Kwanzaa: Books for Learning, Celebrating, and Growing Together

Kwanzaa’s seven day celebration highlights the importance of culture, family, community, resilience, pride, and hope. Although our family has only been formally celebrating for a few years, these lessons are ones that should be carried throughout the entire year.

Here we are celebrating by lighting a candle in the kinara and reading from the book Soulful Holidays by Ciara L. Hill.

Each of the seven days of Kwanzaa is marked by one of the seven principles.

The following book list highlights texts that explore the history, traditions and cultural festivities of the African-American holiday, Kwanzaa.

As always, happy reading.

The People Remember

Written by Ibi Zoboi & Illustrated by Loveis Wise

The People Remember tells the journey of African descendants in America by connecting their history to the seven principles of Kwanzaa. It begins in Africa, where people were taken from their homes and families. They spoke different languages and had different customs.

Yet they were bound and chained together and forced onto ships sailing into an unknown future. Ultimately, all these people had to learn one common language and create a culture that combined their memories of home with new traditions that enabled them to thrive in this new land.

Soulful Holidays

Written by Ciara L. Hill & Illustrated by Christian Krabbe

An inclusive rhyming story celebrating the joys of Christmas and Kwanzaa!

Cozy up together with this charmingly illustrated family book told in easy-to-read memorable rhymes. Through this heartwarming tale, children and families all over the world can experience the magic of Christmas and the true essence of Kwanzaa. Read about the food, songs, cultural decorations, and more! The catchy couplets in this dazzling picture book will delight readers with the inclusive traditions of families who honor one or both of these incredible holidays.

Together for Kwanzaa

Written by Juwanda Ford & Illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger

Kwanzaa is Kayla’s favorite time of year. But this year, it looks as if a heavy snowstorm will keep her big brother, Khari, from getting home in time for the festivities! Will Khari miss the celebration completely? Or will Kayla and her brother somehow find a way to be together for Kwanzaa? A perfect introduction to Kwanzaa, this book will teach children all about the traditions and practices that make it a special winter holiday.

Kevin’s Kwanzaa

Written by Lisa Bullard & Constanza Basaluzzo

Kevin’s family is celebrating the seven days of Kwanzaa! Kevin helps his mom decorate the Kwanzaa table. They light candles with Grandma and Grandpa and learn a special word each day. They talk about working together and solving problems. On the sixth day, everyone eats and dances at a big feast!

Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story

Written by Angela Medearis & Illustrated by Daniel Minter

In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he leaves an unusual will: by sundown, the brothers must make gold out of seven spools of thread. If they fail, they will be turned out as beggars. Using the Nguzo Saba, or “seven principles” of Kwanzaa, the author has created an unforgettable story that shows how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community.

Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa

Written by Carolyn Otto

Celebrate Kwanzaa continues the spectacular Holidays Around the World series by focusing on this African-American holiday, which falls during the festive, gift-giving season and is celebrated by families, communities, and schools throughout America. With succinct, lively text and beautiful photographs, the book celebrates African-American culture and helps us to understand and appreciate this special holiday. 

Over the course of seven days, African Americans, families and friends, come together to light the candles that symbolize their past and future—and their unity. They gather as a community to make music and to dance; to feast on harvest foods and the good things of the earth; and to exchange simple, often homemade, gifts. Readers are introduced to the symbols of the holiday, such as the mkeka(a special placemat), kinara (candleholder), and kikombe cha umoja (unity cup). Important concepts, like the seven principles, are explained. In addition, a note from the book’s consultant, aimed at parents and teachers, puts the holiday in its full cultural and historical perspective.

My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa

Written by Lisa Bullard & Constanza Basaluzzo

Kwanzaa traces its origins to the American Civil Rights era. Critical thinking questions and fast facts prompt young readers to engage with this fun narrative and learn all about Kwanzaa.

Let’s Celebrate Kwanzaa

Written & Illustrated by Arielle Phoenix

In this book, you will learn about the seven principles of Kwanzaa (nguzo saba) and how to apply them as lifelong virtues.

These principles are emphasized and reinforced during Kwanzaa but can and should be used as;

  • a foundation for personal development
  • to aid in forming Rites of Passage 
  • African Centered approach to learning
  • betterment
  • growth
  • knowledge of self
  • self-love
  • respect for others and unity
  • cultural pride

Kwanzaa is often misunderstood or assumed to be a religious holiday, but through the examples in this book it becomes apparent why all Africans (at home and abroad), regardless of religion, tribe or political stance can benefit from acknowledging, applying and teaching the next generation about the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

The Story of Kwanzaa

Written by Donna L. Washington & Illustrated by Stephen Taylor

It’s time for Kwanzaa!

Light the candles on the kinara! Fly the bendera, and tell stories from Africa! The festival of Kwanzaa was originated by Dr. Maulana Karenga to honor the customs and history of African Americans.

The seven principles of Kwanzaa, called the Nguzo Saba, serve to remind African Americans of the struggles of the past, and also focus on present-day achievements and goals for the future. The holiday fun continues with activities at the end of the book, including making your own cow-tail switch and baking benne cakes.

My First Kwanzaa

Written & Illustrated by Karen Katz

Hooray! Hooray!
It’s time to get ready for Kwanzaa.”

During the seven days of Kwanzaa, we celebrate the importance of family, friends, and community. This warm and lively introduction to a very special holiday will help even the youngest children join in!

Author and illustrator Karen Katz’s wonderful series of picture books for the very young offer a simple and fun way to get familiar with the traditions of holiday celebrations from different cultures.

Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa

Written by Donna L. Washington & Illustrated by Shane Evans

The story of Li’l Rabbit captures the true meaning of Kwanzaa—coming together to help others.

Li’l Rabbit is not having a very good Kwanzaa. Granna Rabbit is sick, and so his family won’t celebrate his favorite part of Kwanzaa this year: a big feast called Karamu. Li’l Rabbit knows what to do! He’ll find Granna Rabbit a special treat for Karamu so she can celebrate anyway. He looks under a pile of logs, in the field, and in the pond and along the way meets Groundhog, Momma Field Mouse, and the frogs—but he doesn’t find anything for Granna Rabbit.

Maybe I’m just too little to help Granna Rabbit celebrate Kwanzaa, Li’l Rabbit thinks. Or maybe he just needs a little help from his family and friends.

Jaheem’s First Kwanzaa

Written by Zephaniah Martin & Illustrated by Bilal Karaca

Jaheem learns the importance of honoring his cultural roots. He is introduced to Kwanzaa as a family tradition. African American families gather together to celebrate their culture and heritage. 

The Sound of Kwanzaa

Written by Dimitrea Tokunbo & Illustrated by Lisa Cohen

Hear the words, sing the songs, dance to the beat, and shout “Harambee!” as you jump into this joyful celebration of the sounds of Kwanzaa!

The sound is Umoja–bringing us together.
The sound is Kuumba–the songs of our ancestors.
The sound is Kwanzaa!

Lively verse and colorful illustrations guide you through the seven principles of this festive holiday. All you have to do is come close, gather round, and discover what Kwanzaa is all about!

Kwanzaa Gets an A

Written by Steven C. Thedford & Illustrated by LaSquizzie Kern

This well written picturesque book is much needed in promoting the African American seven-day celebration of Kwanzaa. The author introduces a fresh approach to this important fact about KWANZAA. Steven C. Thedford has concisely presented the why of the extra A at the end of the Swahili word Kwanzaa.

My First Kwanzaa

Written & Illustrated by Britney House

During the seven days of Kwanzaa, we celebrate the importance of family, friends, and community. This warm and lively introduction to a very special holiday will help even the youngest children join in!

Seven Days of Kwanzaa

Written by Ella Grier

The Seven Days of Kwanzaa, like the holiday itself, celebrates people pulling together to make things better. John Ward’s warm illustrations, framed by painted kente cloth borders, illuminate a text that honors the richness of African-American culture and traditions from lighting candles to singing songs to storytelling to making mkeka mats. The text also includes the principle and symbol of each day of Kwanzaa, lyrics to songs, and four simple recipes to make for the holiday feast. 

A Kwanzaa Miracle

Written by Sharon Shavers Gayle & Illustrated by Frank Norfleet

When Ashley and her brother Darryl include their lonely neighbor Mrs. Jackson in their Kwanzaa celebrations, they take part in a Kwanzaa ceremony they’ll never forget.

Imani’s Gift at Kwanzaa

Written by Denise Burden-Patmon & Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Imani learns about Kwanzaa, the African American harvest festival, from her grandmother, and makes friends with a girl who has never been to Kwanzaa before.

Kwanzaa: 7 Principles, Celebration, Decorations, Traditions and Symbols

Written & Illustrated by L.A. Amber

This beautiful rhyming and fully illustrated book will inspire your family and especially your kids how to celebrate Kwanzaa.

The Seven Days of Kwanzaa

Written by Angela Shelf Medearis

A kid-friendly guide to the history and customs of Kwanzaa.

This informative and fun guide to the holiday of Kwanzaa by Black author Angela Shelf Medearis provides information about parties, recipes for African-inspired dishes, instructions for craft projects, and brief biographies of individuals who are connected to the holiday and its history.

My First Kwanzaa Book

Written by Deborah Chocolate & Illustrated by Cal Massey

A vibrant picture book brings to life the Kwanzaa holiday during the last week of December as Grandma brings special food, Grandpa lights the candles, and the whole family celebrates their heritage.

Seven Candles for Kwanzaa

Written by Andrea Davis Pinkney & Illustrated by Brian Pinkney

This unique African-American holiday commemorates the strength of family ties, respect for ancestors, commitment to the growth of community, and gratitude for life’s bounties.

The Gifts of Kwanzaa

Written & Illustrated by Synthia Saint James

Bold, colorful artwork and a simple text introduce the seven principles of Kwanzaa–unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith–and describe how African Americans celebrate the holiday.

We Celebrate Kwanzaa in Winter

Written by Rebecca Felix

This Level 1 guided reader examines how people celebrate Kwanzaa. Students will develop word recognition and reading skills while learning about Kwanzaa principles and rituals of recognition.

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