The ability to mirror yourself in the books you read is a privilege that many of us take for granted, but it’s a privilege that Black children are unable to access as easily without Black authors writing books with Black kids at the center. This is why many Black authors write them. They know that if you see yourself in the pages of a book, it can change your life. We’re seeing more and more stories about Black people come alive on screen, but there is still much work to be done when it comes to getting these same stories into the hands of our own children.
One day a child walked in Afriware Books and asked, "do you have any books about Black people with dogs?" In other words why weren’t there any little girls with afros like hers in her favorite books about dogs. Though this may seem like a simple question, but it was profound in its focus. It is moments like that that recharge my purpose as a Black bookseller in my delight to share or research to find those books. When we first opened our doors back in 1993, Crown Bookstore used to send their Black customers to us to answer questions like that. As Chadwick Boseman's character said in "Black Panther," "this never gets old."
Reading books that tell the stories of Black people is important because it teaches Black children about Black history, culture, and the positive things that Black people have done. Through these stories, Black children learn about enslavement, Jim Crow laws, protests against racial injustice (e.g., Rosa Parks), and more. By learning about these concepts, they can better understand where they came from and why there are still inequalities today. It also helps them see themselves in positions of power or in situations they haven't experienced before to expand their possibilities for the future. While we've made great strides toward equality in recent years, knowing that their ancestors survived difficult times gives them hope for future improvements and accomplishments.
This is a list of ten books we recommend for black children and families, books that we believe should be a staple in black homes, schools, bookstores and libraries across the world! These books will help your child to understand themselves , their history and the world around them!
The following list features our top 10 books created by black authors for black children.
In no particular order:
1. A Is For Africa
A is for Africa: A Kwanzaa Alphabet Book (Alphabet Books) by Ifeoma Onyefulu\
This book is a favorite among our readers. It was written by Ifeoma Onyefulu and illustrated by E.B Lewis. You may recognize him from his illustrations in the Caldecott honor book “Coming On Home Soon” by Jacqueline Woodson. This beautiful book teaches children the alphabet while introducing them to many different countries in Africa, their people and their culture. The pictures show the habitats, food, clothing and more of these African communities in a very relatable way so that our little black girls can see themselves and know that they inhabit the world.
2. Hair Love
In this book, readers will learn how to love and care for their hair. This book is more than just a story about natural hair- it's a beautifully tender story about the bond between fathers and daughters.
This book will teach you that it's okay to make mistakes. It'll teach you that self-love and confidence is important for any African American child, especially if you're a girl with natural hair. It'll teach you that loving your hair is important because representation matters! We need more books like this on the market to show youngsters of color (especially girls) that they are beautiful as they are! The short film by Sony Pictures animation was released after the book came out giving the book viral life online in 2019.
3. I Am Enough
As soon as I got a good look inside and out of this book, I prominently displayed it for the world to see. It arrests your attention with the hair halo on the front cover of a beautiful Black child. The inside says every soothing, amazing and comforting word you'd want bronzed for an up and coming shooting star to enjoy. Young people will likely grow a few inches in height from the uplifting words therein. It starts off at the top of an esteem mountain, "Like the sun, I'm here to shine..." Describing and defining purpose through natural elements gives value to every voice. This is an absolute must read.
4.Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe is a story that teaches an important lesson of kindness and bravery while celebrating the culture, history, and geography of Africa. This inspirational picture book is based on an African folktale and features beautiful illustrations and important lessons.
The book tells the story of two daughters who live with their father in ancient Africa. Mufaro's daughters are as different as night and day yet both are beautiful in their own way. Big Dowa is bad-tempered, selfish, greedy and cruel but Nyasha is kind to everyone, especially animals. The King wants to find a wife so he sends his messengers across the land to search for him a bride but no one fits his description of beauty except for Mufaro’s daughters. Who will he choose? The girls embark on a dangerous journey to meet the king and along the way they must face many challenges that test their moral character as well as their strength, courage and patience. In the end an act of kindness from one daughter places her at a disadvantage while another’s greed seals her fate leading to each girl getting what they deserve based on their actions throughout the story.
Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: An African Tale by John Steptoe teaches children valuable lessons about being kind to others while also helping them learn more about Africa's rich history and culture through its folklore tales.
