Happy Monday! In honor of Black History Month, today I am sharing 4 children’s books written by Black authors. I am no expert, and this is not an exhaustive list. I came across these books as I was perusing my library’s children’s books and I couldn’t pick just one to feature today. During Black History Month (and all year round), check out your local library for books written by Black authors. Even better – support your local bookstores and Black authors by purchasing your own copy!
Some resources that I have been enjoying this month include Anti-racism Daily and 28 Days of Black History. Also, check out We Need Diverse Books and consider donating. Here is an excerpt from their website: “WNDB strives to create a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book. To reach this goal, we’ve created programs to celebrate diverse books, to mentor diverse writers and illustrators, to support diverse publishing professionals, and to provide books to classrooms nationwide” (We Need Diverse Books, 2021).
Woke Baby written by Mahogany L. Browne & illustrated by Theodore Taylor III — This board book introduces important words and concepts to babies and toddlers. While a toddler may not understand what everything in this book means, I truly think that they hear what you say and internalize it. Here is a quote: “Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world” (Browne, 2018). For those of you who need a definition, Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “woke” as “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues (especially issues of racial and social justice)” (Merriam-Webster, 2021).
Antiracist Baby written by Ibram X. Kendi & illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky — I was really excited when I learned that Ibram X. Kendi wrote a childen’s book because I really liked his book How to Be an Antiracist. To those who think that some of the topics in this book may be too advanced for the audience, this is what Ibram X. Kendi has to say: “Just as we teach our kids to be kind even before they fully understand what it means to be kind, we should teach our kids to be antiracist even before they fully understand what it means to be antiracist” (Kendi, 2020). In addition to the important messages throughout the book, the illustrations are fantastic. They depict diverse families and children of many races playing together. I also think that the concepts of this book are super important to begin teaching children at a young age. There is also a section at the end for parents and caregivers, which provides questions and discussion starters to begin teaching children to be antiracist. Here’s an excerpt from the back cover that I like:
- Celebrates all our differences.
- Uses words to talk about racism.
- Understands that people aren’t the problem – policies are” (Kendi, 2020).
Just Like a Mama written by Alice Faye Duncan & illustrated by Charnelle Pinkney Barlow — I love that this book depicts a non-traditional family. This is another aspect of diversity that is not widely represented in children’s books. Children who read this book may be able to connect with the main character more deeply if they, too, have a non-traditional family or do not live with their biological parents. Here’s an excerpt from the synopsis: “Just Like a Mama is a sweet celebration of the heart connection between children and the forever families who may or may not share their blood, but who offer kindness, care, and unconditional love when birth parents are absent” (Duncan, 2020).
Don’t Touch My Hair! written by Sharee Miller & designed by Jamie W. Yee — This is another book with really great illustrations. They are whimsical, colorful, and show diverse characters. The author brings humor and light-heartedness to a story about personal boundaries. This book teaches all children to ask for permission before touching someone’s hair (which I think translates to all body parts). I love that the author tells the story with a positive tone and helps young girls gain a positive self-image for their own hair. Here’s an excerpt: “This is MY hair. It’s great that you love it. I love it, too. But please, just look and don’t touch without my permission” (Miller, 2018).
Why I Love Them
It is so important for children to see themselves in books. Not as a side character. As the main character. It’s also important to combat white superiority by sharing different experiences and diverse characters with all children. Books portraying multiple races should be normalized. Children should be able to pick up any book and see themselves in the pages of the story. This can improve a child’s sense of self and confidence by connecting with characters in the book and shaping how they see the world around them.
There are many ways that you can incorporate diverse books into OT! Here are a few:
- When you recommend books to parents and families, make sure that books written by Black authors and/or sharing diverse stories are included on your list.
- Use the illustrations in these books to create fun games and activities. For example, one of these stories depicts a dragon and a tower in a castle. Have the child climb up a “tower” made of mats/pillows or climb up a rope swing to work on GM skills including upper body strength, core strength, motor planning, coordination, balance, and more!
- If you are working on ADLs (e.g. hair brushing), be sure to match the strategies you use with the child’s needs and experiences. What works for you may be different than what works for someone with different hair than you. (PEO model!)
Anti-racism Daily (n.d.). Anti-racism daily. https://www.antiracismdaily.com/
Browne, M. L. (2018). Woke baby. Roaring Book Press.
Duncan, A. F. (2020). Just like a mama. Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Kendi, I. X. (2020). Antiracist baby. Kokila.
Merriam-Webster (2021). Woke. Merriam-Webster. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/woke
Miller, S. (2018). Don’t touch my hair! Hachette Book Group, Inc.
We Need Diverse Books (2021). We need diverse books. https://diversebooks.org/
28 Days of Black History (n.d.). 28 days of black history. https://www.28daysofblackhistory.com/