Reading aloud to your child is one of the most important things you can do as a parent — and what you read to your child has an impact. Key to this? Making sure there’s diversity in those books, especially in this locked-down world. As Black History Month begins its annual turn, early literacy nonprofit Reading Partners suggests expanding the one month to every month. Instead of simply listing the best children’s books for black history month, why not simply incorporate books by BIPOC authors into your child’s regular reading rotation?
Sometimes, though, finding these books, either online or at a brick and mortar store (or even the library) takes time and energy parents just don’t have. Reading Partners notes that finding books where the characters and the author share identity isn’t always easy. “…only 29 percent of the 340 books published about Black characters in 2017 were written by Black authors and/or illustrators,” Reading Partners reported.
Libraries aren’t always the answer, either. In a literature review published in San Jose State University School of Information Student Research Journal, the author notes that “…studies of how children select reading materials are presented, showing that there is not a straightforward correlation between having books available and children choosing them.”
In other words, a library bookshelf of diverse offerings doesn’t mean kids will pick them up on their own; it requires special guidance on both the librarians’ and parents’ end.
One Parent’s Online Resource for Diverse Books
Online bookstore owner Stephanie Moran Reed discovered the paucity of diverse books as a parent of an Afro Latina child, and it inspired her to create MiJa Books, which specializes in books by diverse authors and illustrators.
“Our daughter sparked the creation for MiJa Books. In building her home library, we struggled to find books with characters that looked like her and that were more representative of the world around her. MiJa Books is the result of our (ongoing!) search for books with multicultural and diverse characters that children from all backgrounds can learn from and enjoy,” Reed tells Parentology.
Reed’s recommendations for book series that your kids will love include*:
- Must-have Non-fiction
Little Legends and Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison
- Fun fiction celebrating a variety of hairstyles from the Afro-Latin diaspora.
Stella’s Stellar Hair by Afro-Latina Yesenia Moises
- Fun STEM-fiction series with a strong Black-female protagonist highlighting real-life Black history-makers.
Rocket Says collection
Build a Diverse Library — One Month at a Time
Reading Partners’ list focuses on Black history. The list’s subjects range from Harriet Tubman to Ruby Bridges to the Civil Rights Movement. Add one per month for year-round learning.
January — Carter Reads the Newspaper by Deborah Hopkinson
February — Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
March — Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport
July — The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles
August — Frederick Douglass: The Last Days of Slavery by William Miller
September — Freedom on the Menu: The Greensboro Sit-ins by Carole Boston Weatherford:
October — Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama
November — I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison
December — Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt by Deborah Hopkinson
Keep in mind that these books are not only about past history, but about your child’s present and her future. The non-profit organization We Need Diverse Books (WNDB) emphasizes the need for broad representation in kid lit.
“Kids do search for themselves in books. While our population continues to grow and change, children do deserve to find connections with characters they are looking for like themselves. Children aren’t the only ones who are looking for themselves in books. In a survey of 2,000 schools, 90 percent of the educators believed children would become more enthusiastic readers if they had books reflecting their lives,” states the WNDB site.
And there’s a bigger goal in play: learning about history through a diverse lens leads to global results. “Representation in children’s literature is paramount. In those crucial developmental years, when children’s brains are first conceptualizing faces through the time that they start interacting with the world around them, it is essential that these images and interactions be reflective of our global community,” Reed says.
*EDITOR’S NOTE: Parentology is an Amazon Affiliate. When you use Amazon links in our articles to buy products, we may earn a commission but that in no way affects our editorial independence.