My love for reading, all things fantasy and the art of storytelling are passions I’ve cultivated my entire life. I can remember being very young and realizing, even then, that reading helped to open doors of understanding. I’d read anything around the house, age appropriate or not to my mother’s dismay, and anxiously looked forward to weekly library trips. Escaping into alternate worlds and watching as the protagonist championed the cause and defeated the villain (with strength I wished I had) was a favorite pastime for my sheltered younger self. It spurred a creative spirit in me I carry to this day.
That enthusiasm is one of the qualities I’d always hoped to pass down to my children. Contrary to my aversion to vegetables and knack for consistently singing the wrong lyrics to songs I’ve known for years, it was a trait they could actually be proud of.
I was reminded of an old Facebook post of mine the other day. It was one of those getting-to-know-you posts that so often go viral. It asked the participant to share their 5 favorite books and what they'd meant to their life. At the time, I wrote something cheeky about only having read kiddie books and sarcastically detailed how a few of them enriched me. As I looked back at that post though, I realized that story time with my kids really was something that meant a lot to me. They love listening to me read and attempting to read back to me. It's a special time and even if the rest of the day has been chaotic, I can always count on those moments to re-center us.
I figured we can't be the only family that love bedtime bonding in that way, so I thought it'd be nice to share a few of our favorites with the masses. When I told the Wee B3 (my 6, 4 & 2 year olds) they’d be helping with one of my blogs, they were thrilled. In no time at all, they were barreling into my bedroom throwing nearly every book from their individual libraries my way.
Ashton: Will you write about all of these?
Me: Not all, I might just narrow it down to these. *motioning at certain piles*
Me: I think these are good ones that you all like, and it helps that they have lots of brown characters too.
Ashton: So you’re writing about books for only brown people?
Me: No, but these are good for kids who want to see more brown people. You know how it’s hard sometimes for mom to find books for you guys at the store, ones that have kids that look like you?
Ashton: Yep, that’s why you get them on the computer.
Me: Right. So this way, maybe if other parents – who are all colors – are looking for books that don’t just show one kind of kid, they’ll know what to look for too.
Ashton: That’s a good idea. Their kids will be happy.
Me: I think so.
So without further ado, following is a list compiled by the Wee B3 of Books for (All) Kids Who Love Brown Faces:
Ashton’s picks, age 6:
1. Ylleya Fields, Princess Cupcake Jones. This one has fun illustrations (by Michael LaDuca) to accompany a cute and ever-relatable tale of first day of school jitters. Ashtons says, “It’s funny because she doesn’t want to do something and her mom makes her do it anyway. Just like [my mom does].”
2. Karen Beaumont, I Like Myself. Easy read with silly pictures that Ashton can read to the smaller kids, complete with a terrific message.
3. Betty K. Bynum, I’m a Pretty Little Black Girl. Say it loud, we’re black & we’re proud! What resonates after reading this one is love of self and appreciation of the differences that make each of us unique. Great attention to detail (subtleties in black skin tones in all of the illustrations by Claire Armstrong Parod) and rhythmic cadence of the text make this a favorite at bedtime.
Roman’s picks, age 4:
4. Brian Pinkney, The Adventures of Sparrowboy. Look up in the sky, it’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s a…paperboy? Pinkney’s comic book-style story about an altruistic errand boy who follows in the footsteps of his favorite cartoon hero is cute for all ages. The pictures tell the story and Roman likes to feel like he can “read” this one to us himself.
5. Natasha A. Tarpley, Bippity Bop Barbershop. Father-son bonding that makes you smile as you turn the page. Roman says, “He gets haircuts like his dad, and I got a haircut like daddy too. And I know how to be brave.”
6. Dr. Tamara Pizzoli, The Ghanian Goldilocks. Everybody knows the story of Goldilocks and the 3 bears, but imagine the old favorite set to Ghanian backdrop complete with plenty of opportunities for mom to practice different accents. I won’t be getting an Oscar anytime soon, but the kids like the silly voices that appear when I read the dialogue and it’s a great twist on a classic.
Parker’s picks, age 2:
7. Rachel Isadora, Peekaboo Morning. Board book with lots of opportunities for identification practice. My toddler loves knowing which family member the main character will search for next.
8. Trish Cooke, So Much. We’ve actually worn our current edition of this one out, I think it’s only hanging together by a single staple. Parker obsesses over So Much because of the funny family intros and the chances for baby cuddling that comes with each character’s greeting.
9. Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee, Please Baby Please. The gorgeous illustrations (by Kadir Nelson) for this one would make the book worthwhile on its own – they practically float from the page. But the story is cute and funny and will speak volumes to both new & experienced parents.
Mom’s pick, age: Just Right
10. Trish Cooke, Full, Full, Full of Love. Who doesn’t adore a tale about a grandmother’s love. This one is a simple but heartwarming read about a little boy spending quality time on family day. All 3 kids like it and it’s definitely one that I don’t mind repeating week to week.
My babies are so happy to have shared this with yours. If you get a chance to pick up any I’ve mentioned, please leave a comment below. They’ll get a kick out of knowing they’ve succeeded in spreading the word. Also, if you’ve got any suggestions for some to add to our family library, let me know, we’re always on the look out for fun ways to keep the pages turning at bedtime.