6 books kids need to read to learn about and celebrate Juneteenth

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While the mystery surrounding Juneteenth is slowly but surely fading, it remains a reality that the date’s rich history is still left out of most school curriculums. Because of this, so many children and young adults still have no idea what Juneteenth is or what it means for them and their ancestors.

As the country celebrates Juneteenth this year, amid efforts to make the date an official holiday, a refresher of Saturday’s history may be worth it, especially for those parents who want to teach their kids about the date’s significance.

June 19, 1985 is the day news of freedom reached the last enslaved person in the Americas. This special date, known today as Juneteenth, is also called Emancipation Day and is the equivalent to Independence Day for Black folks with a history of slavery.

While the Emancipation Proclamation does exist, it failed to help free all slaves and only included enslaved people of the North. Many slaves of the South joined the Union army, and it wasn’t until news traveled to Galveston, Texas, at the end of the Civil War, that all slaves were freed.

To commemorate this joyous occasion, those who recognize Juneteenth celebrate every year on June 19 with food, dancing and other activities. One of the most popular ways to celebrate, however, remains reading up on the significance of the holiday. Today, there are tons of children’s books with stories and illustrations that perfectly tell the story of how Juneteenth came to be.

Take a look at six of our favorites below:

1. Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper, $4

Credit: Amazon

Juneteenth for Mazie follows the title character as she celebrates Juneteenth with her family. The heartwarming story also includes tidbits of the day’s historical significance and even shows how Mazie gets what she wants when she exercises a little patience.

2. Juneteenth (On My Own Holidays) by Drew Nelson and Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, $7.99

Credit: Amazon

This special story by Drew Nelson is all about the day the slaves in the fields found out they were free. This book, which is a part of the On My Own Holidays series, is perfectly paced for kids and has a bit of history at the end. This one’s particularly perfect for children from ages six to 10.

3. Raven the Great: What is Juneteenth? by Dr. Paulette McClain, $14.99

Credit: Amazon

This more contemporary children’s book, Raven the Great: What is Juneteenth?, released in 2020, is the perfect way to introduce your kids to the important holiday in today’s climate. Have them view the world through the 11-year-old title character Raven’s eyes as she shares with her class about a holiday often overlooked in her history book.

4. Juneteenth Jamboree by Carole Boston Weatherford, $10.56

Credit: Amazon

This one’s all about surprises. Juneteenth Jamboree tells the story of the main character Cassandra, who suspects something big is happening. However, her folks keep her in the dark. Once her family arrives downtown, she realizes it was all with good intentions as she’s in for her first huge, citywide Juneteenth celebration.

5. Addy’s Cook Book: A Peek at Dining in the Past With Meals You Can Cook Today by Jodi Evert and Rebecca Sample Bernstein, $13.98

Credit: Amazon

While this book isn’t exclusively Juneteenth-themed, it features recipes from the 1860s, when Juneteenth celebrations first kicked off. So many adults today had this book as kids. It includes super easy instructions for making popular dishes that Black folks often prepared in the Civil War era. Some of the most popular are cornbread, lemonade, collard greens and pound cake.

6. All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson, $12.53

Credit: Amazon

This number-one best-selling children’s book allows kids to experience the joy and euphoria of Juneteenth through the eyes of one little girl. All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth, which the author describes as “the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South.”

If you enjoyed this story, check out 13 ways you can celebrate Juneteenth this year.

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