Buying children’s books for my Treasured One (TO) has been such an eye-opening experience. I used to go to big book stores excited at the prospect of leaving with an arm full of books to read during story time. I would leave empty-handed and frustrated, because I just could not find interesting Black children’s books. Most of the stories were about entertainers, sport figures or explored heavy historical narratives. While great, I didn’t believe these books were appropriate for a toddler. I was just looking for interesting stories that feature Black characters.
Then I ran across some data on children’s books, and it all made sense. In 2013, of the 3,200 books reviewed by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center housed at the University of Wisconsin, 93 books were about African-Americans. Of these, only 68 were written by African-Americans. This represents a huge gap in the availability of books for African-American and other kids of color. Take out entertainers, sports stories and history references and the number of published books featuring Black characters declines dramatically. Shocking, right?
I must admit, I felt an odd sense of relief. The tension that I was feeling was not just me and where I was shopping; it was structural. There are very few books that fit my criteria. Here, my quest began.
I have accepted the reality that I am not able to go into most book stores and find books that I feel are appropriate for my beautiful, brown daughter. Instead, I research then track down the small number of books that fit my criteria. I find 90% of them online.
Below is my working list of books, some are already in our library (*). Others are on my wish list. You’ll notice a gender gap. Books were more likely to featured Black girls, more so than boys– another post for another day.
Dr. Joanna Scott
Black Children’s Books from our Own Library:
*One Love by Cedella Marley
*Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee
*It’s Potty Time by Smart Kids Publishing
*Lola at the library by Anna McQuinn
*Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennett
*Clara the Cookie Fairy by Tim Bugbird and Lara Ede
*Izzy the Icecream Fairy by Tim Bugbird and Lara Ede
*Nana’s Fridge: Monice-Mitchell Simms
*Doc McStuffins: Bubble-rific by Andrea Posner-Sanchez and RH Disney
*Doc McStuffins: A Knight In Sticky Armor by Andrea Posner-Sanchez and RH Disney
*When I Close my Eyes by Ty Allan Jackson
*Curlilocks and the Three Pandas by Yolanda King
*Curlilocks and the Big Bad Hairbrush by Yolanda King
*SuperMommy: A Super Single Mommy Tale by Crystal Swain-Bates
*Princess Cupcake Jones and the Missing Tutu by Ylleya Fields
*Princess Cupcake Jones Wont Go to School by Ylleya Fields
*I Am So Brave by Stephen Krensky and Sara Gillingham (Board book)
*I Love My Hair by Natasha Anatasia Tarpley
*When I Consider God’s Amazing Universe by Wanda J. Harding
*My First Bible by Pat Lee Banks (Designed especially for children of color)
*Firebird by Misty Copeland and Christopher Hayes
*If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson
All of these titles are great additions to a home library. Our favorites are “One Love”, “Not Norman” the two “Fairy” titles, “When I Close My Eyes”, “Curlilocks” and “Princess Cupcake Jones”. The Doc McStuffins books are good if your little one doesn’t watch the show. The books follow the corresponding episodes pretty closely.
**Updated on March 23, 2015