When I was growing up, diverse characters and stories in children’s books were almost non-existent. Although there are more opportunities to access diverse stories today, there is still much work to be done. According to the Associated Press and Huffington Post, in 2020, children’s books written about racially diverse characters or subjects represented only 30 percent of all new children’s books. And, their data from 2018 shows that there were more books with animals as the main characters compared to books with main characters from diverse backgrounds.
Black History month is a great opportunity for you to expand your children’s library and purchase stories written by African American authors that give a window into the African American experience. I have picked a few of my favorites I am pleased to share with you.
I love this story about a girl who loves her natural hair. She talks about the texture of her curls and the time it takes to put all the products on her hair. She also describes how she feels when people touch her hair without asking, “I don’t like it when other people touch my hair”, she says. “Sometimes they touch my hair without even asking.”
I love this unique concept, written by a Minnesota African American author, that allows you to personalize this book with your child’s name. Very young children need to see themselves in the stories that are told to them so they see their value and, in this book, they actually get to see their name as well!
This is my new favorite children’s story about a young girl born to parents who fled slavery and the Trail of Tears. Magnolia Flower is a girl with a vibrant spirit. It is a story about how love can conquer the injustice in our world and it aptly describes the history of both African Americans and Indigenous people in America.
This book is a great tool to use as a starter conversation on how kids can learn to talk about skin color in a way that is kind, thoughtful, and healthy. They also learn a little bit about how to understand the difference between race, ethnicity, and culture. This is an important conversation to have with young children so they can learn that it is okay to talk about race.
This story is a good story for people that live in areas where there are few people of color. It aptly describes how it feels to be the only young black or brown child in a classroom. Life can be hard for the only brown girl in a classroom full of white students. When the teacher talks about slavery, she can feel all of her classmates staring at her. When they talk about civil rights, she is the one that other kids whisper about on the playground. In those moments, she wants to slip away or seep into the ground and she wonders, is that all you see when you look at me?
“What really matters is what she sees when she looks at herself. She is a reflection of the courage, strength, intelligence and creativity that’s been passed down from generation to generation through her ancestors.” From the publisher.
Learn more about Dianne Haulcy’s Early Risers podcast. Early Risers is a podcast from Little Moments Count and MPR with frank facts, engaging stories and real how-tos for anyone who cares about raising children with a clear-eyed understanding of cultural differences, race and implicit bias.
Learn more about Early Education and Care at The Family Partnership.
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