5 Children’s Books to Honor a Truly American Holiday

Juneteenth, observed on June 19th, commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and marks a pivotal moment in American history. The five children’s books described below are a great starting place for bringing the history and significance of the national holiday to life in your school. Each addresses African Americans’ struggles, contributions, and resilience and sets the stage for deeper conversations and questions.

“Juneteenth for Mazie” by Floyd Cooper

“Juneteenth for Mazie” tells the story of a young girl named Mazie, who learns about the significance of Juneteenth from her father. Through engaging storytelling and beautiful illustrations, Mazie’s father recounts the history of slavery and the joy of freedom that Juneteenth represents. The book personalizes the historical event, making it relatable and accessible for young readers and readers of any age. This book provides a gentle yet powerful introduction to our latest national holiday, helping children understand the importance of this celebration through the eyes of a relatable protagonist.

“All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” byAngela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

“All Different Now” is a beautifully illustrated book that captures the emotions and experiences of the first Juneteenth through the eyes of a young girl. The story describes the moment when enslaved people in Texas learned about their freedom, emphasizing the impact on the community and the sense of hope and change. The book’s poetic text and vivid illustrations make the historical significance of Juneteenth come alive.  Thereby providing a poignant and engaging way to teach children, and others, about this pivotal moment in history.

“Juneteenth Jamboree” by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan

“Juneteenth Jamboree” follows Cassandra, a young girl who moves to Texas and discovers the vibrant celebration. Through her eyes, readers experience the festivities, traditions, and community spirit that make Juneteenth special. The story highlights the joy and cultural heritage associated with the holiday — our second Independence Day. This book emphasizes the celebratory aspect of Juneteenth, showcasing how communities come together to honor their history and heritage. It’s a great way to introduce children to the cultural richness of the holiday.

“Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story” by Valerie Wesley, illustrated by Sharon Wilson

“Freedom’s Gifts” tells the story of June and her cousin Lillie, who learn about their family’s history and the significance of Juneteenth from their grandmother. The narrative weaves together personal family stories with the broader historical context, creating a rich and informative tale. The book provides a deeper understanding of national holiday by connecting historical events with personal stories, making it an excellent resource for older children (targeted at 3rd-7th grader students) who are ready to delve deeper into the history and legacy of the holiday.

“Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth” by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

This inspiring book tells the story of Opal Lee. Lee is a dedicated activist also known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.” She played a pivotal role in making June 19 a national holiday. The book highlights her determination, activism, and the importance of remembering and celebrating Juneteenth.

Even though this book is written to be understood by young children, most readers will learn something new. This book bridges the past and present, showing children the ongoing relevance of the day and the power of activism. It’s an inspiring story that emphasizes the importance of engagement and historical awareness.

These five books provide a rich and varied approach to teaching children about Juneteenth, blending history, personal stories, and celebrations. By incorporating these stories into the classroom, teachers can help students appreciate the significance of the day and the enduring contributions of African Americans to American history.


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