Archive for the 'African American' Category

Harriet Tubman




Harriet Tubman was an incredible part of American History. She led a challenging life, but was still strong enough to rescue around 300 slaves from captivity. Her strength and courage remain an inspiration, even to this day. Students will learn about her childhood, and her work with the underground railroad and the Union Army. Students will connect her life and experiences to the events that were occurring in American history at that time.


Text Sources

Who was Harriet Tubman? by Yona Zeldis McDonough

This book is recommended for students ages nine through twelve, though it would be appropriate to read aloud to younger students as well. Who was Harriet Tubman is a wonderful story that gives students the history of this incredible woman. McDonough details Tubman’s life as a slave, then a worker of the Underground Railroad, and later as a nurse. The book gives a history of the time period in which Tubman lived, letting students understand the context of her story. McDonough has also written “Who was…” books about Helen Keller, Martin Luther King, Anne Frank, and many other historical figures. This book, and author, are highly recommended for classroom learning.


Harriet Tubman by Kem Knapp Sawyer

This book gives students a first look at reading historical biographies. This book, also recommended for students ages nine through twelve, is very factual, though it includes interesting illustrations, photographs, and notes.  It includes a history of her life in slavery, but also of her incredible contributions to society after the war ended. This book is strongly recommended for students doing an assignment for their class.


Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman by Dorothy Sterling

 Freedom train will be loved by students of all ages, whether as a read-aloud or a solo read. Written as historical fiction story, students will become engrossed in the fascinating life led by Harriet Tubman. The story details her life as a life and discussed the conditions that she lives in her entire childhood and early adult years. While it does not focus a lot on the history of the country during this time period, it gives students a very real idea of what it would have been like to be working in the Underground Railroad. This real life story includes enough suspense to capture even reluctant readers.

 A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman by David A. Adlertubmangroupbybarnweb.jpg

This picture book is better suited for students of lower reading levels. Its beautiful illustrations in addition to short sentences detailing the important aspects of Tubman’s life give students are brief overview of the subject. Though it won’t give readers an incredibly detailed account of her life, it is perfect for students who are just beginning on the subject of slavery, and the civil war. Without overwhelming beginning readers with too many words and facts, it outlines this important historical figure’s life. Adler’s book is a great jumping off point for students.

Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman by Alan Schroeder (Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney)

One of my favorite books as a child, Minty is a beautiful historical fiction book about the early life of Harriet Tubman. Coupled with gorgeous watercolor paintings by Pinkney, the story gives real feeling to young Harriet’s difficult life. Young readers will be entranced by her story, as she moves from working in the house to out in the fields, and they will be fascinated by Harriet’s father’s guidance on living in the wilderness. As Harriet plans her eventual escape from slavery, students will find themselves learning about the life the slaves led nearly 200 years ago.

 Web Sources


 America’s Story from America’s Library

A kid friendly website with information and graphics about many historical figures, including Harriet Tubman. Students can read the intro with basic facts, or they can explore deeper, depending on how far the teacher wants them to research. This site is easy to use and to navigate. Its bright colors and pictures will keep students entertained and focused as they research. None of the stories are particularly long, and they use appropriate vocabulary for elementary students. This website is funded by the Library of Congress.

 Harriet Tubman Biography

 This site is recommended to fourth through sixth grade students. A sidebar offers links to a biography, time-line, photos, and other resources concerning Harriet Tubman and the history of America during her life. This site gives a very factual and detailed account of her life. One fascinating aspect is the list of some of the people who Harriet helped escape from slavery. The site gives names of the rescued slaves as well as the dates of their escapes. Students have the option of looking at a brief outline, focusing on her family life, or learning about “Tubman’s civil war.” This is perfect for a research project; it is easy to read and to navigate.


The Underground Railroad

This interactive site gives students a chance to really be connected with the plight of escaping slaves. Set up similar to a “choose your own adventure book” students are able to choose where they want to go as the escape with Harriet Tubman. Small paragraphs, accompanied by photographs and illustrations, describe each scenario to the students. At one point, they must choose to approach a house, or to hide in the woods. Later, they must choose to cross an icy river or stay back and risked being exposed to slave hunters. As they “travel,” the site describes the cities and historical figures that they meet.

Harriet Tubman Biography: TFK Challenge

This site gives a short quiz about Harriet Tubman. In eight questions, the quiz covers the basics of Harriet’s life. This quiz could be used either before teaching the unit to see where students are, or after the unit as a quiz or a study device. Students have the opportunity to retake the quiz of they don’t get all the answers; they are shown which questions were answered incorrectly, but not given the correct answer so they can go back and try again.harriet-tubman-sarah-bradford_a.jpg

Pathways to Freedom

This is another interactive site perfect for students learning about Harriet Tubman and the underground railroad. This site takes students through the life of Harriet Tubman before she escapes from slavery. By scrolling over certain objects in the pictures, students learn more about her family life, and gather clues that will help when they try to escape.

Teacher Resources


Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman

This website can be used after students read the story Minty. This site has about 6 activities recommended to use during and after the story is read. It suggests activities such as songs, map games, and interviews. Students will love these follow up activities because the story is so fascinating.

Lesson Plan: Harriet Tubman

This link will bring you to a full lesson plan created by Bruce Helgeson for fourth and fifth grade students.  It details a mini unit for teachers, including a background, objectives, references, and assessments. Teachers might not need to use all of the activities, or they may enjoy exploring all the different ideas for their students.

