I saw a post that said, ” I wished for snow, but I forgot to include for it to fall on a weekday”. That sums up my day right about now (this was originally written in January). As I’m writing this, huge snowflakes are falling outside my window and hear a couple children playing outside. My apartment overlooks a park, so I peer up to see this cute little family. The dad is pushing one kid on the baby swing, and the mom is chasing the other in the snow. It’s Sunday night and it’s been snowing for about 24 hours straight now. I’m hoping that by the time I’m done writing this, there is an announcement of no school. I joke to my friends that Monday will be a snow day for me regardless, but we all know if school is happening and I will begrudgingly trek to school. Anything for my little bees and if they have to be there, I don’t want them to suffer with a sub. Besides, I live a 10-minute drive away anyway so it wouldn’t be the worst commute possible.
But the snow was not the real reason I made this post. I’ve been thinking about how black history month is coming up and what I want to do in my class for it. One of my biggest regrets in student teaching was not speaking up and asking to do a unit for this month. I was unsure of how to have the conversation, as virtually a guest in someone else’s classroom, especially as we were not both the same race. I mean it was only my second or third week there by time BHM rolled around so I just wanted to see how she would handle it. We discussed MLK with an egg experiment which as all well and good, but I wanted more. After that, I vowed to never bite my tongue. The next month I spoke up and planned and implemented a women’s studies unit for women’s history month.
This year, however, is different. I’m a co-teacher, we plan together. So my input has more merit here. The demographics of my classroom is over 50% black as well, so I feel an ever-pressing need to show them some representation. Once I decided that I was going to go for it and just do a little unit on BHM, my next question was ” how do I make this age-appropriate”. I mean, after all, they’re three and four. I don’t want to expose them to slavery and the civil rights movement yet, I felt it too soon. So I’d been pondering this for about a week when I just decided, I would highlight strong African American leaders along with reading books with Af Am characters at the forefront. I decided to I wanted to take the #representationmatters angle. I thought it good and well and quite honestly fun. How cool it will be for my black students to see themselves in books, and how perhaps eye-opening to my non-black students to see that books don’t have to feature solely white main characters. Yes, this was it. One day a week we would talk about an Af Am leader and the other days we would read books featuring Af Am characters. We read about three books a week, so I would need 12 books for this unit, 4 focusing on an Af- Am leader and 8 focusing on black kids.
This is where my problem lies. WHERE ARE ALL THE BOOKS ABOUT BLACK KIDS DOING KID STUFF. This is nothing new though. Children’s books with people of color in them are on the rise, at 31%. Moreover, only 7% of children’s book authors and illustrators are nonwhite. After doing a bit of reading I kept asking myself the question “but how many of those are about slavery/civil rights… or hair?” Hear me out, those are critically important. But I argue that seeing black kids just being carefree also has a place and that’s what I find disheartening. What I want is simple: Children’s books with black children as the main character with no reference to slavery, civil rights, our skin or hair. How about black kids doing regular things? Those things have a place too. Please also check out this piece, written by someone who more eloquently puts my thoughts into words. It’s called Black Children Don’t Want to Read About Harriet Tubman All the Time.
So after much digging, here are 7 books I found that fit the bill mentioned below. I’m calling this the “Sax’s Carefree Diverse Criteria”:
Children’s books with Af Am lead
No mention of slavery/civil rights
Doesn’t talk about any Af Am leaders in any arena
No mention of hair
Black kids doing regular kid stuff
Written by black authors/have black illustrators.
A cute story of a baby brother trying to get the attention of his older brother on the other side of the room. This book is the definition of cute and sure to resonate with children who have siblings. Plus it’s just so stinking cute!! Steptoe gets bonus points for being from my hometown (that’s Brooklyn)!
This book explores the sound a little girl hears when walking around the neighborhood, all that gets her in a dancing mood that builds up to an epic dance party with other children! I am in LOVE with this book and it’s another fun one sure to get the chickadees hype.
Yes, it is written by 15-year-old Academy Award-nominated Quvenzhané Wallis. She tells a story about a girl getting all dressed up for a fancy night out with her mom. She gets to have a special breakfast, put on a pretty dress and ride in a fancy car! The illustrations in this book are so vivid and colorful also.
This book is about a girl who begins to look for things that are beautiful in her community after a lesson at school. In a community that is not the most well off, she realizes what the true definition of beauty is and learns to appreciate and admire who/what’s around her.
Max and his grandpa are so close, and Max hates leaving him. Grandpa promises that the moon they see together will follow Max’s home when they are apart. Max watches the moon in the car for a long while, until it disappears and he wonders where it goes.
Danitra and her friend Zuri (of course I love this cause that’s my name!) are very different. The new school year brings many worries for Zuri: she has a new teacher replacing her favorite one, she is worried about her mom’s health and passing math. Danitra is just in for the ride and doing her best to make Zuri smile. This one is for your slightly older babes and is told in rhyme. It’s also a series!
Kaylee loves pulling all kinds of prank and attempts to pull off the most epic prank ever: tricking the tooth fairy! The two engage in an all-out pranking word until they learn how to see eye to eye. A silly tale of a carefree black girl being carefree. This is exactly the content I like to see.
Notice many of these books have Black Girls at the forefront. I’m still searching for more books with Black boys being carefree! Have any books that fit the Sax’s Carefree Diverse Criteria? List them in the comments! I will be making follow-ups to this post regularly!! If you want some more diverse books check out my other posts: