One of my favorite things to do with Everly is read. I used to hand out a bookmark at parent-teacher conferences that said readers are born on the laps of their parents. Before every nap and bedtime, Everly selects three books to read with me. She’ll read in the car or pull out her book bin to play with in the living room. She’s turned into a lover of books and it’s my favorite to see her recite the words of her favorites. It’s amazing how much she can keep in her little mind.
We have an incredible library located in downtown York with a huge children’s section. Because of it’s locale in the city, they offer plenty of books that represent their diverse patrons. I never have any trouble finding books that feature characters of color and tell stories of inclusion. This week, we stopped by our smaller neighborhood library and I asked the librarian for recommendations of multicultural books. She wasn’t able to point me to a single book in their collection. To say I was disappointed was an understatement. The implication that books that feature characters of color only belong in the city is a glaring problem. I’m hoping to donate some copies of our favorites to will live at our more suburban campus.
Thanks to our city branch, Everly and I have been exposed to some beautiful books and I wanted to share them with you. I’m hoping to highlight diverse children’s books on a regular basis.. They’d make great gifts, teacher gifts, and library donations.
1. Hey Black Child: I love love love this book. The book features the poem of Useni Eugene Perkins and I found myself gasping at the beautiful watercolor paintings. I loved reading aloud the poem with an empowering message that black children are strong, smart and capable of anything their hearts desire. Everly would rhythmically recite “Hey Black Child” and loved the sing-song nature of the story.
2. Mommy’s Khimar: This story features a little girl who marvels at her mommy’s khimar collection and details all the things she pretends to be while she wears them. I want Everly to grow up being comfortable and accepting of people who wear them and not avoid conversation and connection with someone who does because it feels too different from what she’s used to. She was obsessed with this book and asked to read it daily for our two week library check out period.
3. Black is Brown is Tan: This book shows a biracial family and takes time to describe each family member and relatives. The speaker talks about how they’re both black and white and what that means to them. While we live in a time where interracial marriage is legal, it can still feel like a taboo topic. I want Everly to grow up knowing that a biracial family is beautiful, normal and to be celebrated.
4. We Are Shining: Featuring the poem of Gwendolyn Brooks, the message of the book is that every person has the right to shine. Each page highlights a different people group and places around the world. I love the line about other cultures seeming peculiar to you but not peculiar to themselves. The book finished with the line “Life is for me and is shining.” The words are beautifully heartbreaking. This mantra that the author wants readers to internalize reminds me that life hasn’t always been “for me” for all people. These words serve as a rally cry for people of color to claim their space and right to life.
What are your favorite books that represent people of different races, heritages, and religions? I’d love to check them out on our next library visit!