Like many families, mine is still figuring out how to teach our children about Juneteenth – especially considering all the new books and resources that have come out in the last two years. While Juneteenth (typically celebrated June 19, with the Federal observance falling on Monday, June 20 this year) has been celebrated for more than 150 years, it has been more prominent in the national spotlight since the summer of 2020. In 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill into law officially designating Juneteenth as a Federal holiday.
In my own family, my husband and I were not familiar with the emancipation holiday until we were adults, as learning the history of Juneteenth was not part of our education as kids (at school or at home). This is not unheard of in Black families growing up in the North; however, my extended family members in the South do use Juneteenth as an opportunity to talk about and teach younger family members about our family tree and share stories of ancestors.
If you’d like to start to commemorate Juneteenth in your own family, it helps to first acknowledge that you’re not alone in not knowing its history! And the good news is, books written for children and families are a great way to begin our own learning – even as adults. Learning about the history behind Juneteenth is also a way to recenter the truth and give our children the knowledge we did not have growing up.
Here are some of our family’s favorite books for learning about Juneteenth:
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This children’s book is illustrated beautifully and while it is a longer read, both my toddlers and teenager were engaged while I read it to them. A timeline is provided in the back of the book along with the special family connection that the author has to Juneteenth.
This is a fictional story about a little girl who learns about her great-great-great grandpa, his courageous life, the day he found out he was a free man, and how her family celebrates Juneteenth.
It was important to me to have a collection of books to learn about Juneteenth that matched different reading levels as my kids age. This short book is not lacking any information and is for children in grades 1-3.
The “What Is” series never disappoints and this chapter book provided beautiful illustratons, photographs and included real stories about former slaves. This was a great short read for me and my teenager daughter.
Additional Juneteenth resources for families:
If you’re looking for more information about Juneteenth celebrations and history this website provides a lot of quick links.
Using educational and anti-racist Instagram accounts to serve as additional resources can be so helpful when trying to make anti-racist work and freedom an everyday active practice. @britthawthorne and @speakingofracism are great places to start.