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Spotlight on Black History

Picture books provide a spotlight on Black History; providing learners with a window into the lives and achievements of African Americans.
Books available in the Novel Effect app that spotlight Black History.

Black History Month is the perfect time to highlight picture books that celebrate African Americans’ achievements. A picture book gives students a window into the lives of others; it helps them develop empathy. At the same time, they create sliding doors, and allow learners to imagine themselves reaching for their own dreams. As a result, picture books are a lasting way to spotlight the joy and accomplishments of Black History.

Novel Effect soundscapes enhance informational books and biographies. Often, soundscape designers use music that’s specific to a time period, region, or topic. Because of this, kids get a deeper understanding of the history while being immersed in the soundscape  As well as illustrating a mood, intent, or unfamiliar word with sound effects. Connect students to big ideas and dreams with this collection of Black History soundscapes.

Activities That Spotlight Black History

Enjoy these free activities curated by our staff librarian!

Martin's Big Words

Bring Martin’s words to life by listening to a short excerpt of one of his speeches and using primary sources. Take inspiration from Dr. King’s words and create your own collage to share how he has inspired you!

Download more Martin’s Big Words activities.

Did you know Effa Manley is the only woman inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame? Learn more about the Baseball Negro League and Effa’s role as the owner of the Newark Eagles.

Could you imagine 27 hours in a cramped box for just a sliver of hope of freedom? Henry “Box” Brown did just that as he traveled the Underground Railroad in hopes of receiving his freedom. 

Before reading, take a look at the map of the Underground Railroad to see if enslaved Black Americans traveled to freedom in your area! 

After reading, learn more about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad in this short video. 

Reflect on Henry’s life, choose three words to describe his character and share why those words fit Henry. If you want to learn more about the Underground Railroad, check out these primary sources!

Read about Rosa Parks’ courage as she refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery! You can learn more about Rosa’s life in this video and then take the quiz. Visit this virtual exhibit of Rosa’s life at the Library of Congress. Have you ever had to do something that took courage? Share what it was and how you felt during and after the experience.

“Get in good trouble, necessary trouble,” were the wise words of the late Representative John Lewis, who was an iconic figure in the civil rights movement and worked throughout his life to make laws more just for all people. 

After reading about John’s life and legacy, check out these photos of his work on the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Next, listen to John Lewis speak about his famous speech at the March on Washington. John Lewis spent his life speaking out against injustice. 

Can you think of an injustice taking place today? What do you think John Lewis would say about it?

Ruby Bridges and the Desegregation of American SchoolsRuby Bridges is an American Hero! Many know Ruby from the picture of her first day of school, flanked by federal marshals, as she entered an all-white school and began the road to desegregation. This biography is packed with facts about Ruby from her role in desegregation to her current work as a civil rights activist. Reading a chapter at a time is a way to take time for discussion around a complex topic. 

Introduce Ruby to readers by showing them the iconic Rockwell painting (offensive language shown), The Problem We All Live With. 

After reading Chapter 1, visit BrainPop to watch a brief video and take a quiz about Ruby Bridges. 

The sounds of the Civil Rights Movement are a great example of how music can also teach us about history. Wrap up learning about Ruby Bridges by brainstorming ways to positively bring change.

Don’t follow the path. Go where there is no path and begin the trail.

-Ruby Bridges

Read-Aloud Partners

Read Mae Among the Stars with Mae Jemison.

After reading about pioneering astronaut Mae Jemison’s big dreams and her biography, connect the story to a super STEM activity! Mae made it to space, but how can she return safely to earth? Use household materials to develop a parachute to return Mae safely.

Download more Mae Among the Stars activities

Partner Courageous First Ladies Who Changed the World with Michelle Obama.

Learn more fun facts about First Ladies in Courageous First Ladies Who Changed the World, then research and share two interesting facts you discovered!

Both books have an in-app eBook that can be read within your Novel Effect app! 

Pair Hidden Heroes with Counting on Katherine.

Did you know that black women helped NASA win the space race? You’ll be amazed at what you learn in this book and these videos of Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan will bring these human computers to life!

More Inspiring Stories

In addition to celebrating Black History, the Novel Effect library includes titles that celebrate Black joy. Pairing fiction and nonfiction titles helps children make connections across texts. Some great books to read-aloud together: 

  • I Got the Rhythm and Firebird
  • Parker Looks Up and Michelle Obama.
  • Nigel and the Moon and Mae Among the Stars
  • The Hill We Climb and Change Sings.

You can find all of these soundscapes, and more, in the Novel Effect app. Use the collection of titles below to find your next magical read-aloud

Download the Novel Effect app to bring stories to life with music and sound that respond to your voice. 

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