Published on January 27, 2023.
By: Priscilla Wiredu
Since the inauguration of the former President Barack Obama, anti-Black racism has been a hot topic in mainstream spaces, as opposed to spaces specifically concerned with Black issues. Movements like the emergence of the anti-police brutality group Black Lives Matter, and the online social media revolution #BlackGirlMagic have emerged as a dominant national conversation, especially in North America.
It is important to extend these social and political conversations out to the most vulnerable sector of society: children. Black children are susceptible to discrimination and microaggressions from people of all ages. So, it’s necessary for them to learn about racism, how to combat it, and how to learn self-love. The publishing industry has taken note of this and have ramped up the publishing of children’s books teaching children the importance of diversity.
Below are five children’s books that talk about Black empowerment, from the Black community’s historical achievements, to self-love.
- I Am Enough by Grace Byers (2018)
Reading Range: 4-8 years of age
This beautifully illustrated picture book discusses the importance of self-worth and embracing differences. I am Enough emphasizes that every child is unique and worthy of respect, regardless of their looks, abilities, or beliefs. Byer’s message encourages children to recognize diversity and have respect and kindness for one another. This lyrical ode to self-love also has amazing illustrations drawn by artist Keturah A. Bobo.
“We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it.”
2. I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont (2004)
Reading Range: 0-4 years of age
I Like Myself! is a story that encourages Black children to appreciate and love everything about themselves, told through the exhilarating perspective of a young Black girl. High on energy and imagination, this book teaches about self-esteem. Have messy hair? Bad breath? So what? Focus on what truly matters—inside and out. Beaumont takes on a silly yet serious rhythmic tone alongside the vibrant illustrations by David Catrow. This book gives the reader a story about sassiness, soul, and love straight from the heart.
3. When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner (2017)
Reading Range: 3-7 years of age
This book talks about an incredible tale—the creation of people, including the child reading the book. Children often think about their place in the world, wanting to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. When God Made You offers assurance that the reader is deeply loved, and has a unique part in the universe that will help them figure their future out.
Matthew Turner uses playful rhyming techniques along with amazing illustrations. When God Made You was written to inspire readers to learn about their unique gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan. It encourages young readers to grow, explore, and create a name for themselves.
4. The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson (2017)
Reading Range: 5-10 years of age
When the 9-year old Hendricks heard about a protest to abolish Birmingham’s segregation laws, she became determined to participate in the protests, even with the threat of arrest and jail.
The Youngest Marcher depicts Hendricks as a confident, bold, and brave child, not unlike Ruby Bridges. Her fight against segregation in 1963 Alabama continues to inspire many, including children who want to make a difference today fighting racism.
5. The ABCs of Black History by Rio Cortez (2020)
Reading Range: 5 years and up
The ABCs of Black History is a New York Times bestseller that details the bold journey of Black history and Black culture. It is a well-thought out, playful and informative book brimming with passion, style, and flow. Using each letter of the alphabet, Cortez celebrates the triumphs, heartbreaks, creativity and joy of different continents throughout centuries of Black History.
Each illustration is like a folk painting, accompanied by interesting terms for each letter—for example, “G” for Great Migration, and “K” for Kwanzaa. The ABCs of Black History, alongside its rhythmic sentences, includes information about Black history events, iconic places, and iconic Black figures, such as Sam Cooke, W.E.B. DuBois, Zora Neale Hurston, and DJ Kool Herc.
The importance of creating books on Black and Brown children for Black and Brown children is a beautiful and empowering thing. More importantly, there are a variety of subjects for these children to learn about fun and enjoyable parts of life as a person of colour. The books about Black joy and innovation are just as important as those that talk about slavery, Jim Crow laws, police brutality, and the fight for human rights, and should be offered in school and libraries the same. Black girls and boys can feel a sense of pride and beauty when they have books that talk about their positive attributes, and those messages can extend to non-Black children to create a more diverse and progressive society.
Priscilla Wiredu is a writer for this year’s Black Voice project. An alumni of York University, she graduated with Honors where she studied Social Sciences. She then went on to get an Ontario Graduate certificate in Creative Writing from the Humber School for Writers, and a college certificate in Legal Office Administration at Seneca College. She is currently studying for the LSAT in hopes of going to law school. Her main goal as a Black Voices writer is to ensure Black issues and Black Pride are enunciated through her works.