5 Books Black Harvard Students Read as Children

5 Books Black Harvard Students Read as Children

Looking to build your child's library this holiday? Check out these classics favored by brilliant Black youngsters.

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CAMBRIDGE, MA - MAY 29: Students of Harvard University gather for their graduation ceremonies on Commencement Day on May 29, 2014 in Cambridge, MA.
CAMBRIDGE, MA - MAY 29: Students of Harvard University gather for their graduation ceremonies on Commencement Day on May 29, 2014 in Cambridge, MA.
Photo: f11photo (Shutterstock)

Part 1: I’ve always been fascinated by how smart people got that way. It’s not only a passion of mine, but I’ve spent fourteen years investigating the question. One thing I discovered is that the smartest people did a whole bunch of reading when they were children. Then I started to wonder what kind of books did really smart people read when they were kids? I got even more curious. What kind of books did really smart Black people read when they were kids? Thankfully I have friends in smart places. I talked to Dr. Ron Ferguson, an Economist and the co-founder of the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard. He’s also my co-author. Lucky for me, he had done some asking around some years ago. And I’m sharing what he told me.

I decided to break the list down in two parts, so you can digest this information first. Tomorrow, come see additional books Harvard students read. And since Christmas is around the corner, why not gift these classics to a future scholar.

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The Bible

The Bible

A close up of an open Bible with a cup of coffee for morning devotion on a wooden table with window light
A close up of an open Bible with a cup of coffee for morning devotion on a wooden table with window light
Illustration: Freedom studio (Shutterstock)

If you’re Black and went to Sunday school, you will definitely recall all those great stories and characters in this Good Book.

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Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Yann Martel author of the novel Life of Pi, which was  shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2002, poses at Hatchards in central London. Six authors were vying for the prize with the winner being announced at a ceremony at the British Museum, London. (Photo by Chris Young - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Yann Martel author of the novel Life of Pi, which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2002, poses at Hatchards in central London. Six authors were vying for the prize with the winner being announced at a ceremony at the British Museum, London. (Photo by Chris Young - PA Images/PA Images via Getty Images)
Photo: Chris Young (Getty Images)

Why does kids love this book? First, it’s about a young man who survives a shipwreck. All children love stories about shipwrecks. And wait! He has only one companion. A huge Bengal Tiger named Richard Parker. Need I say more.

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Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
Image: Alejandro Guzmani (Shutterstock)

This book has been called the best children’s book ever written. Wilbur the pig and the spider named Charlotte were not just buddies, they were tight. It’s a book about friendship and the passage of time. I read it over and over.

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The Cat In The Hat By Dr. Seuss

The Cat In The Hat By Dr. Seuss

HAGERSTOWN, MD - FEBRUARY 26, 2015: Image of several best selling books by Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss is widely know for his children’s books.
HAGERSTOWN, MD - FEBRUARY 26, 2015: Image of several best selling books by Dr. Seuss. Dr. Seuss is widely know for his children’s books.
Photo: Julie Clopper (Shutterstock)

The book was so fun to read with all the rhyming and that cat in hat and bow tie. Did you know the book was written and illustrated in 1957 by Theodor Geisal, who called himself Dr. Seuss?

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Roots by Alex Haley

Roots by Alex Haley

Writer Alex Haley, who traced his family back to Africa through a great-great-great-great grandfather, is pictured in his San Fransisco apartment May 16, 1974. Haley believes millions of American blacks can do the same thing with a little help from him. Haley and two brothers have set up a foundation whose primary aim is to gather material for a black geneological library. (AP Photo)
Writer Alex Haley, who traced his family back to Africa through a great-great-great-great grandfather, is pictured in his San Fransisco apartment May 16, 1974. Haley believes millions of American blacks can do the same thing with a little help from him. Haley and two brothers have set up a foundation whose primary aim is to gather material for a black geneological library. (AP Photo)
Photo: Associated Press (AP)

This 1976 book had errrrrbody wanting to go back to Africa and find their Roots. I remember being a kid and seeing the mini-series long before reading this thick novel Alex Haley wrote. I bow down to those future Harvard graduates who tackled this mental and spiritually heavy book long before they had to. Check out part 2, tomorrow.

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