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February is Black History Month, so we wanted to feature two excellent selections to share with your students, in addition to a list of several more resources for your classroom.

Early Elementary:

I Got the Rhythm
By Connie Schofield-Morrison

Illustrated by Frank Morrison

#846574 – $16.99 – Hardcover book

This is a great book to teach rhythm, movement, and patterns – plus improvisation!  “I Got the Rhythm” is the story of a little girl who is walking through town with her mother.  She thinks of a rhythm in her mind, hears the rhythm in her ears, looked at the rhythm with her eyes, smelled the rhythm with her nose, sang the rhythm with her mouth….every page is a new way that she experienced the rhythm, either by herself or with the children in the neighborhood.  That’s it!

However, this book is so much more.  There are 16 rhythm experiences mentioned in the book, and students could come up with many more.  Read the book aloud and have students act out each experience as you get to it.  Have the students break into pairs and demonstrate when you get to their part of the story.  Have the students each say their lines when you get there, having them narrate the entire story!  Transfer their rhythms to non-pitched percussion instruments, and then to pitched instruments…  Find music to play during the narration to keep the beat….the possibilities are endless.

This book isn’t so much about Black History as it is about diversity and inclusion.  The main character is African American, and she interacts with friends of all shapes and colors.  Each student will see someone just like him or her!

Late Elementary:

A Band of Angels: A Story Inspired by the Jubilee Singers
By Deborah Hopkinson

Illustrated by Raúl Colón

867686 – $8.99 – Paperback

This is an award-winning book that tells the story of Ella Sheppard, one of the founding members of the Fisk University Jubilee Singers.  The story begins with Ella’s childhood in slavery. Ella was 14 when the Civil War ended, along with slavery.  She wanted an education and began studying at the Fisk School in Nashville, earning money for school through odd jobs, while singing and playing the piano for the Fisk Singers.  While Ella was in school, the Fisk School ran into financial trouble and was going to have to close if they couldn’t come up with money soon.

George White, the leader of the Fisk Singers, led the choir on a tour of the cities that made up the Underground Railroad, but they were initially treated badly by the townspeople, turned away from restaurants and hotels because of the color of their skin.  However, when the choir started singing the music of the slaves, or spirituals, also called “jubilee songs,” the audiences started paying attention because it was music they hadn’t heard before.  The choir became a success and ended up making enough money to save their school and transform it into Fisk University.

This story is a fantastic introduction to singing spirituals and talking about how that genre of music came to be.  This book could begin a cross-curricular project on the history of the Jubilee Singers and what was going on in American history at the same time.  The book could also be part of a themed concert for Black History Month.  I’ve included links below about the Jubilee Singers, including a YouTube video of the choir singing in 1909 – an excellent recording to share with your students.

 

Swing Low, Sweet Chariot (1909)

 

The Fisk Jubilee Singers are still singing today!  Visit their website below to learn about their history, as well as their current members:

http://fiskjubileesingers.org/

Links more about the Fisk Jubilee Singers history:

http://fiskjubileesingers.org/about-the-singers/our-history/

https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/fisk-jubilee-singers/

 

If you are looking for additional titles to share with your students that tie music with Black History Month, we recommend the following:

836102 – Ben’s Trumpet

835134 – Let It Shine

835105 – Jazz ABZ

834954 – Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop

843465 – Squeak, Rumble, Whomp, Whomp!

844223 – Skit-scat Raggedy Cat: Ella Fitzgerald

835221 – Max Found Two Sticks

841387 – Before John Was a Jazz Giant

849777 – Little Melba and her Big Trombone

Thank you for reading our Children’s Book of the Month blog for February 2019!

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