Updated: Sep 25
Kwanzaa is a celebration created by Maulana Karenga that honors African American culture and is observed December 26 - January 1, culminating in a feast and gift giving. This list of children's books can facilitate meaningful discussions about Kwanzaa and African American history.
For your convenience, we've included publisher's descriptions along with each book.
It's the end of December, and it's that time of year!
Light the candles on the kinara! Fly the bendera, and listen to stories from Africa. Bake some tasty benne cakes and make a colorful cow tale switch! It's time for the festival of Kwanzaa. FIND IT HERE
From award-winning, New York Times bestselling author Ibi Zoboi comes her debut picture book--a tour de force that uses the principles of Kwanzaa to talk about the history of African Americans. This lyrical, powerful tribute is sumptuously illustrated by New Yorker artist and rising star Loveis Wise. A beautiful gift for readers of all ages and for fans of Kadir Nelson's Heart and Soul. A Coretta Scott King Honor Book!
The People Remember tells the journey of African descendants in America by connecting their history to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. It begins in Africa, where people were taken from their homes and families. They spoke different languages and had different customs.
Yet they were bound and chained together and forced onto ships sailing into an unknown future. Ultimately, all these people had to learn one common language and create a culture that combined their memories of home with new traditions that enabled them to thrive in this new land.
Sumptuously illustrated, this is an important book to read as a family--a story young readers can visit over and over again to deepen their understanding of African American history in relation to their own lives and current social justice movements. By turns powerful and revealing, this is a lyrical narrative that tells the story of survival, as well as the many moments of joy, celebration, and innovation of Black people in America. FIND IT HERE
Learn all about Kwanzaa in this holiday addition to the Night Before series.
It's the night before Kwanzaa, and a little boy is excited to spend it with his family. Every evening, they light a candle, learn about their history, and more! Celebrate Kwanzaa in this installment of the Night Before series, told in the style of Clement C. Moore's classic tale. FIND IT HERE
Describes the origins and practices of Kwanzaa, the seven-day festival during which people of African descent rejoice in their ancestral values.
An introduction to the history, symbols, and customary celebration of this African-American holiday. Scratchboard illustrations stress the importance of Kwanzaa as a family event with warmly colored, harmoniously composed domestic scenes. Cultural cross-connections are drawn in the first two pictures (an American family exchanges gifts, including a length of kente cloth; then identically posed figures are transposed to a traditional African village) and enhanced by borders in African motifs. The author briefly discusses the Seven Principles, suggesting activities for Kwanzaa and through the year. (Kirkus Reviews) FIND KWANZAA BOOKS HERE
Celebrate Kwanzaa continues the spectacular Holidays Around the World series by focusing on this African-American holiday, which falls during the festive, gift-giving season and is celebrated by families, communities, and schools throughout America. With succinct, lively text and beautiful photographs, the book celebrates African-American culture and helps us to understand and appreciate this special holiday.
Over the course of seven days, African Americans, families and friends, come together to light the candles that symbolize their past and future--and their unity. They gather as a community to make music and to dance; to feast on harvest foods and the good things of the earth; and to exchange simple, often homemade, gifts. Readers are introduced to the symbols of the holiday, such as the mkeka (a special placemat), kinara (candleholder), and kikombe cha umoja (unity cup). Important concepts, like the seven principles, are explained. In addition, a note from the book's consultant, aimed at parents and teachers, puts the holiday in its full cultural and historical perspective. FIND IT HERE
In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars.
Using the Nguzo Saba, or seven principles of Kwanzaa, the author has created an unforgettable story that shows how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community. Magnificent and inspiring linoleum block prints by Daniel Minter bring joy to this Kwanzaa celebration. FIND IT HERE
Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities!
Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa? A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday. FIND IT HERE
Hear the words, sing the songs, dance to the beat, and shout "Harambee!" as you jump into this joyful celebration of the sounds of Kwanzaa!
The sound is Umoja--bringing us together.
The sound is Kuumba--the songs of our ancestors.
The sound is Kwanzaa!
Lively verse and colorful illustrations guide you through the seven principles of this festive holiday. All you have to do is come close, gather round, and discover what Kwanzaa is all about! FIND IT HERE
A unique alphabet book for children and a wonderful introduction to Kwanzaa, the holiday that celebrates African American heritage.
K is for Kwanzaa explains different facets of the holiday, from A to Z. Each letter of the alphabet represents an English or Swahili word, accompanied by a simple definition explaining its importance or relation to Kwanzaa. For example:A is for Africa -- Africa is the second largest continent. It has many countries. African Americans' ancestors came from Africa. Kwanzaa is a holiday that celebrates the rich heritage of Africa. An introduction describes the origin of the holiday and the Seven Kwanzaa Principles, that guide the seven-day celebration and teach positive life lessons. FIND IT HERE
The story of Li'l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa--coming together to help others. Donna L. Washington's story, with art from Shane W. Evans provides a fun introduction to the holiday.
Li'l Rabbit is not having a very good Kwanzaa. Granna Rabbit is sick, and so his family won't celebrate his favorite part of Kwanzaa this year: a big feast called Karamu.
Li'l Rabbit knows what to do! He'll find Granna Rabbit a special treat for Karamu so she can celebrate anyway.
He looks under a pile of logs, in the field, and in the pond and along the way meets Groundhog, Momma Field Mouse, and the frogs--but he doesn't find anything for Granna Rabbit.
Maybe I'm just too little to help Granna Rabbit celebrate Kwanzaa, Li'l Rabbit thinks. Or maybe he just needs a little help from his family and friends. FIND IT HERE
Looking for more great read aloud ideas? Visit these fabulous book lists:
VIDEO READ ALOUD
New York Times bestselling author Ibi Zoboi reads her debut picture book, THE PEOPLE REMEMBER, with illustrations by Loveis Wise.
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