Harriet Tubman: printout/quiz

 This link brings teachers to a print out and questions for students. The printout gives students a short history of Harriet Tubman, explaining why she is an important historical figure. It is followed by comprehension questions, which teachers could give as a quiz or included with the printout. This is a perfect activity for students to practice their reading and comprehension skills. It could be used as a partner project as well.

 On the Road to Freedom: Lesson Plan

 This lesson plan gives suggestions of many books to read to the class for this unit. It also suggests many discussion questions and further exploration activities for students. After reading these books (or any other preferred books) students will use critical thinking to to explore ideas such as; what was the most important event in Harriet’s life? How did she feel when she heard that slavery was abolished?



Martin Luther King, Jr.

The following resources are appropriate to help teach third graders about the contributions Martin Luther King, Jr. made to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States (Virginia Social Studies SOL 3.11 b).  Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, Martin became a minister after graduating from Morehouse College.  His charismatic speeches from the pulpit garnered much attention, and he was asked to lead the Montgomery Bus Boycott.  From then on, King was an influential leader in the Civil Rights Movement until his assassination in 1968.  The non-violent ideals that Martin espoused, and the dream of equality that he propagated live on through his legacy.

Relevant Children’s Literature


Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?
Written by Bonnie Bader
Illustrated by Nancy Harrison

This beginner chapter book is punctuated by beautiful black and white pictures on each page.  Spanning Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life from birth to death, the book is divided into chapters based on aspects of his life.  These chapters can individually be read and understood if there is not enough time during class to read the entire book.  Perfect for a strong third grade reader who wants to delve more deeply into King’s life, the last chapter of the book even talks about King’s legacy after his death, and the lives of his wife and children.  Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.?  is very well organized, and the time line in the back of the book will further help students to arrange the details of King’s life in their minds.


Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by Doreen Rappaport
Illustrated by Bryan Collier

“He said “together” when others said “separate”. He said “peace” when others said “war”(p. 9).”

Martin’s Big Words is not about the long vocabulary words that Martin Luther King, Jr. used in his speeches.  Rather, the book emphasizes the words that encompass the big concepts that King stressed through his leadership and oration.  These concepts include, “together”, “love”, “freedom”, and “peace”.  The actual print in the book is typed with different fonts and sizes, highlighting some of the important concepts. More impactful than the changing fonts, the beautiful illustrations set the tone of the book.  Created by using a mix of collage techniques with original drawings, the illustrations catch the feeling of the era.


If A Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks
Written and Illustrated by Faith Ringgold

Martin Luther King, Jr. became a Civil Rights leader when he was asked to direct the Montgomery Bus Boycotts.  However, the Boycotts would never have occurred if it had not been for the courageous stand of Rosa Parks, who refused to get to the back of the bus.  Marcie is a little girl waiting for her school bus, when a talking bus pulls up to the stop instead.  Boarding the talking Cleveland Avenue Bus, Marcie embarks on an adventure to learn about the life of Rosa Parks, and the 381 day boycott that initiated Martin Luther King, Jr. into the Civil Rights Movement. With beautiful pastel pictures, If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks, whimsically describes Parks and the important stand she took.


Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by Mary Winget
Illustrated by Tim Parlin

Using a mixture of primary source pictures and drawings, Martin Luther King, Jr. is a very accessible biography for elementary students.  The primary photographs accurately show what the world looked like to King.  Students are shown pictures of him attending a birthday party as a child and giving speeches as an adult.  Such pictures help to bring King alive to students who never saw him during their lifetime.  The drawings help take complicated concepts and simplify them by enacting the concepts through the artwork.  The drawings and pictures enhance this biography that extends from Kings life to his life’s work.  Special people and events in his life are highlighted and explained in separate sections, such as a page on Ghandi and Rosa Parks.


My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Written by Christine King Farris
Illustrated by Chris Soentpiet

Unlike many books on the life of Martin Luther King, Jr., My Brother Martin focuses not on his life as a Civil Rights leader, but on his childhood years.  Written by his eldest sister, the book shows a mischievous but thoughtful young boy growing up the son and grandson of ministers in a world rampant in prejudice.  Children can easily relate to the child that they read about, but the book also paints a picture of the injustices of segregation from a child’s point of view.  Particularly moving, and often cited as the catalyst that made King so passionate about desegregation, is the vignette when the two white boys that the King brothers play with tell them that they can not play with them anymore because they are black.  All children understand the sting of rejection, making this story extremely powerful.

Relevant Websites for Students

 “I Have a Dream” Speech

This YouYube video begins with pictures from the March on Washington on August 28, 1963, overlaid by the spiritual song, “We Shall Overcome.”  In only seventeen minutes, Martin Luther King, Jr. delivers the most important speech of his life, and inspires millions to share his dream of equality for all.   Students should hear the cadence of his voice, and will feel like they are on the front seat of history as they see and hear this famous leader talk.

Rags to Riches

When you play Rags to Riches, for every answer you get correct about the life and work of Martin Luther King, Jr., you will advance to the next level of the game.  Just like the television game show, I Want to be a Millionaire!, this game has helpful hints that you can use if you choose, and each level you play is for a certain amount of money.  The amount increases incremently until you reach 1 million dollars.   If a student does get a question incorrect, the correct answer is shown, and this way students will be playing a game, and learning new facts about King.  A wonderful review of King’s life, the fun game allows you to start over as many times as you need until you become a millionaire!

