom’s Children, by Ellen Levine, offers several accounts of children’s contributions to the Civil Rights movement. (3-8)
More Than Anything Else, by Marie Bradby, is the story of a young ex-slave’s desperate attempts to learn to read. His persistence leads to success! (K-5)
George Crum and the Saratoga Chip, by Gaylia Taylor, is the account of how a chef’s reaction to prejudice causes him to invent the potato chip. (3-5)
Black History for Beginners, by Denise Dennis, is exactly what its title suggests—a primer to vastly complex topic. It’s a good resource (handbook) for helping students
complete gaps in knowledge, and does so using a child-friendly format. (3-8)
Black Women for Beginners, by Saundra Sharp, achieves the same purpose for the study of black women as Black History for Beginners does overall. (3-8)