Black History Mentor Texts

Hello everyone! Since the new year, I have been coaching track, and I don't know about you, but January has been racing by! (no, that shameless pun was not intended!) Phew! There's been a lot of classroom action that I've wanted to share, but just haven't had the time. (I'm sure I'm the only one, righ?!) However....I almost always find the time to link up with Amanda & Stacia at Collaboration Cuties! With February rapidly approaching, I thought I'd share two great mentor texts in honor of Black History month. They will work well to connect to any previous lessons you may have done about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. While I think both are totally appropriate for all elementary grades, one stands out as a better fit for the upper grades (3-5), and the other is more suited for younger students (K-2).

First up is the pick for grades 3-5:

Here's a brief synopsis from Amazon:
It’s December 1, 1955.
A boy and his mother are riding the bus in Montgomery, Alabama like any other day—way in the back of the bus. The boy passes time by watching his marble roll up and down the aisle with the motion of the bus…
Until a big commotion breaks out from way up front.
With simple words and powerful illustrations, Aaron Reynolds and Coretta Scott King medalist Floyd Cooper recount the pivotal arrest of Rosa Parks at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement.

This book recounts Rosa Park's memorable act of courage in the face of segregation from the perspective of a young African American boy. It is written in free verse and in the young boy's Southern twang (voice). It's a great example of a "small moment" story in which the character shares his thoughts and feelings to elaborate and add description. The illustrations are warm and appealing- the brown undertones help to "age" the pictures making the setting feel authentically from the past.

The second book is great for younger students:

Here's the Amazon summary:
The year is 1960, and six-year-old Ruby Bridges and her family have recently moved from Mississippi to New Orleans in search of a better life. When a judge orders Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school, Ruby must face angry mobs of parents who refuse to send their children to school with her. 
Told with Robert Coles' powerful narrative and dramatically illustrated by George Ford, Ruby's story of courage, faith, and hope is now available in this special 50th anniversary edition with an updated afterword!

I'm mainly recommending this book for the younger grades because Ruby Bridges was just 6 years old herself when she integrated an elementary school in New Orleans! I've used this book in kindergarten through third grade classes and it always makes an impression on the kids. (Sorry, I lost my personal copy and can't share any inside pictures!) Students quickly express empathy for Ruby and are able to have a fairly sophisticated discussion about the injustices of racial discrimination. I think we need not shy away from these kinds of conversations with our young learners- it's a sure way to promote open-mindedness and cultural respect.

I hope you found these book recommendations helpful! Check out some other great social studies- relates titles at the Must Read Mentor Text Linky. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Signature photo ScreenShot2013-04-26at54143PM.png


  1. We discussed Martin Luther King this week! The kids are so engaged in the conversations we've had! I'm going to have to get Back of the Bus because we are starting small moment stories and this will be perfect! Thank you for linking up!!!

    1. PS- I'm so glad you always link up! I've learned so much from you!

    2. Thanks SO much! It means a lot coming from you! I LOVE y'alls' blog!! I get so many ideas from you, too :)

  2. Wow! What a great book. I'm going to check our school library for those 2 books. Perfect books for empathy. I think when we can share stories about different perspectives the more our students begin to analyze situations better.
    Thanks for sharing.
    Fabulous Fifth Grade Fun 

    1. I agree. I think these books really work well because they are analyzing from a kids' perspective, and they too are kids so it's not as much of a stretch! Hope it works out for your lesson :)

  3. The Back of the Bus looks like a great book. I am going to have to look for that. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Back of the Bus is such a great book. I have not read The Story of Ruby Bridges and will have to look for it. As much as I enjoy teaching my students about amazing people like Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks it is often the story of children like Freedom Summer or Henry's Freedom Box that they really connect with. Thanks for another suggestion.


I love to connect through comments!
Please email me directly at if you would like to ensure that I receive your message.

Thanks for stopping by and sharing your ideas!

Powered by Blogger.

Follow by Email

Back to Top