 The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

The Life of Martin Luther King, Jr. is an online comic book starting at King’s birth and continuing until his assassination in 1968.  The colorful and provocative comic book is especially interesting because students have the opportunity to begin imagining what King was thinking throughout his life.  While it is impossible to know King’s actual thoughts, the thought bubbles that float above his head throughout the comic let students imagine what he could have been thinking.  In truth, this is the same as imagining his motivations, and helps to create empathy for his cause by having students put themselves in his place for awhile.

 Martin Luther King, Jr. Quiz

This quiz, created by the Seattle Times, gives students the opportunity to test their knowledge of Martin Luther King, Jr..  Unlike most online quizzes that just tell you the answers after you submit your guess, this quiz goes one step further.  After you submit your answer, a dialogue box comes up with the correct answer, and a short explanation of the answer.  This deepens understanding and and allows students to understand why or why not their submission was correct.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Time Line

Created by students, this time line is a slide show, in chronological order, of the important events in the life of Martin Luther King, Jr..  Each slide has the year across the top, a short description of the event at the bottom, and a picture created by students describing the caption.  All of the slides are signed by the pair of students who created them.  Students will love seeing a product created and published completely by other students!

Helpful Resources for Educators

Biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. 

Before teaching a subject, it is important to delve into the material and become as informed as possible with the content.  This biography of Martin Luther King, Jr. is from the Official Site of the Nobel Prize.  As a Nobel Prize recipient, King has a biography on their site that details the work that led to his awarding and acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Printable

Perfect for morning work, or as review at the end of the unit, this printable has a picture of Martin Luther King, Jr. at the top for students to color in, and lined space at the bottom for a written response.  The writing could be in response to any number of questions, including a synthesis of all they have learned about King, what they feel his most important contribution was, or what characteristics he had that made him such a charismatic and effective leader.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Online

A one stop website with quotes, speeches, videos, and  pictures of Martin Luther King, Jr. that can be used to supplement any lesson plan, this website is very user friendly and accessible.  One of the most interesting features of the site is that relatable current news items are added to the site regularly.  For instance, President Barack Obama spoke at the Ebenezer Baptist Church a day before the Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, and his speech was uploaded to the site.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Lesson Plans

This page provides links and materials with lesson plans and ideas for teaching about Martin Luther King, Jr. for kindergarten through fifth grade.  This is a great resource to look for lessons, and to find creative ideas to teach about King.  The top five lessons are listed with a brief description of the lesson and the suggested grade levels to use the lesson with.  When you click on the lesson, a new page appears with the lesson objective, vocabulary, content, and assessment. In addition, lessons of interest from other websites are listed at the end of the page, again with the suggested grade level.

Carving Out a Name for Himself

George Washington Carver made a name for himself with peanuts. He is world-reknowned for having beaten the odds€”as an African-American in the post Civil War era in America in the late 1800s€”to become a scientist and successful inventor. He was director of agriculture at the prestigious Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama and is credited with creating not only 300 uses of the peanut, but also medicines, soaps, buttermilk, ink, shaving cream, and instant coffee, to name just a few. The following books, websites, and resources cover VA SOL 1.5.

Books on George Washington Carver

   George Washington Carver

Written as a Buddy Books First Biography, George Washington Carver by Rebecca Gomez, is chocked full of information for the budding reader. With 29 pages broken down into 8 chapters, this book captures the salient facts on Mr. Carver’s life and accomplishments in easy-to-read prose.

 Great African Americans

George Washington Carver: The Peanut Scientist, one book in a series written about Great African Americans, was written by Patricia and Fredrick McKissack.  This book would best be used by a first grade teacher to introduce the subject of Mr. Carver. It is filled with wonderful black and white photographs of Mr. Carver, depicting him in his various endeavors, that provide good primary resources for examing his life and times.  This book also has the requisite timeline and glossary for young readers if used in a group research activity.

Ingenious Inventor 

Written by Nathan Olson and illustrated by Keith Tucker, George Washington Carver, Ingenious Inventor is a graphic novel depicting the life and times of Mr. Carver. In a clear and visually appealing way, this book sets itself apart from other biographies by its use of first person dialogue and the use of comic book style illustrations. I highly recommend this book to grab the attention of reluctant readers.

 The Groundbreaking, Chance-Taking Life of George Washington Carver and Science and Invention in America

The Groundbreaking, Chance-Taking Life of George Washington Carver and Science & Invention in America was written and illustrated by Cheryl Harnass. The original pen and ink block prints and running timeline along the bottom of every page make this book an excellent resource for teachers. Excerpts can be shared with students as the level of detail in this book is much deeper than in the young reader selections.

A Picture Book of George Washington Carver

Written by David Adler and illustrated by Dan Brown, A Picture Book of George Washington Carver is more than just a picture book. Watercolors depict Mr. Carver’s life and the author cites Mr. Carver’s own words on several occasions. This book is a brief introduction to Mr. Carver’s life and accomplishments.

Websites about George Washington Carver


Excellent resource for quick information on Mr. Carver. This website shows some his artwork and how he used it to teach farmers about pests. It also has some background information on The Jesup Wagon, a rolling teaching cart, that Mr. Carver designed was filled “with soil samples, farm equipment, recipes, plants, and anything else that could have been used as a teaching tool”.


