I am the proud parent of a 21 year old and a 16 year old. Yep, my babies are no longer babies. And though that essentially means that I’m only getting older, it also means that I get to bear witness to the beautiful human beings that they are becoming, and for that I am truly grateful. However, there are some things about my children actually being children that I do miss; one of those things being reading to them. When they were younger we would read together every day, and as often as I could, I made sure that the books that I shared with my children were black. Representation matters is not just a hashtag, it’s a reality. And what I learned was that when my babies were able to see themselves on the pages of the book, it quite often translated into a genuine excitement about reading.
As such, in the spirit of Black History Month, black children’s books and black babies who ultimately grow into black adults, I’d like to take this opportunity to share with you a few books that I consider to be essential reading for all black children. This list is not exhaustive and is instead based upon two things: books that I have read personally and my opinion. Therefore, if you have recommendations that you feel should be added to the list, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts and opinions in the comment section. I would love to hear from you!
In the meantime, I’ve selected 10 books that I feel should be on every black child’s bookshelf. If we can begin early enough to teach our children that they are valuable and provide for them a voice in literature, then as elders of the community, we will be doing our part in helping them to unleash their inner genius and maximize their full potential. We will also be helping them along their journey of self-determination, which is a major key. For in the words of the great modern day poet Tupac Shakur, “if it ain’t no hope for the youth then the truth is, it ain’t no hope for the future”. Happy Black History Month Beautiful People! Know Thyself!
I love this book because it introduces black children to that beautiful chemical in their skin called melanin. It tells the story of a young boy who discovers not only what melanin is but also its useful benefits.
This is one of my all time favorite books! It tells the empowering story about a little girl’s knotted-up, twisted, nappy hair and how it got to be that way! Told in the Black Folk “call and response” tradition, this story leaps off the page, and is a great read aloud!
Using simple language and beautiful pictures of black children, this is a remarkable book of affirmation for black babies. It highlights the varied skin tones, hair textures and eye colors of black people and does a fantastic job of celebrating the diversity among us.
I selected this book because I feel that it is a wonderful introduction to African Folklore. We have to familiarize our children with our ancestral way of story-telling.
This is a beautifully illustrated creation story that is entertaining and fun to read! And I’ll admit that one of my favorite parts about the book is the fact that God, and all of his helpers, are Black!
Wonderfully engaging book series designed for early readers. What I love most about this series is that it allows little black boys to see themselves on the page as they are learning to read, consequently increasing their chances of reading on grade level.
A wily fox meets his match when he encounters a bold little girl in the woods who insists upon proof that he is a fox before she will be frightened. In other words, you gotta prove to me that I should be afraid of you; can’t be frightened simply because you expect me to be. The strategy and audacity of little Flossie in this book is amazing!
Through rhyme and awesome illustrations, children will learn about and become inspired by the legendary Marcus Garvey.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a poetry book. I love this one because it incorporates some of my favorite poets to include Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks and the incomparable Nikki Giovanni.
This book chronicles the school day of a little boy, highlighting different inventions he uses throughout his day, all of which were invented by black people!
This book is a series of affirmations and lessons that promote self-esteem, education, justice and wisdom among Black children of all ages. It can additionally serve as a great kick-starter for in-depth conversations about race with boys and girls of all ethnicities.
This book series is a wonderful way to introduce your young readers to chapter books. Sophie Washington is a hilarious 11-year-old who experiences some pretty exciting adventures!