Tips and Books to Celebrate Juneteenth With Your Students!

Juneteenth is here! I’m so excited to share tips and books for celebrating Juneteenth with you! Can you believe that Juneteenth was named a national holiday? A national, federally-recognized holiday! Oh my gosh! When I saw this information for the first time, it was a small whisper of news showing across my screen. I actually thought that I was seeing things. Was that really President Biden talking about Juneteenth on the news? It was just declared a national holiday, recognized by the United States government?! What a moment of jubilee! I wanted to share tips and books to celebrate Juneteenth with you and your students so that we can commemorate history together.

Up until this point, Juneteenth was a special, cultural, and community-based day of celebration that was seemingly relegated to the Black community; something special just for us. I won’t even pretend…. I just learned of Juneteenth a few years ago. The first time I heard “Juneteenth” I thought that someone was being playful with their words. What a cute name? How creative! Those were my initial thoughts. But, then… I shortly and sadly learned about a history (of my own people, no less) that I had never even known existed. Historically, on Thursday, June 17, 2021, President Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., recognized the significance of Juneteenth to the Black community and to American history and signed into law.

a bright orange square with the words A Day of Recognition Restoration Celebration Juneteenth printed in bold black letters. For the blog post tips and books for celebrating Juneteenth with Your Students

Tips for Recognizing and Celebrating Juneteenth

  1. Study the history of the holiday.
    • You want to be sure that you know the facts and details surrounding the events of Juneteenth.
    • They are unbelievable and mind-blowing, but they happened. One of the greatest gifts that we can offer students is the truth. You can use the most appropriate kid-friendly approach, but facts and truth are key.
    • You can visit the official Juneteenth website to learn more!
  2. Know that your students can handle the truth.
    • Even more importantly, they deserve the truth.
    • Knowing your country’s history is beautiful- the good and the bad! It’s what happened. It is who we are, or were, as a nation at one point in history. We don’t have to remain the same and we don’t have to repeat our mistakes.
    • These are facts that can help make students be, not only aware, but able to be empathetic and compassionate.
    • You, as their support, facilitator and guide, can also help shape Change Makers that see the beauty in humanity and want to make a difference in their community, state, country, and world.
  3. Be honest
    • Again, tell your students the truth.
    • You can be factual without adding any judgment to the conversation (if you choose).
  4. Leave room for questions and wonders.
  5. Allow your students to feel what they feel and express it.
    • Students may need time to process the information. This is perfectly natural and okay.
  6. Provide a safe space for sharing thoughts, questions, and feelings.
  7. Recognize that the discussion may not be as “heavy” as you think.
    • Share the information.
    • Allow space for processing.
    • Celebrate the beauty of the recognition, the culture, and the resilience of the Black American peoples!
  8. Celebrate with arts and crafts, poetry, journaling, and/or books.

Books to Celebrate Juneteenth

To continue sharing tips and books to celebrate Juneteenth, I’m sharing a list of books that I think will be helpful, informative, and enjoyable for brining Jubilation Day to light in your classroom or home. Please note that for this post, I am not providing my usual recommendations. I am sharing books that you may find helpful and enjoy. Many of these books are hot off of the presses, and I have not had the opportunity to read them all. I hope that you find the right-fit book for you and your students/children.

Of course, be sure to read the books yourself before sharing them with younger students. This gives you the opportunity to gauge the information (intensity, areas that you may need to study more in case questions are asked, and check for your own emotional responses) prior to reading aloud. These books are informational in nature.

Image for the cover of the book The Story of Juneteenth.  African people in a cotton field, arms up, celebrating the news of their emancipation.

Grade Range: Preschool-Kindergarten

Written in a very kid-friendly manner. Does show illustrations of the enslaved Africans in shackles and chains- accurate.

An illustration of two African men and two African women on the cover of the book Juneteenth.  They are celebrating their freedom from enslavement.

Grade range: 2nd-4th

This text uses the term “slave” and not “enslaved”.

It also provides a “start date” for slavery which may be misleading and unsettling. Slavery dates back to the days of the Bible and has been occurring for African people for hundreds (thousands) of years .

Chapter Books for Juneteenth

An image of a Juneteenth parade float being led by a car.  One Black boy and two Black girls are leading the parade.  They are smiling.  Everyone is celebrating and showing joy as the parade passes.

Grade range: 3rd-7th

Uses the term “enslaved people”. I love that delineation from “slaves” so much! It identifies their state of being due to no cause of their own.

Includes informational text along with beautiful black and white illustrations.

Chapter book format.

Book cover illustrations of Black men, women, and children outside celebrating Juneteenth.  There are palm trees and an ocean.

Grade range: 2nd-3rd

This books provides factual details about, not only Juneteenth, but the historic events that led up to it .

Uses the term “enslaved people” instead of “slaves”. I love this!

This story is told from the perspective of Sarah Ashley, an enslaved young girl.

It features a timeline of events in history. There are also reflective questions for students to ponder or answer. I loved the format.

Colorful illustrations.

Longer Picture Books for Juneteenth

Grade range: Preschool-3rd Grade

beautiful cover image for a book about a woman that is called the Grandmother of Juneteenth.  A yellow background with a silhouette of an older woman imposed with an illustration of her as a young Black child.  One of the books for tips and books for celebrating Juneteenth.

This story is about Ms. Opal Lee’s journey and commitment to having Juneteenth be deemed a national holiday. She walked miles to gain attention, awareness, and signatures for her movement. I remember seeing her on the news, or one of the morning talk shows, several years ago. She was precious and so inspiring. How beautiful that her journey has been turned into a book to acknowledge, thank, and remember her!

Grade range: 1st-4th

3 Black female children and 2 Black male children holding hands, spinning around in circles.  They are excited and celebrating Juneteenth.
An image of African people in America.  They are in a cotton field with their hands stretched out in praise or celebration after hearing of their freedom from enslavement.

Grade range: Kindergarten-4th

This book has the softest, most soothing, and beautiful watercolor illustrations.

One of the things that struck me about the text was the illustrations. I kept thinking of how the depiction of the clothing didn’t seem quite… right. The clothes were too nice, too clean, too lovely in some way. Then, it hit me. The clothes and representation gave a sense of pride and dignity to the African people. In spite of their experience, they were still proud, full of hope, and draped with dignity.

I hope that you found these tips and books for celebrating Juneteenth helpful! I am so excited for this day of jubilee!

Share any books or crafts that you think I would love with me in the comments.

The signature line "Tania" for signing off from my post.

Disclosure: The links that I shared in this post are my Amazon Affiliate links. If you purchase one of the books via my link, I will receive compensation from it. This does not increase the purchase price of any of the items for you. Thank you so much for using my affiliate links!

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Hi, I'm Tania!

I help creative and time-conscious teachers plan student-centered lessons that interest and motivate student learning so that lesson planning takes less time and is actually enjoyable! 

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