Large type, a well-written first grade script, and an uncluttered page make this website a good choice for first graders studying Mr. Carver. It includes links to discover Mr. Carver’s achievements, like one of the educational booklets he wrote, Help for the Hard Times. At the bottom of each webpage, there is a thought-provoking question for students to consider before clicking to read more (e.g., “What other ways could farmers make money?”).

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This website features an online game called Quia. It is available through subscription, but as one of its complimentary games, there is an excellent, trial version of a Who Wants to be a Millionaire-type gameshow featuring questions about Mr. Carver. Not only does this site provide the question-answer game, but it also provides background and facts about Mr. Carver as well.


Everyone keeps talking about all those uses of the peanut that Mr. Carver discovered, so what are they? This website lists the 105 recipes of Mr. Carver’s from his How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing it for Human Consumption publication in 1940.


A&E Biography showcases Mr. Carver in a mini-bio. There is a brief history of his life along with a very well-produced (A&E-style) mini-biographical video. Many parts of the video would be entertaining for a young crowd, however it does reveal a striking image of a hooded figure wrapped in a noose when describing a lynching that Mr. Carver witnessed in his early years.

Additional Resources for Studying George Washington Carver



From, this bio-cube is a fun way to help remember the facts about historical figures. Older students will enjoy typing the information online where younger first graders would benefit from a blank printout and entering the information manually. The software asks students to report a notable quote, personality of the individual, pertinent facts, and his/her significance to society. Once the information is entered, the worksheet can be cutout and made into a 3-D foldable of a cube.


Video has a short video with a brief history of Mr. Carver’s life. The video shows rare footage of Dr. Carver receiving an award at the age of 80 in 1941. Students will get a sense of Mr. Carver’s humble nature and hear how his throat was ravaged by whooping cough in his youth leaving him with a high-pitched voice.

Teach the Children

George Washington Carver Song

George Washington Carver Song

From the album, Teach The Children, Medicine Man Ya Ya sings an upbeat song about ‘The Peanut Man’. Playing this little ditty in the classroom, while completing your art activity during your George Washington Carver lesson plan, will surely help kids remember Mr. Carver and the contributions he made to science and society. Click on George Washington Carver Song to hear a 30 second introduction to the song. In addition to the Mr. Carver song, Teach the Children, also features songs about Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks.

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Coloring Pages

The USDA has a great collection of worksheet activities perfect for ‘morning work’. Among the handouts depicting Mr. Carver himself are the anatomy of a peanut plant (Science SOLs!), a dot-to-dot peanut, food pyramids, and cross-word puzzles for older students.

Jackie Robinson


As the first African-American player in the major leagues of baseball, Jackie’s actions helped to bring about other opportunities for African-Americans.  (SOL 2.11)  The resources given below will help a 2nd grade student learn about the life and times of Jackie Robinson.  There are sources that highlight his career and its milestones, and others that focus on what Jackie Robinson meant to the civil rights movement.  Through his accomplishments on the field and his strides to improve the lives of African-Americans in all walks of life, Jackie Robinson can be seen through these resources to be a very influential individual in American history.

Scholastic News Video
This video takes place on Jackie Robinson Day at Citi Field in New York and is an event for children.  There are several interviews in which children learn about Jackie’s contribution to not only baseball but civil rights as a whole.  People who are interviewed give their views on Jackie Robinson as a person and enunciate the ways in which he influenced others.

Jackie Robinson Game Footage
This video gives students a primary source of Jackie Robinson’s game-day exploits.  Along with seeing his prowess as a baseball player, there is also a song that regales Jackie’s accomplishments and shows his influence into popular culture.  Students will have a better understanding of the time period Jackie Robinson lived in and what the atmosphere of a baseball game was like during that era.

Jackie Robinson Biography
This biographical site gives kids a ton of information about Jackie Robinson’s career and firsts as an African-American baseball player.  There is a timeline on which his career highlights are put in chronological order.  There is another timeline that enumerates special events in the life of Jackie Robinson.  There are also links near the top of the page to a photo gallery and a video of Jackie Robinson’s last public appearance.

Jackie Robinson At Bat Craft
Crayola provides directions at this site on how to build a three dimensional paper replica of Jackie Robinson.  Included in the craft are several aspects of the time period surrounding Jackie Robinson’s baseball playing days.  This craft is meant to be a commemoration of the first African-American to play professional baseball.

Jackie Robinson on Britannica Kids
Here, Jackie Robinson’s life and career are laid out as an encyclopedia entry.  Facts are given that begin with his birth date and place and continue through to his death.  Included are facts about his playing career and contributions to society based on his work for civil rights.  An extremely helpful aspect of this web page is an interactive dictionary provided by Merriam-Webster.  if a child does not understand or recognize a word used in the encyclopedia entry, double-clicking on the word will open a small window in which the word is defined as in a dictionary.

Testing the Ice
Written by Sharon Robinson and illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This true life story is written by Jackie Robinson’s daughter and includes paintings to enhance the action of the book.  Upon retirement, Jackie Robinson moves his family to Connecticut where his children play with other kids in and around the nearby lake.  Jackie curiously does not go near the lake because, unbeknownst to his family, he does not know how to swim.  After making the rule that the children cannot go onto the frozen lake in the winter without having an adult first check its stability he finds himself faced with a dilemma.  He musters up his courage and, as a metaphor to his career, Jackie walks out to the middle of the frozen pond and okays it for the children.


