1) Undefeated by Kwame Alexander – Hands down our number one favorite. Celebrating both Black joy and Black struggle. Simple pages let you start conversations with your children as they grow. (Un)fortunately you can return to the book often to process current events.
2) Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson – This was one of the books we read early in our journey into diverse books. An older book (2005) that uses the theme of quilting to tell the story of a family and of a nation.
3) Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Boy by Tony Medina – My 6-year-old boy loves this book full of poems celebrating all the ways Black boys show up in the world. Each one is accompanied by a different illustrator’s art.
4) Libba: The Magnificent Musical Life of Elizabeth Cotten by Laura Veirs – I learned about Elizabeth Cotten from Rhiannon Giddens singing her songs – I’m especially partial to Shake Sugaree. It was really cool to find a book about this legend of American folk and blues music.
5) A Bike Like Sergio’s by Maribeth Boelts – We haven’t read as many books about class so it was harder to pick which ones to include on this list. Ruben finds $100 on the street and thinks it’s the answer to his prayers so he can buy a bike like Sergio’s. Ruben struggles with his decision about whether to spend or return the money and all the challenges that come with either choice.
6) Hair, it’s a Family Affair by Mylo Freeman – Another hit with my 6-year-old who asked to read this over and over again when we borrowed it from the library. Macy can’t wait to tell her teacher about all of her family member’s hair!
7) Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey – This was another one of the first books we read. The book is a fictionalized account of a black family traveling from Chicago to Alabama and their struggles on the road and their discovery of the green book and its impact on their travels.
8) The Table Where the Rich People Sit by Byrd Baylor – Mountain Girl feels like her life is lacking because she knows her family doesn’t have money. She discovers that it’s not just material wealth that makes a family “rich.”
9) Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison (board book) – A board book version of Vashti Harrison’s Little Dreamers/Little Legends books for the youngest among us. Cute illustrations and minimal text introduce important figures in Black History.
10) Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia (grades 3-7) – Had to have one on here that my 9-year-old loved. We read this out loud as a family. Tristan accidentally rips a hole in the sky and throws the world of the Gods into chaos. My kids loved seeing familiar legend John Henry and Anansi come to life in this story while learning about new African legends and Gods. Her favorite part? Making a high pitched squeaky voice for Gum Baby.
Bonus Books (Because We Couldn’t Stop at Ten):
We Say No! A Child’s Guide to Resistance by John Seven and Jana Christy
How Mamas Love Their Babies by Juniper Fitzgerald
This list was compiled for Down Home by Megan Tarver. Megan is a momma to two bi-racial kids who are 6 and 9.Megan and her husband, Curtis, run a Facebook page called "Kids Talk" that was created to help and support white parents when talking about racism with their children. Megan lives in Greensboro, NC and is originally from Baltimore, MD. When she’s not reading books to/with her kids you might find her cross stitching, binge watching television, or running/hiking. "I was raised to be a "nice" person who shouldn't mistreat someone on the basis of their race but I also wasn't supposed to notice it either (be colorblind). I realized after marrying a Black man that that approach wasn't enough and we need to be explicitly talking to our kids about race and racism and class and gender and all those other things so they can recognize racism and discrimination and work to change systems."