Few Children’s Books Feature Black Characters; Even Fewer Center Black Boys
There are so few children’s books that feature Black boys, that I thought it deserved its own post, separate from the Challenges of Finding Black Children’s Books post. I encountered this roadblock in my own desire for gender balance for our home library. When I began searching for boy-specific books, I discovered that narratives around sports, entertainment, history and place-based stories figure much more prominently. By place-based, I mean a book centers the “place” a boy lives as being an integral part of the story and his struggle in that space becomes the story. Other books focus on the blackness of the little boy as “different” and to be appreciated. There is a place for all these narratives in our home libraries, but I was surprised at how most of the books fit one of these themes compared to stories that center Black girls.
Despite the limited options are, I made due. Here is how I did it.
1. Pick the best of what’s available.
One of the first set of books that I read to Treasured One (TO) were written by Rachel Isadora and feature a curious little boy who is excited to explore his world. These titles include: “PeekaBoo Morning”, “PeekaBoo Bedtime” and “Uh Oh”. All feature the same cutie pie little Black boy.
Other books that specifically feature a Black boy include:
Roc and Roe’s Twelve Days of Christmas by Nick Cannon
Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs
Good night Baby (revised) by Cheryl Willis Hudson
It’s Potty Time by Smart Kids Publishing (African American boy)
Marvelous Me (Inside and Out) by Lisa Bullard, Brandon Reibeling
Not Norman: A Goldfish Story by Kelly Bennett
Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper
I’m Your Peanut Butter Big Brother by Selina Alko
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson
Detective Dwayne Drake and the Case of the Alphabet Thief by Jonathan Royce
Joshua By the Sea by Angela Johnson
Rain Feet by Angela Johnson
Baby Blessings: A Prayer for the Day You were Born by Doloris Jordan
Dream Big by Dolors Jordan
The Colorful Adventures of Cody and Jay: A Coloring and Activity Book by Crystal Swain-Bate
2. Create customized books, with your child as the main character.
There are websites, like http://www.putmeinthestory.com that enable you to customize selected stories with your child’s photo and other information. I looked into this for TO, but didn’t end up buying any books. (This option can be a little bit pricey.)
3. Invest in books with good story lines that feature animals as characters.
For example, TO loves the “Llama Llama” series by Anna Dewdney. Llama Llama is a little male llama who really loves his Mama, his main parental figure. We have almost all of these books in our library. There is a new book called “Nelly Gnu” by Anna Dewdney where the main parent is a Dad. These are great.
4. Look for other visually appealing books with interesting textures, shapes, and flip-ups with pictures. These were among our first books.
If you are faced with a book where you really love the story but hate the graphics, put pictures of your Little One on each page of the story. That way, you get the benefit of a great story and the LO will focus on the pictures of themselves in the book. You are literally – > placing them in the story.
Research tells us that children are more likely to want to read when they see themselves in the story. Certainly, the lack of books that feature Black children is an obstacle but it’s not one that we can’t be overcome until the supply of books meets our demand for them.
Updated: January 27, 2015