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Saturday, December 20, 2014

Brain Food: Fabulous Books for Children of Color

My baby shower at The Storefront

I always wanted a daughter who I could read with.  I imagined the two of us walking down bookstore aisles together and sitting in bed reading with a bowl of popcorn between us.  

As parents of color it can be a struggle to find books with characters that reflect the beauty and diversity of our children. Children's books by and about blacks are few and far between, and you can practically forget finding your reflection in a book if you are Latino, Asian, or multi-racial. In order to avoid having to explain why there aren't any brown people in their books, we settle for reading stories about animals.  In the end, our children are given the not so subtle message that they don't matter. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is given the message that people of color aren't allowed to be children. 

The following is a list of my favorites on Chloe's current bookshelf. The beauty of these books is that you can read them to your child when they are babies, and then they can read them to you as they get older.

1. Bintou's Braids by Sylviane A. Diouf: This book is my current favorite. I bought it from The Studio Museum in Harlem's gift shop, and I love the story about a young girl being rewarded for her bravery. This book teaches kids the lesson that sometimes what they think they want is not always what they need.

2. Pecan Pie Baby by Jacqueline Woodson: I love that this book features a single mother and a multi-racial cast of characters. This is a great choice for a child preparing for a new sibling.


3. Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee: Hands down, this was Chloe's favorite book when she was a baby. I am a huge fan of every book that Kadir Nelson has illustrated (and Spike Lee is pretty talented too!)


4. A Letter to Amy by Ezra Jack Keats: I was a big fan of Keats's work when I was growing up. What child doesn't love A Snowy Day (and who knew that Ezra Jack Keats was Jewish)?  I adore this story about a first crush, and the illustrations are beautiful.


5. I Had a Favorite Dress by Boni Ashburn: This is the perfect present for all fashion conscious four and five year olds. Chloe loves to read this aloud with me.


6.The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister: Ok, this book isn't about people of color, but the shimmery illustrations are to die for. Plus, the message about sharing  and the value of community is sweet.


7. Little Cloud and Lady Wind by Toni Morrison: This book is so beautiful and deep that I'm not even sure what it's about (I would expect nothing less from The Master). Little Cloud and Lady Wind are two of the most beautifully illustrated characters that I've seen.


8. An African Princess by Lyra Edmonds: This is one of the (very) few books I have seen featuring an interracial family. It is about discovering and appreciating family ties.


9.The Princess and the Pea by Carol Ottolenghi: This princess is fabulous! Written in both English and Spanish, this re-telling of a classic tale will inspire girls to look at old stories in new ways.


10. Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold: I am obsessed with Faith Ringgold's art and this book is visually stunning.  Chloe wants to have a Tar Beach themed party on her deck this summer.


Click HERE to read Walter Dean Myers's insightful op-ed on people of color in children's literature  titled "Where Are All the People of Color?"




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