Skip to Content

Read Across America in February

Honor the contributions of African Americans to the history, culture, and education of the United States during Black History Month.

All American music has been influenced by African American musical tradition and there are wonderful books to help readers explore and understand the powerful role music plays in history and culture.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie (Little Bee Books, 2016) describes the lives of slaves who labor daily from sun up to sundown, but on Sunday afternoon gather in Congo Square in New Orleans to share music.

Discuss and explore:

Though the couplets evoke nursery rhymes, this title can be enjoyed by all ages and is especially important in a discussion of slavery in America. A discussion guide by the publisher can help facilitate that conversation and the educator resources from Music Rising at Tulane open a line of inquiry for all grade levels.

For Older Readers

Jazz Day: The Making of a Famous Photograph by Roxane Orgill and illustrated by Francis Vallejo (Candlewick, 2016) shares in verse how Art Kane gathered together a group of beloved jazz musicians in Harlem in 1958.

Discuss and explore:

Use both Freedom in Congo Square and Jazz Day to introduce a study of jazz history.

Have students dig into the roots of jazz with PBS resources for Jazz: A Film by Ken Burns and explore jazz from different perspectives using the timeline, map, and mixer features at Smithsonian Folkways Jazz Education Website. Or take kidsA Great Day in Harlem which tells the story of how the photograph came together.

Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip through the Motown Sound by Andrea Davis Pinkney (Roaring Brook Press, 2015) tells the story of the founding of Motown and its impact on the music world.

Discuss and explore:

Reading this title, students explore music, history, and business. Have students join the History Detectives to investigate and discuss the important place Motown had not only in the spread of music into American culture but also how the music helped bridge differences and cultures.

Engaging Readers of All Ages

Select music related to titles students have read to play for them as they write. Encourage them to free write as they listen, but then focus on how the music makes them feel, especially how they feel knowing what they know about the history of the music.

Find the sounds of Congo Square at Smithsonian Folkways; check out a number of the musicians featured in Jazz Day, including Art Blakey, Dizzy Gillespie, and Maxine Sullivan on YouTube; and choose from Motown hits in these playlists from Classic Motown.

Additional Resources

African American History Through the Arts from ArtsEdge offers a collection for students of all ages to explore black history through a variety of artistic disciplines, including music, poetry, and dance

A collection of interviews from National Public Radio (NPR) chronicles The History of Hip-Hop

The Library of Congress offers African-American Band Music & Recordings, 1883 to 1923, primary historical documents that reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times

Explore the contributions African Americans have made in the history and cultural development of the United States with EDSITEment's Guide to Black History Month Teaching Resources

Participate in the National African America Read-In

Edcommunities Groups

Collaborate with educators on this topic in the groups below.

Supporting Pre-Service Teachers
Welcome to Supporting Pre-Service Teachers! This group is for educators who work with and support pre-service teachers. Pre-Service and Early Career teachers will also benefit from joining this group. Mentors and cooperating teachers are strongly encouraged to join! Notes of encouragement, sharing of resources, good articles, and venting is welcome too. This group is solutions driven - the goal is to find realistic solutions to support our pre-service and cooperating teachers and address any concerns and questions that come up.

Illinois Education Matters
Illinois Education Matters is a network for all practitioners in education - IEA members and non-members. This effort is designed to serve as a repository for professional development, tools, resources, and information on grants, conferences / workshops, etc. Imagine this as your one stop for all connections. If you have joined our group, please message me - letting me know that you joined. I do not get any information telling me you joined. Our membership is so large, it takes me forever to go through and see our new members. Thanks for your help. You can also join other active groups on edCommunities. Several IEA members are facilitators for edCommunities. Check out and join their groups, if interested. Mary Ann Rivera - Illinois ESPs Mary Jane Morris - Illinois Education Matters IEA Jillian Huber - Integrating Reading and Writing 9th-12th Jim Grimes - Higher Education Amy Kappele - Early Childhood Development & Education

Secondary Literacy
Do you want to inspire your students to think critically, to analyze works, and to use their imaginations on a daily basis? Do you want to explore ways you can integrate reading into writing curricula and writing into reading curricula in your high school classroom? Join us at the Integrating Reading and Writing 9th-12th group to share, explore, and discuss ways for teachers of all content areas to link these two important life skills together in order to help students get the most out of themselves every day.


Pinterest icon facebook icon Twitter Icon Instagram Icon Flickr  icon


Download the Read Across America 2017 Recommended Books Poster here (PDF).

Click here to download the 2018-19 Read Across America Resource Calendar and Poster!



Reading Rockets offers a wealth of research-based resources designed to launch young readers. It's for parents, teachers, and other educators in helping struggling readers build fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.

Coming in 2019...

National Arts in Education Week
September 8-14, 2019

American Education Week
November 18-22, 2019

Coming in 2020...

NEA's Read Across America Day
Monday, March 2, 2020

National Teacher Day
May 5, 2020

National Teacher Appreciation Week
May 4 - 8, 2020