Spotlight on Kwanzaa: Children’s Books
K is For Kwanzaa by Juwanda Ford (Pre-K – 1)
Thick black lines outline the pictures in this alphabet book about Kwanzaa. This is a fun introduction for children as young as three to learn basic information including traditions, customs, Swahili words, clothing, and food associated with Kwanzaa. The author includes both an introduction and a guide that discusses the seven principles.
Kwanzaa Kids: Lift-the-Flap by Joan Holub (Pre-K – 1)
A wonderful read aloud for young children, Kwanzaa Kids introduces the holiday and the principles in accessible terms with vibrant illustrations and lift-the-flaps to engage little ones. There is an introduction, glossary, and a pronunciation guide to help educators teach about Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa by Lisa Herrington (Pre-K – 2)
This book is from the nonfiction series, Rookie Read-About Holiday, and is a nice primer for children (and adults) who know nothing about Kwanzaa. It briefly covers the history and symbols associated with the holiday and offers activities and fun facts. Although I am not an authority on Kwanzaa, please note that I have read that this book has an inaccuracy on page 15 where the candles are in an incorrect sequence. Otherwise this is a good addition to a Kwanzaa unit.
A Kwanzaa Celebration Pop-Up Book: Celebrating the Holiday with New Traditions and Feasts by Nancy Williams and Robert Sabuda (K – 2)
This beautiful pop-up book is a collaboration between the author, Nancy Williams, and the talented pop-up book artist, Robert Sabuda. This recommended introduction to Kwanzaa uses bright colors and engaging pop-ups to provide young children with a tactile and educational experience. Pronunciations accompany the text, and the symbols of Kwanzaa are clearly explained. This is a great read-aloud that will need to be carefully handled in order to remain in good condition, as is true with all pop-up books.
Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda Ford (K – 2)
Another book by the author, Juwanda Ford, Together for Kwanzaa tells the story of a little girl, Kayla, who is worried that her older brother won’t make it home from college in time to celebrate her favorite holiday because of a snowstorm. With Swahili words woven through the story, Kayla uses the seven principles of Kwanzaa to cheer herself up. This wonderful read-aloud contains beautiful illustrations and a simple, linear narrative to teach children about Kwanzaa.
Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Medearis (K – 3)
This wonderful, original tale tells the story of seven Ashanti brothers, who fight all the time. When their father passes away, he leaves them with the task of weaving gold out of seven spools of thread by sundown. The brothers must use the seven principles of Kwanzaa to work together to complete the task. Although this story does not explicitly connect the dots between the holiday and the fable, the introduction provides information about Kwanzaa and children will enjoy predicting what the brothers will do and the outcome of the tale. This story may be a bit long for five year olds, but there are many kindergarten teachers who have used this story and have found their children to be engaged and able to ask relevant questions. This book can lead to a fun and tactile weaving activity or even creating linoleum block illustrations inspired by the beautiful woodblock pictures of African life in Seven Spools of Thread. This is a highly recommended supplement or introduction to a unit on Kwanzaa.
Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa: With Candles, Community, and the Fruits of the Harvest (National Geographic) by Carolyn B. Otto (1 – 3)
Another essential nonfiction guide to holidays from Holidays Around the World. This book offers great descriptions of Kwanzaa, wonderful photographs, an historical context for the celebration, a recipe for sweet potato pie, a glossary, a map, and an excellent conclusion by Keith A. Mayes on Kwanzaa’s universal appeal.