Time For Kids
Written by Editors of Time for Kids and Denise Lewis Patrick
This reading offers a detailed biography of the first African-American baseball player to play professional baseball, describing the hardships and racial barriers he had to overcome to play for the Brooklyn Dodgers.  This is an easy read to older kids and gives great information when read to younger children.  The text informs readers about complex issues, such as segregation, while remaining relevant to grades 2-4.  Also included in this reading are pictures from the Time-Life collection that depict Jackie Robinson’s career.

Time For Kids Website
As an add on to the above reading, this website gives teachers an additional resource to pull activities from.  Included in this site are open ended questions, vocabulary words, journal questions, and extended readings.  This is a educator focused site and has links to many other educational opportunities for teachers.

Picture Book
Written by David A. Adler and illustrated by Robert Casilla
Recounts the life and career of Jackie Robinson, the first African-American baseball player in the major leagues.  Easily read text is complimented by full and double page water color paintings.  There are images from his childhood, his days as a collegiate athlete, as a major leaguer, and finally includes his contributions to civic equality.  This book is a good introduction to the life of Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson
This is a website for young children to navigate.  It includes simple, basic facts of Jackie’s life, a timeline of important events, and other facts.  With large writing and only one or two links, this website is set up for young elementary school children to use.

Stealing Home
Written by Burleigh and illustrated by Mike Wimmer
In 1955, during the World Series, Jackie Robinson did the impossible: stole home.  This book recants this legend in great detail, using extremely vivid imagery through very descriptive writing.  Along with the elegantly described story, there are biographical boxes throughout the book to add background information.  Oil Paintings enhance the story and are presented on each two page spread.  Potentially, this book can be read to or with a wide range of children; the facts included in the baseball card style boxes are good for older readers and  the pictures with the main story can be read to younger children.

News for You
A short read, this page allows students to get the information fast.  Important facts are given about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball, but the main purpose is to help the child relate to the feeling of exclusion.  A vocabulary word bank is given as is an open ended question at the end of the reading.  This reading is targeted at younger elementary aged students.

He Led the Way
Written by April Jones Prince and illustrated by Robert Casilla
This book is a biographical depiction of Jackie Robinson’s life that is written to be read by children.  It is a level 2 in the All Aboard Reading series and includes smaller words and sentences that enable young readers.  There is a mixture of paintings and pictures that go along with the words to assist children in reading He Led the Way.  While learning valuable reading skills and practicing phonetic concepts, children acquire knowledge about Jackie Robinson.

Jackie Robinson, A Black Hero
Within this website are a lesson plan, quiz, and a list of the academic standards per state.  This particular lesson plan was written for a Catholic elementary school, but can be used in the public domain as well.

Learning about Rosa Parks

On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks made history by simply and courageously refusing to give up her seat to a white passenger. During a time of public, educational, and social segregation, Rosa Parks was one of many who paved the way for equal freedoms and rights in our country today. The Civil rights movement helped to bring change, creating laws that made sure that all citizens had the same rights no matter their race. (United States History II9.a) By reading about her accomplishments, children can understand that just one person can make a big change.

Listed below are some books based on Rosa Parks that illustrate her life and accomplishments.


Rosa by Nikki Giovanni. Illustrated by Bryan Collier

At home with her family, Rosa Parks gets ready to start her day. She doesn’t know yet that the choices she will make will unleash a chain of events that spark a boycott and fuel a movement. After working all day, sewing Sunday suits and blouses, Rosa heads home. She finds a place to sit, but not before long, she is being yelled at by the bus driver to move but Rosa refuses to move.

Excerpt: “She thought about her mother and her grandmother and knew they would want her to be strong. She had not sought this moment but was ready for it. When a policeman bent down to ask her: Auntie, are you going to move?” all the strength of all the people joined in her. Rosa Parks said no.”

Seeing what has just happened inspires people to act and not before long, a great leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. is standing before the masses gathering people to protest peacefully.

The illustrations colorful, created with a variety of materials and beautiful to look at.

This Caldecott Honor book.


Back of The Bus by Aaron Reynolds. Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Riding in the back of the bus with his Mama, a little boy plays with his marble. When the marble slips away, it is Rosa Parks who rolls it back to him. She is smiling and sitting towards the front of the bus. As the bus gets crowded, it comes to a stop, and he overhears some yelling. His mama hushes him. He can hear the bus driver threaten to call the police. Sitting there waiting, he plays with his marble. His mama scolds him to put it away, so he hides it in his pocket. He gets the feeling that something is wrong. The little boy knows Rosa Parks doesn’t belong there but she refuses to move. As the police take Rosa Parks away, everyone is watching out the window…..

This story is written from a little boy’s perspective. This unique point of view can help children make connections to their own feelings and interpretations. It has colorful illustrations that help set the mood and tone of this book.

BOYCOTT BLUES: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation.

Boycott Blues: How Rosa Parks Inspired a Nation. By Andrea Davis Pinkney. Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

Dog Tired, the story teller, sings the Boycott Blues.


This story begins with shoes.

This story is all for true.

This story walks. And walks. And walks.

To the blues.

