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5 Books Featuring Brown and Black Kids

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For parents raising black or brown children, it is often hard finding books that feature characters who look like their kids. And if you’re thinking, “Why does it really matter what color the characters in a book are?” trust me when I say: It matters. A lot.

I grew up as a little African-American girl who wanted nothing more to have long and flowing blonde hair like the characters in some of the books I read. Color me disappointed when I realized this wasn’t happening. It has been a long road to truly accepting my skin color, hair texture and nationality, but I’m hoping that by exposing my children to plenty of books featuring children that look like them, they can bypass the self-hatred that I once had. Yes, it’s okay to love, admire and find beauty in people of all backgrounds. But I really want them to love themselves first. Our daughter has a plethora of books to choose from, and we make sure to include books that have characters she can identify with.

Here are some of our favorites:

1. "Girl of Mine" by Jabari Asim ($6.21)

This book is perfect for toddlers. It's a board book with simple rhymes, great illustrations and a sweet remix to a classic children’s rhyme. Perfect for little ones up to kids who can read, "Girl of Mine" is a quick read. It also makes for a great discussion piece for chatty kids who just aren’t ready for the story to end. Author Jabari Asim also gives us "Whose Knees are These?," another hit in our home.

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2. "Rapunzel" by Rachel Isadora ($12.55)

This one is a classic fairy tale and one that I never got sick of hearing of growing up. However, just about every rendition of it that I saw featured a princess whose hair didn’t look anything like me. I’m not talking about 60 feet of hair. I mean that the hair was always long, straight and blonde. Isadora's "Rapunzel" gives a different spin on a well-known story, and the illustrations are mind-blowing. Featuring a princess with textured hair means the world to big kids like me who rarely saw such characters featured in books. The storyline is best fitted for kids who will sit longer than three minutes, and the illustrations are breathtaking they practically leap off of the pages. This is one book that stays in heavy rotation in our home.

I think this is a fantastic story for girls of all backgrounds but especially for girls with textured, kinky, curly and beautifully nappy hair.

3. "I Love My Hair!" by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley ($6.14)

Mamas of little girls with thick hair know how maintaining and caring for their daughters’ crowns can be a challenge. Many of us have a love-hate relationship with our hair, but little brown girls rarely see characters in popular story tales or TV shows that look like them. "I Love My Hair!" is the perfect tale for preschool-aged girls who live the daily, nightly and weekly rituals of getting their hair done. The main character struggles with finding love for her hair but is reassured by her mother that she, indeed, has beautiful hair. I think this is a fantastic story for girls of all backgrounds but especially for girls with textured, kinky, curly and beautifully nappy hair.

4. "Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters" by John Steptoe ($8.55)

This is one of my favorite books of all time. I find that my almost 2-year-old is a bit too young for the long and elaborate tale, but I can’t help attempting to read it to her as she squirms down my lap. In addition to being a story to discuss with older children, "Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters" has fantastic illustrations that really make a lasting impression on those who read the tale.

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5. "What I Like About Me!" by Allia Zobel Nolan ($5.89)

For parents who try their hardest to make their children aware and respectful of those who don’t look like them, "What I Like About Me!" is the perfect book. It features children of various backgrounds, and I love being able to point out the differences while explaining to my child how beautiful everyone else is. What I love most about this story is that it not only highlights areas that may make people different, it also helps to ensure that the readers know they are different and great in their own right.

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