Books for babies are not just about seeing Spot run anymore. A wide variety of topics are now being explored at younger and younger ages. In the last few years, there have been an explosion of exciting subjects that a Black baby is sure to be curious about. They include:
Book Covers Matter
A picture is worth a thousand words... but after the heinous widely televised murder of George Floyd, a picture speaks volumes. And for Black children, this is magnified a thousand fold because of the lack of images in the media that depict Black people in a positive light. Reaffirming the value of self in the world around you is a critical factor needed for a healthy mind, body, and soul. Images can be uplifting or disempowering. Children as young as 3 years old are able to distinguish race according to a published study conducted by Mamie Clark. This study was actually part of soon to be Doctor Clark's thesis which pre-dated the famous "Doll Study" in the 1940's she performed with her husband Kenneth Clark, The results of the study indicate that the selection of drawings / illustrations depicted on book covers can play an important role in early child development. So, why not choose wisely. We will discuss a curated list of recommendations in this post.
"Hey Black Child" for example is an absolute classic and great cultural self esteem builder. I was overjoyed when Baba Useni Perkins shared with us that his book originally published in paperback form would be re-published in hardcover and board book form. I recall the book signing he did at the store years ago. In fact, here's a video of him reading it here:
But wait, there's more.
Check out a new series called "I Look Up to..." with Serena Williams, Michelle Obama and Oprah Winfrey that have beautiful illustrations. Children will be able to remember learning about these celebrities when seeing them on TV. If you haven't experienced a reading of "Pretty Brown Face," you and your child are in for a treat. The best part is the last page. You will find an actual mirror mounted to it. All of the wonderful characteristics described in the book are reflected right back at the child. This works as a powerful esteem builder. How about making your storytelling time a multimedia presentation by putting on a Youtube video of Bob Marley singing "Every Little Thing's Gonna Be Alright" while you and your child look through the lyrics in the book "Every Little Thing" adapted by Cedelia Marley.
What is so refreshing are the growing number of books targeting STEM. Vicki Fang wrote "I Can Code" with a male and female on each book. "Future Engineer" and "Future Astronaut" know that the sky is not even a limit when it comes to dreams. Seeing depictions of children in these books will cause them to wonder what it's all about. It's never too early to start. Traditional school systems are usually the last to incorporate these more culturally reflective books in their curricula due in part to budget constraints and racist policies. Why not provide a firm foundation before they even enter the school system. They will then be better prepared when they see books with all-white characters or a "token" Black appearance every now and then. I've discussed the lack of books by black authors with black characters in another blog post here.
For a complete list of board books for gifts during the holiday season, or for baby showers, see the Board Book category here.