Dog Tired narrates Rosa Park’s story: While she is sitting in the bus, Jim Crow, “with his bony wings”, comes to “peck, peck, peck” but Rosa Parks wont get up. (In this story, Jim Crow becomes a character- a bird that pecks and pecks trying to keep people segregated.) She refuses to move. That night, Martin Luther King Jr. tells the gathered crowds that they will peacefully fight for justice and boycott the buses. From then on people walked, some rode taxis, and rode bikes, but they wouldn’t ride the bus. Not until the Supreme Court got rid of Jim Crow.

The author weaves the blues in and throughout the story.

 IF A BUS COULD TALK: The Story of Rosa Parks.

If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks. By Faith Ringgold

Marcie, a young girl, on her way to school, gets on an unusual bus. As she sits down a voice calls out to tell her that seat is reserved! Alarmed, she isn’t sure where the voice is coming from- soon enough- she realizes it is the bus! The bus Tells Marcie about Rosa Park’s life, her family, and her life as a young girl. Rosa grows up, gets married, and works as a seamstress. On her way home after work, she gets on a bus, and when she is asked to get up from her seat, she refuses. She is taken to jail, but her actions have inspired many to boycott the buses. The bus continues to narrate Rosa parks life. The bus pulls up and stops at Rosa Parks Boulevard. Suddenly Rosa Parks gets on the bus! Inside, she greets the riders on the bus and together they celebrate Rosa’s birthday. Marcie finally arrives at school ready to share her story with her class.


A Picture Book of Rosa Parks by David Adler. Illustrated by Robert Casilla

Davis Adler recounts Rosa Parks life and upbringing in this children’s biography. Adler recounts her upbringing, growing up under Jim Crow,  going to a segregated school, and living in a community where the Ku Klux Klan made their presence known. The author recounts her heroic actions and accomplishments.

This is a great book for any young student to use for fact gathering or even a reference for a paper. There are colorful illustrations on every page to help guide students through the text.

Great Resources for Kids

Kids Konnect

A brief summary of Rosa Parks life. Includes links to videos and images.

Stand Up For Your Rights /PBSkids

Learn more about Civil Rights Movement. Explore games, audio interviews, and images.

Martin Luther King Jr

Learn more about Martin Luther King Jr. You can find games, coloring pages and other activities.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

Explore different biographies, read newspaper articles, explore a time line and read first hand accounts.

Biography Channel

Watch some great videos about Rosa Parks life.

Great Resources for Teachers

Taking A Stand With Rosa Parks Lesson Plan

A lesson designed to help students learn about people who shaped history by reading their biographies and researching the age in which they lived.

Scholastic for Teachers

Resource site with biography and vocabulary words.

Mr. Donn’s Lesson Plans

The stories  are designed for students to read and respond to through discussion. Lesson plan extends and involves writing. This is geared towards older students, but the stories can be read to younger students.

Scholastic for Teachers 

Here you can find list of books, activities, and free printables.

Teaching Geography with Children’s Literature: The Patchwork Path


The Patchwork Path is written by Bettye Stround and illustrated by Erin Susanna Bennett.  The story is told by Hannah, a ten year old girl, who is a slave on a Georgia plantation.  When the story begins, Hannah’s sister has been sold to another plantation and soon after that, her mother passes away.  Before her mother died she taught Hannah how to make a special quilt.  Each section of the quilt has a special meaning and gives directions to run to freedom.  There is a code that goes along with the quilt to remember what each section means.

The monkey wrench
turns the wagon wheel
toward Canada on the bear’s paw trail to the crossroads.
Once they got to the crossroads,
they dug a log cabin on the ground.
Shoofly told them to dress up in cotton
and satin bow ties and go to the cathedral church, get married, and exchange double rings.
Flying geese stay on
the drunkard’s path and
follow the stars.

The monkey wrench is the quilt itself.  One day in spring Hannah’s papa has her air out the quilt and that signals to the other slaves that they will be escaping tonight. The wagon wheel is Hannah’s papa because he is the wagon driver for the plantation so he knows all the roads, streams, and woods and knows where to hide while they are escaping.  Hannah and her papa escape that night and run through the woods until they get to a church where they hide under the floor boards until it is safe for them to come out again.  The next day they see a flock of geese flying North and they know they must follow the geese to get to freedom.  On their journey they find bear paw marks and that leads them to a safe cave to sleep in for the night.  They always walked in a zigzag pattern like a drunkard’s path because it would be harder for the Master’s dogs to catch their scent.  The Shoofly pattern on the quilt reminded them that if anyone ever came after them they should scatter like flies and then meet up at the spot that they were separated.  After a long journey Hannah and her papa finally make it to Lake Erie where they drew a log cabin in the sand to signal that they needed help to cross the lake into Canada.  That night a free black man found their sign and brought them new clothes.  The new clothes made Hannah and her papa look like they were already free and headed to church.  That night they board a boat for Canada and sail into freedom.  During their first winter of freedom Hannah makes a new quilt with scraps of their old slave clothing, sections of their other quilt, and new fabric too.  Hannah leaves one section blank so that when her sister Mary is reunited with them, they can finish the quilt together.

Curriculum Connections
The Patchwork Path would be a great book to read after student’s have had some experience with maps and directions.  It was recommended for grades K – 3, but I think that Kindergarten would be a little too young to use this book to illustrate using maps.  It would be better to show how student’s could make a simple map of a familiar area, like their neighborhood or home town and for older students, including a title, legend and compass rose with their map (VA SOL 1.5, 2.6).

