Today I am sharing a list of picture books about Black Canadians. These books will absolutely work for Black History Month. However, I am such a believer in incorporating Black History throughout the year and I encourage you to do the same! After all, Black history is Canadian history.
1) Meet Viola Desmond
Viola Desmond was an entrepreneur and a trailblazer for racial equity in Canada. She refused to give up her seat in the unofficial white section of a movie theatre in Nova Scotia. Your upper elementary students will appreciate learning why Viola Desmond was chosen to be featured on Canada’s $10 bill.
What I love about this book is that there are speech bubbles that help students to really understand the story.
I have an entire interactive read aloud unit for this book which will save you a ton of prep time and ensure that your students get a TON out of this picture book! Click HERE to check it out.
2) Oscar Lives Next Door: A Story Inspired by Oscar Peterson’s Childhood
This picture book is about famous Canadian jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. While the story is fictional, it does contain several events from Oscar’s life such as his tuberculosis and selective mutism.
This is a beautiful story about friendship and finding magic in music.
3) Africville by Shauntay Grant
This lyrical text is a beautiful tribute to the site of Africville in Halifax Nova Scotia. Africville was a vibrant Black community for more than 150 years. A little girl imagines what the community where her ancestors once lived was like before it was demolished.
4) Meet Willie O’Ree by Elizabeth MacLeod
Canadian Wille O’Ree was the first Black player in the NHL. He faced a lot of racism and even an injury to get there.
The book mentions that Willie’s ancestors came to Canada on the Underground Railroad, which is a great curricular connection.
Just like “Meet Viola Desmond”, this book includes awesome speech bubbles which upper elementary kids love!
5) A Change of Heart by Alice Walsh
This picture book is about Lanier Phillips, the first African American to graduate from the US Navy’s sonar school. Lanier experienced a lot of racism both at home in Georgia and in the Navy. This book tells the story of what happened when his boat capsized and the people of Newfoundland Canada helped him to survive.
Lanier Phillips went on to play an active role in the Civil Rights movement. Although he himself is not a Black Canadian, his story of being Black in Canada and the fear that went along with that is inspiring.
When reading this book, it is important to talk with students about the idea that racism does exist in Canada, even though the people of Newfoundland helped Lanier Phillips.
Are you looking for some more picture book recommendations? Check out this post about the best picture books to teach students about Residential Schools.