BET Bookmark: Your Juneteenth (Kids) Holiday Reading List

Does the child in your life need a better explanation of why we celebrate Juneteenth as a holiday? Here are 10 titles just for them.

Juneteenth is certainly a time of celebration for Black people in America, but it's more than just another day off from school and work. As a fairly new federal holiday (thanks President Biden), the meaning can sometimes get lost in the excitement. of the cookouts with the food, the decorations, the music, and our favorite celebratory libations. 

RELATED: The Power of Juneteenth

It's important for everyone, especially our children, to learn about their cultural history and observe the days that commemorate their heritage. The best way to do that is for us all to teach them about the resilience of their ancestors and the necessity of their contributions to this country. 

In celebration of Black people's Independence Day, (nobody was thinking about us on the 4th of July) here are 10 books that will help you answer questions like, 'what is Juneteenth and why is it holiday' and provide so much more. 

  • "Juneteenth" by Van G. Garrett

    (Photo: Harper Collins Books, Illustrations by Reginald C Adams, Samson Bimbo Adenugba)

    A journey through the eyes of a young boy attending the Juneteenth parade in his hometown with his family, where he learns about the holiday and what it means in Black history.

    —Illustrations by Reginald C. Adams and Samson Bimbo Adenugba (Harper Collins)

  • "Nell Plants A Tree" by Anne Wynter

    (Photo: Harper Collins Books, Illustrations by Daniel Miyares

    In a picture book as beautiful as its illustrations, young readers will meet Nell, a little Black girl who falls in love with a Pecan tree. The tree becomes a symbol for the multi-generational love provided in Nell's close-knit family, which is often a message lost in Juneteenth celebrations. 

    —Illustrations by Daniel Miyares (Harper Collins)

  • "Nigeria Jones" by Ibi Zoboi

    (Photo: Harper Collins Books, Illustration by: Nettrice Gaskins)

    In this soulful, new YA coming-of-age story, Nigeria is forced to take care of her younger brother after their mother disappears. Raised in a strict group called The Movement, Nigeria embarks on a mission that uncovers a truth she wasn't prepared to hear. This is a novel that explores issues of Black womanhood independence and complicated family dynamics, a combo many of us can comprehend. 

    —(Harper Collins)

  • "What Is Juneteenth?" by Kirsti Jewel and Who IQ

    (Photo: Penguin Random House)

    For any parent who has gotten this question and been unable to answer it with any real knowledge, here's a book you can read together. "What Is Juneteenth?" poses facts over fiction with 80 black-and-white illustrations and a 16-page photo insert to help explain the historical story of the origins of the holiday. 

    —Illustrations by Manuel Gutierrez (Penguin Random House)

  • "Justice Rising" by Katheryn Russell-Brown

    (Photo: Penguin Random House, Illustration by Kim Holt)

    Make this Juneteenth even more significant by reading about 12 Black women who have played crucial roles in the Civil Rights Movement. These mini-biographies celebrate unsung heroines whose participation helped to drive the movement forward.

    —Illustrations by Kim Holt (Penguin Random House)

  • "Can We Please Give the Police Department to the Grandmothers?" by Junauda Petrus

    (Photo: Dutton Books for Young Readers, Illustration by Kristen Uroda)

    Based on author Junauda Petrus’ poem, composed and performed after the 2014 death of Michael Brown  in Ferguson, Missouri, this picture book reimagines public safety in the hands of loving caretakers rather than police. Imagine the possibilities. 

    —Illustrations by Kristen Uroda (Penguin Random House)

  • "All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom" by Angela Johnson

    (Photo: Simon & Schuster, Illustration by E.B. Lewis)

    A picture book that tells the story of the first Juneteenth, a day in 1865 when liberation came to Galveston, Texas. The story is sweetly told through the eyes of a little girl who experiences her first moment of freedom. The book also contains a timeline of important dates, and a helpful glossary of terms

    —Illustrations by E.B. Lewis (Simon and Schuster)

  • "A Flag For Juneteenth" by Kim Taylor

    (Photo: Neal Porter Books, Illustration (quilt) by Kim Taylor)

    The story, which is told through beautiful quilt artwork, focuses on the day before a group of enslaved African Americans learned they had actually been free 18 months prior.  Huldah, the main character, is preparing to celebrate her tenth birthday, and has to also now process a new life where freedom isn't just a dream, it's a reality.

    —Cover quilt art by Kim Taylor (Holiday House)

  • "Echo In The Distance" by Shayla Michelle

    (Photo: Shayla's Creative Side, Illustration by Kprecia Ambers)

    A tribute to Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech delivered during the 1963 March on Washington. The book inspires young people to understand that they too can have a part in the realization of Dr. King's dream.

    —Illustrations by Kprecia Ambers (Shayla’s Creative Side)

  • "Indigo Dreaming" by Dinah Johnson

    (Photo: Harper Collins Books, Illustration by Anna Cunha)

    Two young girls, one on the coast of South Carolina, the other on the shores of Africa, wonder about how they are connected to one another even though they live so far apart. It's a story, perfect for children ages 4 to 8, about imagination, travel, and the interconnections of Black cultures worldwide. 

    —Illustrated by Anna Cunha (Harper Collins)

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