Right after many celebrate Christmas, it’s time to celebrate the seven days of Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa is an African holiday that lasts for about a week during December. This modern holiday began in 1966 when Maulana Karenga, a professor from California, brought together African Americans to celebrate and remember their heritage. Now, it is celebrated in the United States, Canada, and the Caribbean islands.
Each of the seven days represents a different Kwanzaa principle:
- Unity (umoja)
- Self-determination (kujichagulia)
- Collective responsibility (ujima)
- Cooperative economics (ujamaa)
- Purpose (nia)
- Creativity (kuumba)
- Faith (imani)
Whether you celebrate Kwanzaa or just want your children to learn more about it, there is lots of children’s literature about Kwanzaa that you can read together as a family. Here are some of the best books for various age groups to help your children learn about this holiday.
Ages 0-2 years
My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz
With illustrations of round-faced toddlers, this book introduces the seven days of Kwanzaa to little ones. It explores each day and how Black communities celebrate their heritage, family, and friends during the holiday season.
Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington
In this sweet book for young readers, Li’l Rabbit’s granny is sick and won’t get to celebrate Karamu, his favorite part of Kwanzaa. Though he is sad, Li’l Rabbit decides to find a special treat for Granna Rabbit with some help from his family and friends.
My First Kwanzaa Book by Deborah Chocolate
Follow a family as they prepare for Kwanzaa by dressing up in traditional African clothing, lighting candles, and sharing food, gifts, and stories. It’s a great book to introduce the joyful spirit and traditions of the holiday with engaging text and illustrations.
Ages 3-11 years
Together for Kwanzaa by Juwanda G. Ford
Kayla loves Kwanzaa because her whole family gets to be together. But when a big snowstorm hits, it seems like her brother Khari won’t be able to join. It’s a heartwarming story about finding a way to bring the family together and the traditions of Kwanzaa.
Kevin’s Kwanzaa by Lisa Bullard
Young readers follow Kevin as he celebrates the seven days of Kwanzaa with his family. He decorates the Kwanzaa table with his mom. As he lights the candles with his grandparents each day, he learns a special word connecting him to his heritage. It’s a heartwarming story about celebrating Kwanzaa traditions together as a family.
Kwanzaa by Lisa M. Herrington
Written for young readers ages 3-6, this colorful book contains simple text and engaging photos to teach children about the history, festivities, and traditions of Kwanzaa. It encourages them to learn how to read on their own. It comes with an art project that your child can put together after reading.
Imani’s Gift at Kwanzaa by Denise Burden-Patmon
As Imani’s grandmother braids her hair, she tells Imani about the African American harvest festival and the meaning of Kwanzaa. Imani learns that Kwanzaa is not just about gifts but about celebrating her heritage, ancestors, and unity. Later, Imani makes a new friend who has never heard of Kwanzaa and introduces the meaningful holiday to her.
The Story of Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington
This book explores the history of Kwanzaa by going back to African ancestry to slavery and the civil rights movement. It’s full of beautiful photographs of African fabrics and mixed-media illustrations. It includes activities that families can do together after reading.
Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa by Carolyn B. Otto
Perfect for readers who don’t know anything about Kwanzaa, this book from the National Geographic Kids series introduces the holiday’s celebrations, traditions, and history with beautiful photos and engaging text.
Seven Spools of Thread by Angela Shelf Medearis
The wealthy father of seven sons passes away, leaving the belligerent brothers the task of turning seven spools of thread into gold. If they don’t complete the task, they will be completely cut off from their inheritance. This story is set in an African village and includes beautiful illustrations with an introduction to the holiday’s history and a heartwarming story about the importance of family.
Seven Days of Kwanzaa by Angela Shelf Medearis
This chapter book is a great introduction to Kwanzaa for older elementary and middle school students. It explains what the holiday is all about and includes stories of inspirational African Americans, ideas for homemade gifts, and traditional recipes.
Emily currently lives in Orange County, California after spending four years in Illinois and half a year teaching in Florence, Italy. She holds a B.A. in English Literature from Knox College and an M.A. in Counseling from the University of San Diego and has taught English to native speakers and ESL students for over three years. When she’s not working as a School Counselor or writing, she enjoys traveling the world, playing instruments, and blogging about Millennial experiences at Long Live the Twenties.