Race and racism has been a topic at the forefront of most people’s thoughts recently, especially in the light of the protests following George Floyd’s tragic death. Those of us with children may be trying to figure out a way to talk to our children about race, if we haven’t yet had this conversation. To help, many news outlets and blogs have been publishing lists of children’s book recommendations to help introduce and explain racism and African American history to children.
While we understand and acknowledge the importance of these types of books, we understand that it’s also important to read books about African American children and adults in every day situations, not only in books that specifically discuss race or African American history. It’s important for African American children to see themselves in books outside of anti-racism and African American history books, and it’s important for non-African American children as well. Think: Ezra Keats’ “The Snowy Day,” which features an African American boy and his adventures in the snow.
On that note, our recommendations feature a mix of books specifically geared towards educating children about African American history and racism, and books about every day life. Furthermore, since our work involves supporting dads, almost all of the books below feature African American (or Canadian) dads and their children.
We hope you check out some of these books, and please feel free to pass this list on to anyone who might be interested!
- My Daddy, Martin Luther King Jr./ By Martin Luther King III, Illustrated by AG Ford. One of Martin Luther King Jr.’s most famous quotes is, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” However, what do we know of Martin Luther King Jr.’s children, and what do we know about what Martin Luther King Jr. was like as a father? Martin Luther King III, one of the children mentioned in his dad’s “I Have a Dream” speech, answers these questions in this dad-themed history book.
2. Antiracist Baby / by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. If you want to raise an activist from Day One, we recommend this book! It’s also a great way to introduce anti-racist concepts to your child.
3. Rosa: My First Rosa Parks/ Little People, Big Dreams series/ by Lisabeth Kaiser / illustrated by Marta Antelo. Although this book isn’t dad-themed, it’s also a good way to introduce your child to the history of racism, via one of the most prominent civil rights activists of the 1960s. This book is also a good starting point to discuss race.
4. My Daddy Rules the World / written and illustrated by Hope Anita Smith. We previously recommended this book in another post, but it bears mentioning again. This book celebrates everyday moments between fathers and their children, from bike-riding to wrestling matches to bedtime snuggles. Each quiet paper-cut illustration is accompanied by a poem. This is a lovely book that will help diversify any child’s bookshelf.
5. The Big Bed by Bunmi Laditan/ illustrated by Tom Knight. A universal struggle that any parent and child can relate to! This little girl does not want to sleep in her own bed, so, like any smart toddler, she decides to give her dad his own bed: a cot!
6. Jabari Jumps written and illustrated by Gaia Cornwall
This one is a favorite at the Rad Dad house! (Although, due to the price of the book, we haven’t included it in our boxes.) Jabari goes to the pool with his dad and little sister. He wants to jump off the high dive, but when his turn comes, he finds every reason to procrastinate. His dad helps him overcome his fears, and Jabari heads for the diving board! As someone who hasn’t been on the high dive since the age of eight, I can say that all of us could use encouragement from a dad like Jabari’s. This book is perfect summertime and Rad Dad read.
7. You See, I See: In the City by Michelle Sinclair Colman/ illustrated by Paul Schmid. This sweet and simple book was included in our February 2020: Explore box. Colman and Schmid take us through a dad and daughter’s day out in the city, exploring it from their different perspectives: “You see big skyscrapers / I see morning papers.” Babies especially will love the minimalist illustrations (ours does!), and the most important message is that, in spite of their differing views, “In all the places that we see / I love you and you love me.”
8. Clean Up, Up, Up! by Ellen Mayer / illustrated by Ying-Hwa Hu. Those of you who are familiar with Maria Montessori’s work will enjoy this book, as it’s a realistic book that teaches practical life skills: cleaning up after oneself! We also enjoy it as it features a loving father figure and diverse family in an every day setting. (Spoiler alert: we will probably be including this book in a box later this year!) We also recommend checking out the companion book, A Fish to Feed, featuring the same father-daughter duo.
9. Daddy’s Mini-Me by Arnold Henry/ Illustrated by Ted M. Sandiford. By Instagram Dad sensation Arnold Henry, this is another book that, due to its cost, didn’t make it into our boxes. A proud dad cheers on his son’s developmental milestones as he grows, and showing us how important a dad’s presence is in a child’s life.
10. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley/ illustrated by E.B. Lewis. It’s Miles’ first visit to the barbershop, and he’s scared. However, with gentle encouragement from his dad (and chocolate milk!), Miles is able to overcome his fear and decide on what kind of cut he would like. We love this book for its beautiful, realistic watercolor illustrations and the caring father figure.
11. Honorable mention: Papa, do you love me? by Barbara Joosse/ illustrated by Barbara Lavallee. A follow-up to the best-selling “Mama, do you love me?” this beautifully illustrated book is set in Africa among the Maasai culture.
Though this is by no means a comprehensive list, we hope that it gives you some ideas for diverse dad additions to your children’s bookshelf! Do you have a favorite book featuring a diverse dad that we didn’t mention? Please leave it in the comments below!