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8 Books for Young Readers That Celebrate Juneteenth

Engaging titles families can explore together on U.S. history and Black freedom

diana-cherry
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Published on: June 04, 2024

Preschool age girl laughs happily while sitting with her mom reading a story book. Mother is helping her daughter with her reading homework. Parent giving her child attention and assistance.
Photo:
Jaco Blund/iStock: 1464122886

Move over Fourth of July. For many Black families, there’s an Independence Day that is much more important: Juneteenth, also known as Emancipation Day.

First celebrated on June 19, 1866, Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, marking the day the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas learned they were free — nearly two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

In 2021, the United States celebrated the marking of Juneteenth as a federal holiday.

Whether you’re looking to add new resources to your annual celebration or just learning about the holiday for the first time, here’s a roundup of some of our favorite Juneteenth books that celebrate and educate about this important Freedom Day for curious readers of all ages. 

Opal Lee and What It Means to Be Free: The True Story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth” by Alice Faye Duncan, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

This historic tale celebrates the life of Black activist Opal Lee and her vision for making Juneteenth a national holiday. Growing up in Texas, Lee cherished the annual Juneteenth celebrations but was shocked to learn many Americans were unaware of its significance. Despite facing racial violence, Lee’s determination to honor the past and fight for national recognition of Juneteenth shines through in this inspiring story. Featuring illustrations by Keturah A. Bobo, this book teaches children about equality, bravery and the power of using one’s voice for change, making it a heartfelt addition to any Juneteenth celebration. Age range: 5–9. 

The Juneteenth Cookbook: Recipes and Activities for Kids and Families to Celebrate” by Alliah L. Agostini, illustrated by Taffy Elrod Sawyer Cloud

This hands-on cookbook brings the celebration of Juneteenth into your kitchen with historically accurate recipes and educational family activities. Following little Alliah and her grandparents, this book explores the origins of the holiday through food, featuring 18 quick and easy recipes like Red Velvet Ice Cream Sandwiches and Sweet Potato Pie Bars. With charming illustrations and simple instructions, the recipes are perfect for family participation, making it easy to create a Juneteenth celebration spread. The book also includes fun and educational activities such as crafting, games and virtual field trips, providing a rich, multi-sensory exploration of Juneteenth’s history and cultural significance. Age rage: 8–12

A Flag for Juneteenth” by Kim Taylor

This beautiful picture book captures the emotional journey of young Huldah, who, on the eve of her tenth birthday, experiences the life-changing news of freedom alongside her community of enslaved African Americans in Texas. Taylor’s unique artistry, featuring hand-sewn quilted illustrations, adds a special, tactile dimension to this heartfelt and historically significant tale, making it an visual feast of a family read to celebrate Juneteenth. Age range: 4–8

Juneteenth: A Picture Book for Kids Celebrating Black Joy” by Van G. Garrett, illustrated by Reginald C Adams and Samson Bimbo Adenugba

This lyrical picture book follows one family’s journey to Galveston, Texas, the birthplace of Juneteenth. The illustrations capture the beauty and joy of this holiday as seen through the eyes of one young boy. The book includes some of the lyrics to “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” the unofficial Black National Anthem. Age range: 5–9 

"Juneteenth: A Picture Book for Kids Celebrating Black Joy"

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom” by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

This beautifully illustrated all-ages picture book is simple but powerful. Narrated by a young enslaved girl, it takes readers back to the first Juneteenth celebration. At the end of the book, you’ll find a more detailed historical timeline of Juneteenth, as well as more information about the Emancipation Proclamation and Emancipation Day. Age range: 4–8 

Juneteenth for Mazie” by Floyd Cooper

Another gorgeously illustrated story, this picture book is narrated by a father who is explaining to his daughter, Mazie, why they celebrate Juneteenth. The book discusses the events that led to the first Juneteenth and links them to their family ancestry, as well as to the current-day struggle for equality. While there are a few outdated words and historical perspectives, I love that this story addresses the continued fight for freedom of the Civil Rights era — and beyond — in simple terms that kids can understand. Age range: 6–9 

Juneteenth Jamboree” by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Yvonne Buchanan

This picture book helps readers learn about the holiday through a little girl’s eyes and encourages young readers to ask important questions about why it took so long for enslaved people to receive news of their freedom. Age range: 8–12 

The Story of Juneteenth: An Interactive History Adventure” by Steven Otfinoski

Though I find the concept of emancipation termed an “adventure” cringe-y at best, I have to admit this book could cleverly engage young readers to explore this history. If you feel your kid might better relate to and empathize with enslaved people’s experiences by being presented with similar choices, this might be the read for them. The book offers a lengthy historical introduction before allowing readers to choose from among three different stories of formerly enslaved people navigating their new freedom. Age range: 8–11

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in June 2021, and was updated in June 2024 by senior editor Kristin Leong to include new books about Juneteenth for kids. All images in this article are credited to Amazon.   

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