Sulwe is a very cute story about a young girl who is the color of midnight. She's darker than everyone in her family including her younger sister who is beautiful and light like their mother. Sulwe wishes to be light skinned like her sister. Her mother tells her that she's beautiful but Sulwe doesn't believe her until she goes on an amazing adventure and learns that she is beautiful just the way she is.
6.Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
This is a book that just has to be inside your home. It's one of those books that teaches children so much about the great African American women who have made an impact on history and ours lives with their work.
Plus, it's a book that teaches parents as well. Like, I didn't know that Phyllis Wheatley was the first black woman to publish a book or that Alice Parker invented the gas heater. I'm telling you, this book is a must-have for any library especially if you're looking for some diversity in picture books about history for your little ones!
7.The Day You Begin
You recommend this book because: In the children’s world there is a lot of common ground to be found in books but sometimes it’s not talked about. The Day You Begin is a beautiful story about finding the courage inside ourselves to share our stories and connect with others.
The Day You Begin is about: A young girl nervously starts her new school and feels out of place until she does something unexpected that helps her feel included.
The story is: The more I read this book, the more I love it! It has many themes including identity, belonging and diversity that are universal for children and adults alike. Jacqueline Woodson weaves these ideas into a simple yet effective story. Rafael López’ illustrations are fantastic. The multi-cultural characters in the story really help to convey the message of the importance of sharing our culture, family traditions and beliefs with each other.
Target audience: This book is suitable for early readers (ages 5+) but would also be great shared with younger kids too as they grow into their own identities as they come across people who may do things differently than them or look different from them. This book would work well in a classroom setting when talking to kids about diversity or beginning school
8.Hey Black Child
Hey Black Child by Useni Perkins.
This classic work has moved into position of iconic as young people around the world have recited the epic poem as a badge of honor during Black History month. In 2015 (as recorded on Youtube), author Useni Perkins came to Afriware Books and read his poem with much excitement. It is truly a delight to watch as children bring unique interpretations with style and finesse as Pe’Tehn Raighn-Kem Jackson did in a viral video. This cultural esteem shot in the arm is a cure-all for any racial mistreatment on the planet.
9.Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat
Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michel Basquiat by Javaka Steptoe
As one of the first picks of Nasir McKinnor, this distinction alone is good reason to pick up this book. Nasir is a brilliant child who greatly impressed us at Afriware Books when he would volunteer with his mother to help out around the store. Nasir is an avid reader who is frequently called on by his teachers to answer questions and lead in the classroom. It's not surprising that his parents decided to homeschool him to keep up with his diverse interests and quickly expanding skills. It's easy to see how Nasir would find the main character of the book, "Radiant Child" inspiring.
Young Jean-Michel Basquiat attends an art museum and learns that "...art is not only in the poetry books she reads to him or in the theaters and museums they visit art is in the street games of little children..." His mother and father each inspire lines and shapes to incorporate into this work. After a car accident his world changes and alter the time and attention his mother is able to spend with him. The collage-placed images in the book have sharp overlaps in color that draw the eyes to wonder deeply into them. You can listen to the author read his work here, however, the experience you get from flipping the pages is unmatched.
10.Young, Gifted and Black
Ever since Nina Simone released "Young, Gifted and Black" in 1970, it was a hit. And through the years, it has become like the Black National Anthem. To place the lyrics in a book for toddlers is a brilliant idea to start a tradition for the next generation.
A new board book edition of the phenomenal Young, Gifted and Black aimed at babies and preschoolers, bringing together Black icons from the past and present in a celebration of achievement.
The book is divided into three sections: ‘Past’, ‘Present’ and ‘Future’. In the first section, readers are introduced to 27 Black heroes from history, including Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, Barack Obama and Oprah Winfrey. The second section features contemporary Black figures such as Serena Williams, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Trevor Noah. Finally, the third section lists young children who are making their own mark on history today.
As always, I appreciate that you have read through this blog post. I hope that you’ve become curious to find out more about some great picks for Black Children. Read our other post, "Board Books for Black Babies" for more suggestions. We ask that you consider purchasing your books from our Black owned business, Afriware Books, Co. If there is a title you’d like to purchase that is not mentioned here, or could not be found on the website, feel free to email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org