4 best Juneteenth picture books to teach kids about the holiday

Juneteenth is a holiday celebrated on June 19, marking the end of slavery. Why this day? June 19, 1865, is when Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas, with the announcement that slavery had been abolished.

The announcement by troops under the direction of Major General Gordon Granger came more than two years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation and was followed by the passing of the 13th amendment to the Constitution by Congress that abolished slavery. (The 13th amendment was ratified on December 6, 1865.)

The events celebrating the end of slavery in Texas became known as Juneteenth. Early Juneteenth celebrations in Texas included barbecues, rodeos, fishing, and baseball. Prayer services and educational activities were a part of Juneteenth, as well.

Today, many Juneteenth commemorations contain similar elements and have begun to be marked in other places across the nation, as well. A great way to teach your children about Juneteenth is by sharing books together. What are the best picture books for Juneteenth? There are quite a few quality children’s books to read with kids about this celebration. Here are four of the best books to read with your children on or around June 19.

Kids reading books about Juneteenth
Africa Studio/Shutterstock

Juneteenth for Mazie

Mazie is like a lot of kids who get tired of hearing the word “no” from her parents. Her dad uses this as a teaching moment to explain to his daughter about the history behind the Juneteenth celebration she would soon be attending. Juneteenth for Mazie is written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper and is a terrific read to introduce children to the historical significance behind June 19.

Juneteenth Jamboree

Written by Carole Boston Weatherford, Juneteenth Jamboree tells the story of the history behind June 19 in Texas through the eyes of a little girl. Cassandra recently moved to Texas with her family and is surprised to learn about the holiday celebrating the end of slavery. She is intrigued about this new holiday and the excitement it brings, but she is also perplexed why it took so long for the news about the end of slavery to reach Texas.

Sophie and Lelah Celebrate Juneteenth

In this book, Juneteenth was always a family reunion for Sophie until one June 19 when she and her cousin Lelah learn about the actual significance behind the date. Sophie and Lelah aren’t just cousins, the pair are best friends, too. When one gets hurt and can’t participate in the athletic events at their family’s Juneteenth celebration, the girls begin to understand why the day is so important.

Freedom’s Gifts: A Juneteenth Story

While Juneteenth is a well-known holiday in Texas, it isn’t in other parts of the nation. Valerie Wesley’s book explains the historical significance of the holiday through the eyes of two young girls. June lives in Texas and understands the joy behind June 19, but her cousin Lillie from New York City does not. Lillie never knew June 19 was a holiday and makes fun of the day until she meets Great-Great-Aunt Marshall who once was a slave. Their aunt helps Lillie understand the meaning of the Juneteenth celebration their family attends annually.

Juneteenth has been celebrated in Texas since 1865, but many kids and teens might not have heard about Juneteenth and what the day means in regard to United States history. A great way to either introduce kids to the holiday or springboard from school discussions is by sharing one of these four Juneteenth picture books.

Each book tells the story of Juneteenth through the eyes of children, making the historic event and its importance easier to grasp than a history book on the subject.

Editors' Recommendations