One of the byproducts of the current civil rights movement happening in our country is a plethora of reading lists being shared on social media.
I love a good book list. My kids are 3 and 1, and we haven’t talked a lot about race yet in their lives. I typically use books as a strategy for talking with them about various topics; we read books about the dentist in the days and weeks before an upcoming appointment, we read books about holidays, and we read a ton of books about moving before Moving Day last year. Edgar, who is 3, loves to read books together, so it’s a great way to explore something new within the context of something comfortable and familiar.
Whenever I see a book list, whether it’s for kids or adults, I always make a bunch of library requests. I am an avid library requester, which is why, once curbside pick-up opened up last week, two librarians had to team up to carry the 35 books I had requested to my car. (This was an especially big load, as it also included books I had requested BEFORE the libraries closed due to COVID 19!)
The book lists I used as resources were a mix of books about racism, race, and civil rights, and books that simply feature people of color living their lives. I think that our “library” – I’m including books we own and books we frequently check out of the library – is pretty diverse. But I’m always looking for more suggestions, and I try to be intentional about seeking out books featuring people of color as main characters.
Here are some of the awesome books that we’ve discovered thanks to recent reading lists:
Please Baby Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee. This book is SO FREAKING CUTE. It’s great for both of my boys; I think it is probably intended for a younger audience, closer to Jonas’s age (he’s almost 2), but Edgar adores it. Sweet, simple story of a baby’s day; rhyming and rhythmic and soothing; and it features ALL the sweetest and most tantrummy aspects of baby/toddler life, so that’s enjoyable for all.
Harriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima. Edgar loves this book. A little girl who loves to wear costumes (and has two dads, so bonus diversity!) goes on an adventure involving penguins and an orca. WHAT IS NOT TO LOVE?
Saturday by Oge Mora. This one makes me cry. Sweet story of a girl and her mother spending Mom’s only day off going on fun adventures.
Juneteenth for Maizie by Floyd Cooper. This is my favorite book about Juneteenth so far. It explains the holiday through a conversation between a young girl and her dad. Great for Edgar’s age – he’s almost 4.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi. This one we bought rather than borrowed. It’s adorable, and powerful. It really does feel like Kendi is attempting to capture the messages of his adult book, How To Be An Antiracist, in baby/toddler/preschooler language.
The Colors Of Us by Karen Katz. I really like this one, and I think the boys will enjoy it more once they stop asking for Harriet and Please Baby Please (see above) over and over again. It’s a good book for exploring differences in skin color in an understandable and kid-friendly way.
Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds. Wonderful book about different ways for children to use their voice to say something. It’s sweet and colorful, with a good rhythm to the text. It’s powerful, and the pictures are beautiful and enjoyable.
We’re Different, We’re The Same by Bobbi Jane Kates. This book features the Sesame Street characters and is a good intro into differences in facial features, hair color, and skin color. The message is: “We look different, but we’re also the same.” It’s a good intro book – to be followed later by a deeper explanation of race and racism later.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry. A story about a dad doing his daughter’s hair. So freaking sweet.
Julian Is A Mermaid by Jessica Love. This book is about a little boy who wants to dress up like a mermaid. My FAVORITE thing about this book is that the story does not include any skepticism or negativity about the little boy wanting to dress up in lipstick, a flowery headdress, and jewelry; he simply likes what he likes, and his abuela supports him by finding him a necklace. My boys don’t really have any understanding (to my knowledge) of why a little boy wouldn’t wear lipstick or jewelry or dresses, so I appreciate a children’s book that celebrates different ways of being without highlighting how our society sometimes treats people who don’t meet societal expectations.
SO MANY GOOD BOOKS. Nothing I love more than sitting on the couch and starting to read a book, and then watching Edgar come sprinting toward me, dropping toys as he goes. Happy June 2020 – and, if you know a book I should request from the library to read with my kids, please share!