It doesn’t have to be Black History month to learn about Langston Hughes for kids! James Mercer Langston Hughes was born in 1902 in Joplin, Missouri and lived with his story-telling, loving grandma until he was 12. He was often alone, and his grandma instilled a love of books in Hughes. He moved around with his mom and her new husband until after high school, when he began working. His jobs, including those on freighters, allowed him to travel to Mexico, and various countries in Europe and Africa. He finally settled in Harlem, New York in the 1920s. The Harlem Renaissance was an intellectual, social, and artistic explosion of culture; Harlem was the black mecca in the US at that time. Langston Hughes was an important figure during the Harlem Renaissance and he enjoyed sitting in clubs and listening to the blues and jazz as he wrote poetry. He was a leader, and devoted his life to writing about the Black experience in the United States. Kids can get familiar with his work by reading these wonderful poems written by Langston Hughes.
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Read about Langston Hughes for Kids
Langston Hughes Anthologies:
This anthology of 26 poems poems is perfect for older elementary students through high schoolers (ages 8+). The readers is introduced to each poem with Hughe’s thoughts, and explanations of certain terms that might be unfamiliar to kids. Kids will love the colorful folk-art illustrations! Poems include “The Negro Speaks of Rivers,” “My People,” “Words Like Freedom,” “Harlem,” and “I, Too.”
The Sweet and Sour Animal Book, is a wonderful collection of poems about animals that was originally written in 1936, but not re-discovered until 1997! There are 27 catchy, rhyming (but short) poems that go through the alphabet to whimsically describe animals.
Sail Away is a collection of poems that all have to do with the ocean, sea creatures- both mystical and real. The illustrations are papers cut out into colorful, fanciful images.
Langston Hughes Poems Made Into Illustrated Children’s Books
Lullaby by Langston Hughes is a tender board book, with the poem “Lullaby” illustrated in muted and gentle tones.
Carol of the Brown King is a celebration of Christmas with 6 different poems. I love this wonderful collection of poems to use during the holidays as it depicts Mary, Joseph, and Jesus as a black family! How lovely to for kids to see themselves represented in such an important holiday for so many people around the world.
“That is My Dream!” has its illustrations set in a segregated town in the 1950s. Langston Hughes’ dream is a world free of discrimination and racism, where everyone lives in harmony and has equality. What a beautiful, beautiful story to be introduced to Langston Hughes for kids.
The Negro Speaks of Rivers was written when Langston Hughes was only 17 years old. Featuring important rivers around the world, Hughes portrays the experiences of black people throughout history, around the world. The watercolor illustrations are beautifully detailed.
I, Too, Am America, celebrates the Pullman porters on the railroads across the United States (here’s a fascinating story by NPR on the Pullman porters on their role in building the Black middle class in the US). Hughes wrote the poem from the perspective of an black – but it could have been either a slave, a free man in the Jim Crow South, or even a domestic servant. Reading this poem is as relevant now as it was when it was written. Many people think that “I, Too” was a response to Walt Whitman’s Poem “I Hear America Singing,” since Hughes admired Whitman’s work, but more importantly, because Hughes believed that even though the circumstances are different for blacks, of course they also deserve to experience patriotism.
Other Books by Langston Hughes for Kids
The Book of Rhythms, by Langston Hughes teaches kids to find rhythms and write poems about everything that surrounds them, whether it’s in nature or their dining room. Perfect to accompany a lesson on poetry!!!
The First Book of Jazz, by Langston Hughes is a children’s guide to jazz. I cannot find a copy of this book, because there are few left in good condition. However, I wanted to include it here, since Langston Hughes was also a jazz fan. Here is a snippet from a review on amazon:
In this slim book, he traces the development of jazz, hitting all the basic elements: African polyrhythmic drumming transported to Congo Square in New Orleans, work songs and slave songs, homemade instruments, spirituals, the blues, ragtime, minstrel shows, improvisation, the spread of jazz to New York and Chicago and the regional bands, the influence of Louis Armstrong.
Langston Hughes Featured In These Books:
Invited by @astrostarbright I want to share a book cover I love. @DianaMWrites @SenKamalaHarris @RWitherspoon @ava @cylev @fly_like_a_girl @LittleMissFlint @MisterMinor @MissHeardMedia @WomenYSK pic.twitter.com/ISESG4CjPs
— Havana (@TheTinyDiplomat) February 7, 2018
Young, Gifted, and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present, by Jamia Wilson is so informative for adults AND kids. What I love is that it balances leaders such as Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, and Nelson Mandela, to contemporary heroes like Serena Williams and Maya Angelou. If you are looking to inspire kids with strong and talented men and women (52!!!): this book is fabulous. Added bonus: you will absolutely love the illustrations by Andrea Pippins, creator of the coloring book I Love My Hair.
Biographies of Langston Hughes for Kids
Love to Langston is a collection of 14 free-verse, biographical poems about Langston Hughes’ life, by the Harlem author, Tony Medina. The facts at notes at the end of the book are a treasure, and teach kids and adults even more about Hughes’ struggles in racism and poverty, and journey to Africa.
Written by Hughes’ good friend Milton Meltzer in 1968, this re-published biography Langston Hughes has new illustrations that appeal to kids.
From his childhood, to pursuing his dreams, Coming Home: from the Life of Langston Hughes is a simple biography for kids of all ages. I appreciated the message that our home is inside of us, and perseverance helps us achieve our goals.
For More Excellent Black Biographies: