February is a month full of read-aloud possibilities!
As we celebrate holidays such as Groundhog’s Day, President’s Day, and Valentine’s Day, the entire month also provides opportunities for educators to discuss Black history and celebrate the lives and contributions of Black Americans.
Below you will find read-alouds for grades 3-5 for the month of February including activity suggestions to go along with each selection!
Do you teach K-2? See your February read-aloud recommendations here!
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Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford; illustrations by Kadir Nelson
This Caldecott award winning book follows the life of Harriet Tubman. Illustrated beautifully by Kadir Nelson, each page shares about the journey that Harriet takes as she runs from slavery through the darkness, woods, and swamps. Reminding herself to be brave along the way, Harriet prays for deliverance as she travels and hides. Harriet finally makes it to Philadelphia and free soil, but she misses her family and wants them to be free as well. When Harriet learns about the Underground Railroad, she knows that she is being called to guide others out of slavery. She returns to the south and rescues her family, but is still not satisfied. She wants to lead more people to freedom and heads back to the south time and time again via the Underground Railroad to save as many as she can.
1) Have students use the author’s note at the end of the book to write five facts about Harriet Tubman. 2) Have students use the author’s note and other sources to create a timelines of Harriet Tubman’s life.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney; illustrated by Brian Pinkney
Sit-In tells the story of four friends, inspired by Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, who decide that they will stand up for what they believe in by sitting down. On February 1,1960, David, Joseph, Franklin, and Ezell sit down at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, NC. A sign at the restaurant reads WHITES ONLY and they are the only Blacks waiting to be served. Despite being refused service because of segregation laws, the four boys continue to sit, quiet and still. News about them spreads quickly and sit-ins also begin in other states throughout the south.
Read the Civil Rights Timeline at the end of the book. Work together as a class to create a class timeline, assigning different topics to small groups of students (e.g. Brown vs. Board of Education, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat, MLK becomes the president of the SCLC, The Greensboro Sit-Ins, Freedom Rides, MLK and his letter from Birmingham Jail, The Civil Rights Act of 1964).
Love by Matt de la Pena; illustrated by Lauren Long
This beautifully illustrated poem shows all the many ways we are connected by love. Beginning with when we are born as our parents look down on us with love and continuing as we experience new things like crashing waves and the beautiful sky. Love continues to hold us through our family and friends and gives us the courage we need when it’s time to embark into the world on our own.
Discuss with students the different ways that love is represented throughout the book (and why the author may have included the tougher scenes). Then have students pick their favorite line from the poem and create their own illustration to go along with it.
Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch by Eileen Spinelli; illustrated by Paul Yalowitz
Mr. Hatch doesn’t smile very much. Every day he follows the same routine. He walks to the shoelace factory where he works, he eats lunch by himself, and stops by the grocery store on his way home to pick up a turkey wing for dinner. One day his routine is disrupted when he receives a package. Inside he finds a heart shaped box full of candy with a note that says, “Somebody loves you.” Mr. Hatch realizes that it is Valentine’s Day but is still confused as to who would send him a Valentine since he doesn’t have any friends. Even though he isn’t sure who sent him the gift, Mr. Hatch is changed because of the gesture. He decides to wear a different tie, he waves and smiles to his neighbors, he speaks to people at lunch and shares his chocolates with them, and he makes new connections with people in his community. One afternoon the postman returns to Mr. Hatch’s house to tell him that he accidentally delivered the Valentine’s Day gift to the wrong address. Mr. Hatch is devastated and everyone notices that something is wrong. All of his new friends help to cheer him up by bringing him lots of Valentine’s and reminding him how much he is loved.
1) Use a Beginning, Middle, and End graphic organizer to record the feelings and actions of Mr. Hatch in each part of the story. Have students discuss how Mr. Hatch changes throughout the story and what causes each change. 2) Have students brainstorm different acts of kindness that they could do to show family, friends, and people in their communities that they are loved.
Abe’s Honest Words: The Life of Abraham Lincoln by Doreen Rappaport; illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This book follows the life of Abraham Lincoln from the time he was a little boy. Moving many different times as a child, Abe hears and absorbs many things from the people and world around him. Abe loves to learn and spends much time reading and educating himself and eventually decides that he wants to become a lawmaker. While he loses his first election to become a state legislature, he wins the second time around and continues to win time and time again. The rest of book follows Abe as he runs for president and eventually speaks out against slavery and leads the Union in the Civil War.
Lead students in a group research project on Abraham Lincoln using the Big 6 Research Model. 1) Task Definition (e.g. Study and learn about the life of Abraham Lincoln.), 2) Information Seeking Strategies: Brainstorm places and resources that could be used to learn more about Lincoln (e.g. magazines, other books, web resources), 3) Location and Access: Decide the best place to locate sources and access them (e.g. library, web sources), 4) Use of Information: Engage (read, hear, view) and extract information (use a biography unit with graphic organizers such as this one), 5) Organize + Present: Have students organize, display, and present their information, 6) Evaluate: Evaluate the information shared via peer and teacher evaluation. (Note: If your school has a librarian or media specialist, this type of project is a great way to collaborate.)
Additional books to consider for Black History Month:
- V is for Voting by Kate Farrell, illustrated by Caitlin Kuhwald;
- I Have a Dream by Martin Luther King Jr, illustrated by Kadir Nelson;
- The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez, illustrated by Lauren Semmer;
- Equality Calls: The Story of Voting Rights in America by Deborah Diesen, illustrated by Magdalena Mora.
Teacher tip: This post had many activity suggestions. Once you have the books, get a sticky note and write down the activity and stick it on the inside cover of the book. Any time you do the read aloud, you can remember the easy no-prep activity!
This post was written by my friend Erienne Jones. She is a former school librarian turned entrepreneur who continues to immerse herself in the world of books!