I can think of few things more important to a young child than a healthy, positive self-image. In a world where campaigns are needed to counteract bullying, stereotypes and racial profiling are accepted as the norm, and even respected politicians exchange insults regularly before our eyes, a strong sense of identity can be a challenging concept to master. How do we teach our children the answer to the “who am I?” questions when the messaging in media is anything but constructive and favorable?
Like any mom with a heavy bias, I believe my kids are the cutest on the west coast. They have a richly diverse genetic background with ancestry that spans the globe. They also have beautiful brown skin, and being their mother has made me aware of the need for extra attention when it comes to the media they consume. I want them to see positive images of themselves — not just on television, but in books also!
It occurred to me while preparing this blog that in 2018, it isn’t solely about little black boys seeing these beautiful illustrations of themselves in books they read; it is equally as important that the personal libraries of all children include them! I’m proud to say that in our home, my children read books that have female, blond-haired heroines just as frequently as stories with broad-shouldered Polynesian warriors with tan skin who just happen to be male. Requests for bedtime reading have no particular preference; in fact, The Little Mermaid tends to be a favorite!
I am extremely deliberate in my choices to find books with characters that resemble my boys—with their brown curls and bronze skin—because it isn’t the norm. Walking into the average boutique or bookstore won’t result in numerous book covers with their faces displayed at every end cap. If we wish to change the negative perceptions that exist for certain groups in our world, we must be sure that our kids are receiving the correct communication regarding the subject. Little white girls and boys should have books with characters that look like their black friends and Asian friends and Cuban friends. We must be intentional with imaging for all children of ALL backgrounds. Let’s strive to normalize diversity; after all, once our kiddos step outside our doors, the world is colorful. And that’s a beautiful thing.
Here are a few great books featuring black boys and black characters to expand your personal library and begin the path to inclusion. I’d also like to know some of your favorite books! Share them in the comments below.
I love this book. At the heart of it lies the very important value of self-acceptance. The main character in the book is teased because he looks a little different from other kids in his world. His hair is curlier, and his skin is darker. He just wants to be like everyone else. His mother helps him discover how beautiful he really is. It’s a book about self-esteem and the unique things that make us all special. I think you’ll find that the theme of the book goes beyond the subject of race.
2. I’m a Brilliant Little Black Boy by Betty K. Bynum and Joshua Drummond
This book follows Joshua and his neighborhood friends as they experience adventure after adventure. Joshua’s mother talks to him about the stars and what it means to be brilliant: “you are like a star that lights everything in every way…” Joshua is determined to be amazing in all of his endeavors, and it shows with school, athletics, etc. His mother knows his future is bright and promising, and he enjoys exploring every ounce of his potential. It’s a book about reaching for the stars, and every little brilliant brown boy will love it!
3. Full, Full, Full of Love by Trish Cooke and Paul Howard
This book reads like a warm hug. The title really says it all. The story is full of beautiful scenes of family showing love with tasty food and loving embraces. The special relationship between little Jay Jay and his grandmother is especially highlighted. Beautiful illustrations and comforting storyline that makes for an awesome bedtime (or anytime!) story.
These are just a few of the books in my boys’ library. Do you have any really great book recommendations that reflect the fun and bright futures of black kids and characters? I’d love to get your thoughts in the comment section below.