Additional Resources

  • Students could use this coloring page as a map and then write a secret code about how to get to the “X”.
  • This website has printable pages to make a “Where I Live” booklet.
  • This website is an interactive map about the underground railroad. It has 3 different activities such as finding the shortest route for a person escaping from slavery in Georgia.

Book: The Patchwork Path
Author: Bettye Stroud
Illustrator: Erin Susanne Bennett
Publisher: Candlewick
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 32 pages
Grade Range: K-3

Teaching Ancient Civilizations with Children’s Literature: The Hunterman and the Crocodile


 Introduction and Summary

There’s a lesson to be learned from the folktale, The Hunterman and the Crocodile, written and illustrated by Baba Wague Diakite. This tale involves the relationships between man and nature, and the importance that respect plays in these relationships. When the crocodiles ask Donso, a West African hunterman, to take them to the river, Donso is skeptical because of the way the crocodiles have acted towards man in the past but he agrees to take them anyway. Once in the river, the crocodiles turn on Donso and ask why they shouldn’t break their promise and eat him? Donso calls to many animals for help, but they all refuse saying “Man does not respect others” and “Man does not deserve my help.” Finally a rabbit decides to help him, but when he finds himself in another predicament he must call on the crocodiles for help and make a compromise. By the end of the tale, the hunterman learns “the importance of living in harmony with nature and the necessity of placing Man among -not above- all living things.”

The Author’s Note at the back of the book includes an excerpt about the author’s native town and life in West Africa. He recalls how the traditional stories she was told as a child have influenced his life.  Baba Wague also adds some fun translations from his native language, Bambara. For example, “Wague” means “Man of Trust” and
“Awnithe” means “Hello”!

Curriculum Connections

This book would be a fun read for second and third graders learning about the storytelling in West African Mali civilizations. This tale also incorporates a simple Civics topic such as respect for society and your neighbors.


History   3.2   The student will study the early West African empire of Mali by describing its oral tradition (storytelling)

   2.10  The student will explain the responsibilities of a good citizen, with emphasis on (e) practicing honesty and trustworthiness

Additional Resources

Learn about West African instruments here, and if you’re feeling crafty, try making your own intruments!

If the students find ancient african civilizations really interesting, then try including the Kingdom of Kush, the Iron Capital of the Ancient African World!

General Information

Book: The Hunterman and the Crocodile
Author: Baba Wague Diakite
Illustrator: Baba Wague Diakite
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Publication Date: 1997
Pages: 26
Grade Range: 2nd-3rd Grade
ISBN: 0-590-89828-0

Teaching Civics with Children's Literature: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope


Introduction and Summary
Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
a New York Times bestseller written by Nikki Grimes and illustrated by Bryan Collier is a glimps of the life of the 44th president of the United States.  This childrens book is based on Barack Obama’s memoir Dreams From My FatherThe story is told by a mother who is trying to explain what her young son David, is seeing on the television.  David’s mother explains the path that a young Barack Obama “Barry” took to get to where he is today. There is a strong message of how hope deep inside of Barack persevered and that is how he became president. The story does a great job of explaining the different places that he lived and the many cultures that surrounded him. It explains how he was not sure of who he was because he didn’t look like his black father or his white mother, and how this difference could be a bridge for the future. With the election of a any president history is made. With Barack Obama as president there is also a great significance because he is the first African American to become president.

Curriculum Connections
This story can be used for several different lessons. It could be used as part of the studies of the presidents and during black history month. There is a great time-line of the important dates that have shaped Barack Obama. Students can draw out this time-line or use this as a guide to draw their own time-lines.  This book could be incorporated into K.1,K.9, 1.10c, 1.12c, 3.12 SOLs

Additional Resources

  • Student’s can learn more about the 44th president of the United States of America along with other fun facts about the White House.
  • Your students can search the official kids portal to the U.S. Government at

General Information

  • Book: Barack Obama: Son of Promise, Child of Hope
  • Author: Nikki Grimes
  • Illustrator: Bryan Collier
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing
  • Publication Date: August 2008
  • Pages: 48
  • Grade Range: K- 5
  • ISBN: 1416971440

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Sweet Land of Liberty


The book Sweet Land of Liberty, written by Deborah Hopkinson and illustrated by Leonard Jenkins, tells the true story of how a simple experience as a child can lead to an extraordinary experience in history.  It begins with a poor white boy in rural Virginia during the Jim Crow era, who sees how his black friends are treated unfairly.  The boy, named Oscar Chapman, sees the effects of racism at a young age, and it leads him to a life-long commitment to end bigotry.

Fortunately, Oscar ends up with an important government job in Washington, D.C. (Secretary of the Interior) and he becomes friends with Walter White, head of the NAACP.  Oscar and Walter worked together to figure out a way to have Marian Anderson, a black singer with a beautiful voice, sing at a public concert. Even though she was famous across the world, she wasn’t allowed to sing in Constitution Hall (the largest concert hall in D.C.) because of her race. Then Walter had an idea and told Oscar that the perfect place to have Marian sing would be in front of the Lincoln Memorial.

“The Lincoln Memorial had never been used for a public gathering. But Oscar wasn’t about to let that stop him. Oscar went to see his boss, Harold Ickes, who agreed to talk to his boss: President Franklin Roosevelt!”

