Looking for the best African-American children's books offers parents and teachers a chance to highlight books that depicts the unique African-American experience as well as the everyday life of a child, regardless of skin color.
Reading Books with African-American Themes
A book with African-American characters is important to include on your child's reading list for a number of reasons. Even if you and your child are not African-American, children's stories with race themes present a diverse world and new perspectives that promote understanding to children, regardless of skin color.
African-American books also present issues that include:
- Cultural identity and heritage
- History of racial struggles
- Everyday experiences of children
Choose an African-American book for your child that relates to his or her studies, questions about identity or with a rich story. The picture books offer an introduction to literature and reading that allows African-American children to see someone who looks like them as part of the story. Reading is important, and one way to get kids excited about reading is to find a character who they relate to on a personal level.
Great African-American Children's Books
African-American picture books for kids offer a variety of stories. The illustrated books range from books about black history to imaginative tales featuring African-American characters. In virtually every age group, a book is available with African-American themes.
Suggestions for some great books available at Amazon.com with African-American characters in a variety of situations include:
- Baby Dance: Follow the actions in this infant and toddler book about a father keeping a baby happy while the child's mother sleeps.
- Come On, Rain: Beautiful prose describes a child in the city as she eagerly awaits a downpour of rain.
- Amazing Grace: Grace proves to her classmates and herself she can do anything she wants, no matter her gender or color of her skin.
- My Brother Charlie: Charlie and Callie are twins, but with one major difference: Charlie has autism.
- Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters: This African folktale features two daughters and their travels as they vie to become the king's wife.
- Harvey Potter's Balloon Farm: This highly entertaining imaginative book features a balloon farmer who teaches a young girl the magical tricks to his trade.
- Tar Beach: A young girl imagines herself flying over New York City in this tale set on a family rooftop they refer to as "tar beach."
Of course, many more excellent African-American children's books are available. Ask a librarian or teacher to recommend ones that have a theme that fits with your child's current interests. Evaluate children's literature for African-American books for kids like any other books-look for classic tales with engaging characters and an underlying theme or morality.
Award Winning Books Featuring African-American Characters
Seek out award winning books that feature African-American characters when looking for a new story to introduce to your child. Two of the most prominent awards in children's books for African-Americans are the Coretta Scott King African-American Children's Book Awards and the John Steptoe Awards for New Talent in Black Children's Books.
Recent winners and honorees of these awards include:
- Bad News for Outlaws: The Remarkable Life of Bass Reeves, Deputy U.S. Marshal: A true American hero, Bass Reeves was the first African-American deputy U.S. marshal in history and this book depicts his story.
- My People: A short lyrical verse accompanies the stunning photographs of African-American people in this book.
- Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes: Introduce poetry to children with this collection of poems by Langston Hughes that are creatively illustrated.
- Bird: A young African-American boy with artistic skills learns about life, death, and drugs though his mentors in this book for youngsters aimed at ages 9-12.
The American Library Association evaluates books each year and gives the awards to the books that meet their criteria. These honored books are sure to be a wonderful addition to any children's book collection, especially a collection featuring African-American characters and themes.
Include a variety of people and experiences in the books in your child's library, including African-American children's books. These books highlight strong characters, promote diversity to a child of any skin color, and offer young African-American children characters they identify with on many levels.