One of my favorite ways to explore music with my kids is by combining music samples and children’s books. My children love learning more about their favorite musical artists through a colorful book about them. Sometimes reading a book has piqued their curiosity, and gets us checking out new artists on Spotify.
June is African-American Music Appreciation Month. Though June is nearly over, I thought I would compile a list our family favorites when it comes to children’s books about African American artists and musical styles.
When Marian Sang by Pam Munoz Ryan is a beautiful picture book about real-life singer Marian Anderson. The moving text is interwoven with lyrics from gospel songs as it details Marian’s upbringing, career and determination.
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince And His Orchestra by Andrea Davis Pinkney is a fun book about the composer, pianist and big-band leader. Through vibrant pictures and rhythmic language, kids learn about some of Ellington’s best-known works. They’ll also learn about the talented musicians that made up his band and performed with him at Carnegie Hall.
Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat edited by Nikki Giovanni is a fantastic collection of hip-hop songs and poetry. An accompanying CD allows kids to listen to 30 performances of pieces from the book. The collection includes works by Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, Queen Latifah and Tupac Shakur. Giovanni explains the importance and development of hip-hop throughout history in the introduction titled “Stories in Rhythm”. At the end of the book you’ll find a short biography about every contributor. Our family loves exploring this book together.
My 7-year-old’s absolute favorite musician is Trombone Shorty. It all started with the children’s book Tromone Shorty by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews. This colorfully illustrated book celebrates the musical scene in New Orleans as it tells the story of Shorty’s childhood.
The companion book to Trombone Shorty, The 5 O’Clock Band by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, tells the story of Trombone Shorty’s childhood band. Children will love learning more about the rich culture of New Orleans through Shorty’s adventure as he searches the streets for his band mates.
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills by Renee Watson is a sweet book. Fun illustrations by Christian Robinson — one of my favorite illustrators — add to the whimsy and beauty of the story. The text highlights the Harlem Renaissance and includes excerpts from powerful spirituals and songs.
This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt has been a favorite in our household since my children were young. We love the catchy text and rhymes on each page as you count from 1 to 10, working your way through famous jazz artists. Short bios of each artist at the end of the book add to its depth.
Stunning illustrations and rhythmic text make The Roots of Rap: 16 Bars on the 4 Pillars of Hip-Hop by Carole Boston Weatherford an exciting book to explore. (It’s punchy words are also fun to say out loud!) A “Hip-Hop Who’s Who” at the end of the book gives more details about the artists depicted in the book.