26 Good Books to Read to Little Brown Kids at Bedtime

Bedtime storiesBefore Tween Girl became ... well, Tween Girl, she was a spunky little sprite who insisted that I “re-ra” to her every night. (That was her attempt at saying “read” before she really got that talking thing down pat.) It did her English major mother’s heart good to know that my girl child shared my love of books and stories.

Of course I bought her classics like Goodnight Moon and Where the Wild Things Are, and she inherited the copy of Where the Sidewalk Ends I had when I was a kid. (Immaculately maintained, if I do say so myself.) But I also wanted to read her books that would make her confident about being a girl, a black child, and a natural-hair wearer. I wanted her to be proud of every part of her her-ness.

Here are some books that were on our shelves
— and some that have come out since — that beautifully depict little brown kids and make them feel good about being little brown kids.

  • I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

  • Please Baby Please by Spike Lee

  • The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

  • Gathering the Sun: An Alphabet in Spanish and English by Alma Flor Ada

  • Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim

  • Bright Eyes, Brown Skin by Cheryl Willis Hudson

  • I Like Myself by Karen Beaumont

  • The Meanest Thing to Say by Bill Cosby

  • He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson

  • Super Oscar by Oscar De La Hoya and Mark Shulman

  • Just the Two of Us by Will Smith

  • Black, White, Just Right! by Marguerite W. Davol

  • In Daddy's Arms I Am Tall by Javaka Steptoe

  • Brown Like Me by Noelle Lamperti

  • Hairs/Pelitos by Sandra Cisneros

  • We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson

  • I Love Saturdays y domingos by Alma Flor Ada

  • Happy to be Nappy by bell hooks
  • The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales by Virginia Hamilton

  • The Twelve Dancing Princesses by Rachel Isadora

  • Shortcut by Donald Crews

  • Beautiful Blackbird by Ashley Bryan

  • You Can Do It by Tony Dungy

  • Shake It, Morena! by Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

  • Girls Hold Up This World by Jada Pinkett-Smith

And last, but certainly not least ...

  • Of Thee I Sing: A Letter to My Daughters by Barack Obama

Now that she’s older, I’ve discovered there’s a huge need for books that speak to and target black and Latina kids. Some of the ones that are available have frighteningly advanced content — drug use, promiscuity — and less scandalous plots that paint young women as petty, backstabbing, and superficial.

I’m always getting questions from aspiring writers who want to get their careers started. So here’s my plea: we need authors to write books for black and Latina tweens, both girls and boys. If I was a fiction writer, I’d jump all over it. But that’s not my twist, so I gladly support those who do target that market and will cheerlead the others who hopefully come along. Let’s keep our kids reading.

What have been some of your child’s favorite books?

Image via Robynlou8/Flickr

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