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Trains and the Underground Railroad in a Charming Story and Picture Book for Black History Month

Updated on February 18, 2019
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Cindy Hewitt is a retired teacher with a passion for children's literature. Read-aloud stories add quality to a child's life experiences.

Trains and a Lesson that Dreams Do Come True with Hard Work

Fun read for young children to learn history
Fun read for young children to learn history | Source

History in a Charming Picture Book for Black History Month

Teachers are celebrating February as Black History Month and picture books are a great way to introduce history to young children. Monica Kulling's charming picture book and story All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine is a beautiful book that tells the story of a little African-American boy whose parents came to Canada on the Underground Railroad as slave runaways. He developed an interest in trains and he loved to tinker with tools. His dream to become a mechanical engineer was always in his heart while growing up. Elijah went to college and his family now lived in Michigan. He went to work for the Michigan Central Railroad doing hot and difficult work with steam engines. He knew that his boss did not really value him because he was a black boy. Day after day Elijah and his partner, a young boy who was called a "grease boy" stoked the engine for the steam engine's run. Elijah knew that the grease monkey's job was dangerous and he wanted to find a safer way to oil the train's engine. Elijah worked on drawings for a safe oil cup every night. His invention was successful! Elijah became a notable African-American inventor who eventually was able to file for a total of 57 patents.

Bill Slavin contributed his talent as an illustrator with his colorful and detailed illustrations to tell Elijah's story. All Aboard! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine was published by Tundra Books, a division of Penguin/random House. It is recommended for ages 5-8 and has an ISBN of 978-1-77049-514-2.

Colorful and Detailed Illustrations Tell Elijah's Story

Elijah takes the train to accept a job at the railroad
Elijah takes the train to accept a job at the railroad | Source
The work was hot and hard
The work was hot and hard | Source
Elijah's invention for the steam engine was successful
Elijah's invention for the steam engine was successful | Source

Bring Elijah McCoy's Story Into the Classroom for Black history Month

Teachers will want to add Monica Kulling's picture book and story ALL ABOARD! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine to their classroom library to use for celebrating February as Black History Month. Teaching some fun facts about black history to young children can be easily done with beautiful picture books and interesting stories to read during a story time session.

*Read ALL ABOARD! Elijah McCoy's Steam Engine in a group story time session. Read the included poem at the beginning of the book. The poem is one that tells the story of runaway slaves who used the underground railroad to escape to freedom. Save the poem to use later as a reminder for more studies on the underground railroad.

*Call attention to Elijah's dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. Create a discussion for children to record their ideas about inventions that help people. What did Elijah want to invent to make the train steam engine function better?

*Call attention to the illustration of Elijah's drawing of his idea for the oil cup for the steam engine.

*Have drawing paper, markers, pens and pencils available for children to draw an idea of something that they would like to invent.

*Have a variety of tinker toys or legos available for children to create an invention that they imagine.

*Bring the idea of the Underground Railroad back on another day to learn about some fun facts about black history. What was the Underground Railroad and how did it help bring about Elijah's dream to become a mechanical engineer when he grew up? Elijah's parents had come to Canada by way of the Underground Railroad. He was the beneficiary of their fight for freedom from slavery in earlier years.

*Have more resources and stories of other black inventors after reading about Elijah McCoy.

*Read the included "Back Story" at the conclusion of the book. Elijah McCoy was the recipient of a total of 57 patents for his many inventions. Have other resources available to discover his other inventions. Take a class poll of the number of children who have examples of his inventions in their homes.

© 2019 Cindy Hewitt


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