President Roosevelt thought that the performance would be “a wonderful idea” and on Easter Sunday in 1939, 75,000 people of all ages and races came to see Marian Anderson sing America: My Country ‘Tis of Thee. Marian decided to change the traditional lyrics “of thee I sing” to “to thee we sing” knowing that America still had a lot of work ahead to “let freedom ring.” Oscar, Walter, and Marian had no idea at the time that 24 years later, another important public “performance” will take place in that very same setting, promoting an even bigger protest against segregation by Martin Luther King, Jr.

At the end of the book, the author gives a factual review of the events that eventually led to Marian Anderson’s performance, along with actual photos of the characters. This story’s colorful and depective artwork, along with author’s message of a child’s ability to change the course of history, makes Sweet Land of Liberty a great choice for any elementary student’s classroom or home.

Curriculum Connections:
Sweet Land of Liberty uses a symbolic national song, America: My Country Tis’ of Thee, to tell the story of how segregation led to the first performance ever conducted at the Lincoln Memorial in front of a large crowd (of course, a couple decades later, Martin Luther King, Jr. uses the same setting for his I Have a Dream speech).  The book gives examples of the effects of segregation in the first half of the 20th century, and shows how even the famous African-Americans would still be treated unfairly.  Also, this book emphasizes the importance of standing up for your beliefs, and your belief in others, which promotes good citizenship.

Additional Resources:

  • The University of Pennsylvania’s library site provides a detailed biography of Marian Anderson, which includes the audio and a video from her performance at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 (located in the “Singing to the Nation” link).
  • The website for President Truman’s Library includes the actual transcript from an interview with Oscar Chapman where he tells the stories of what it was like growing up in the south during segregation, and then how he helped organize Marian Anderson’s performance at the Lincoln Memorial (these conversations start about halfway down the page.) The book’s author mentions that she stumbled upon these transcripts while doing research, then realized that Oscar was a pretty important character in Marian’s story.
  • The History of Jim Crow is a website devoted to detailing what life was like in the era after the civil war and before civil rights.  This site gives a lot of great resources for teachers, including lesson plans, state-specific segregation laws, and additional websites that are useful for education about this time in American history.
  • Deborah Hopkinson’s personal site is filled with information about herself, her books, resources for students and teachers. She is also available to do presentations or workshops at schools and libraries.

Book: Sweet Land of Liberty
Author: Deborah Hopkinson
Illustrator: Leonard Jenkins
Publisher: Peachtree Publishers
Publication Date: March 2007
Pages: 32
Grade Range: 1st – 5th
ISBN: 978-1561453955

Teaching History with Children’s Literature: Pink and Say


Patricia Polacco’s Pink and Say is the beautifully written story of two soldiers, Pinkus Aylee and Sheldon Russell Curtis, who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War.  The boys met when Pinkus (Pink) encountered Sheldon (Say), who was injured, and brought him home with him to recover.  Polacco dedicated the book “To the memory of Pinkus Aylee” and explains at the end that her great-great-grandfather was Sheldon Russell Curtis himself.  This information adds a nice personal touch to an already-phenomenal book.

The book begins with Say lying injured in a field.  Pink finds him, and insists upon bringing him home so he might recover.  The next time Say wakes up, he meets Pink’s mother, who feeds him oat porridge and asks, “Do your momma know what a beautiful baby boy she has?”  Say stays with the family for several weeks while he recovers, and Pink and Say become fast friends.  The morning the boys plan to leave to return to their regiments, Pink’s house is attacked by thieves and Pink’s mother, who he calls Moe Moe Bay, is killed.  Pink is insistent upon returning to fight, however, and as the boys are returning to the war, they are captured by Confederate Troops.  Pink, who is African American, is separated from Say, who survives the experience.  The book ends by showing Say as a grandfather who tells his grandchildren the story of his childhood friend.

Curriculum Connections

Pink and Say could be used to compliment any history SOL focused on the Civil War.  It’s a longer picture book with ample text, but the illustrations are also beautiful and appropriate for all ages.  The story might have more meaning to an upper elementary or middle schooler and could prompt conversation about civics or slavery, but could also be enjoyed by a younger student on a less intense level.  The book is very much about the story itself, and while it provides some background information about the war, it would probably be better suited as a lesson introduction or as a springboard for some sort of Civil War writing assignment.

Additional Resources

  • This site, put together by the National Park Service, provides lots of basic information about the Civil War and includes a 20-question challenge quiz, as well.  The wealth of information it provides makes this site a good choice for an Internet scavenger hunt about the Civil War.
  • This Webquest allows students to research the Underground Railroad and has them create a Powerpoint presentation based on their findings.   A Civil War Webquest like this one would be a great way  to delve deeper into the history of the War and incorporate technology into the classroom, as well.
  • When Pink and Say are captured, they are taken to Andersonville.  Today, Andersonville is a National Historic Site and its website provides students with information about its location and long history. There are sections of the site for both teachers and students, and pictures are also provided, so readers can imagine what Pink and Say went through after they were captured.

General Information

Book: Pink and Say
Author: Patricia Polacco
Illustrator: Patricia Polacco
Publisher: Philomel Books
Publication Date: 1994
Pages: 48
Grade Range: 2-6
: 0399226710