Representation is key in children’s literature. When kids see themselves reflected in the books they read, they not only feel seen and heard, but they also learn important lessons about self-esteem, confidence, and inclusion. This is particularly true when it comes to black hair.
The Importance of Representation in Children’s Literature
Black hair – kinky, coiled, curly, thick, and beautiful – has historically been marginalized in the media and popular culture. In children’s literature, though, authors and illustrators are taking steps to challenge these narrow beauty standards and celebrate black hair for the unique and diverse expressions of identity they represent. These books not only affirm the beauty of black hair but also empower young readers to embrace their own hair and cultural heritage.
Building Self-Esteem and Confidence
Children’s books that celebrate black hair can help young readers develop a positive self-image and build self-esteem and confidence. When kids see characters who look like them and love themselves and their hair, they are more likely to feel the same way about themselves. This is especially important for children of color who may not see themselves represented in mainstream media. Encouraging a positive self-image during childhood is crucial to developing a strong sense of self and emotional resilience that kids can carry into adulthood.
“I Love My Hair”
For instance, the book “I Love My Hair” by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley tells the story of a young girl who learns to love and appreciate her natural hair. Through colorful illustrations and relatable storytelling, the book encourages young readers to embrace their own hair and celebrate their unique beauty.
Similarly, “Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison tells the story of a father learning to style his daughter’s hair for the first time. The book celebrates the bond between a father and daughter and showcases the beauty of black hair in all its diverse textures and styles.
Encouraging Diversity and Inclusion
Children’s books that celebrate black hair also encourage diversity and inclusion by showcasing the beauty of different hair textures and styles. These books offer a window into cultures and experiences that may be different from the reader’s own and can teach important lessons about empathy and acceptance. When kids see diverse representations in the media they consume, it helps to normalize and celebrate differences and make the world a more inclusive place.
One such book is “Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut” by Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James. The book celebrates the experience of getting a fresh haircut at the barbershop and the confidence it instills in young black boys. Through vivid illustrations and poetic language, the book showcases the beauty and diversity of black hair and the importance of self-care.
Overall, children’s literature that celebrates black hair is an important step towards greater representation and inclusivity in media. By showcasing the beauty and diversity of black hair, these books empower young readers to embrace their own identities and appreciate the unique beauty of others.
Picture Books That Showcase Beautiful Black Hair
Picture books are an excellent way to introduce young children to the beauty and diversity of black hair. Not only do they provide a fun and engaging reading experience, but they also celebrate black hair in all its glory, helping to instill a sense of pride and self-confidence in young readers. Here are some excellent examples that you and your child will love:
Books for Toddlers and Preschoolers
“Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut“
- Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
- In this beautifully illustrated book, a young black boy visits the barbershop and experiences the transformation that comes with a fresh haircut. The book celebrates the ritual of going to the barbershop and the pride that comes with looking and feeling your best. Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
- This charming book follows a young girl as she visits her father’s barbershop for a haircut. Along the way, she learns about the different hairstyles that her family and friends wear and discovers the joy and community that comes with getting a haircut. Happy to be Nappy by Bell Hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka
This joyful book celebrates the beauty and versatility of natural black hair. Through playful rhymes and vibrant illustrations, the book encourages young readers to embrace their natural hair and take pride in their unique beauty.
Books for Early Readers
- Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
- This heartwarming story follows a young girl and her father as they attempt to create the perfect hairstyle for a special occasion. Along the way, they discover the love and bond that comes with caring for each other’s hair. The book also includes an important message about the importance of representation in media. Mighty Mojo by MJ Beaufrand, illustrated by Randy DuBurke
- This action-packed book follows a young superhero with a powerful afro as he fights crime and saves the day. The book celebrates the strength and resilience of black hair while also providing a fun and exciting adventure for young readers. A is for Afro by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
This delightful alphabet book celebrates black hair and the many different styles and textures that it can take. From afros to braids to twists, the book encourages young readers to embrace the beauty and diversity of black hair.
These books are just a few examples of the many wonderful picture books that celebrate black hair. By reading and sharing these stories with your child, you can help to instill a sense of pride and self-confidence in them, while also promoting diversity and representation in children’s literature.
Chapter Books That Feature Black Hair and Culture
Chapter books allow readers to explore black hair and culture in more depth. Here are some excellent examples:
Books for Middle-Grade Readers
For middle-grade readers, The Crossover by Kwame Alexander is a great choice. This novel-in-verse tells the story of twin brothers who are basketball stars. The book explores themes of family, friendship, and growing up, all while celebrating black hair and culture.
“One Crazy Summer“
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia is another fantastic middle-grade novel that features black hair and culture. The book follows three sisters who travel to Oakland, California to spend the summer with their estranged mother, who is involved in the Black Panther movement. Through their experiences, the sisters learn about their family history and the importance of standing up for what they believe in.
“Stef Soto, Taco Queen“
Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres is a fun and heartwarming middle-grade novel about a girl named Stef who is embarrassed by her parents’ taco truck business. As she navigates middle school and tries to fit in with her classmates, Stef learns to embrace her family’s culture and the delicious food they create.
Books for Young Adults
“The Hate U Give“
For young adult readers, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a must-read. The book tells the story of Starr, a black teenager who witnesses the police shooting of her unarmed friend. As she grapples with the aftermath of the shooting, Starr must find her voice and stand up for justice. Along the way, the book celebrates black hair and culture, as Starr’s hair is a symbol of her identity and pride.
American Street by Ibi Zoboi is another powerful young adult novel that explores black hair and culture. The book follows a Haitian immigrant named Fabiola who moves to Detroit with her mother. As she navigates her new life in America, Fabiola must confront difficult truths about her family and her community. Throughout the book, Fabiola’s hair is a symbol of her Haitian culture and her connection to her ancestors.
“The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo”
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo is a stunning novel-in-verse about a Dominican-American girl named Xiomara who discovers her love for poetry. As she struggles to find her voice and express herself, Xiomara also grapples with the expectations placed on her by her family and her community. The book celebrates the beauty and power of natural hair, as Xiomara learns to embrace her curls and the unique identity they represent.
Non-Fiction Books That Celebrate Black Kid’s Hair
When it comes to black hair, there is so much more to learn beyond just the basics. Biographies and non-fiction books offer a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the history and culture surrounding black hair. These books not only provide insight into the experiences of black individuals, but they also serve as a source of inspiration and education for people of all backgrounds.
Hair Love: A Celebration of Dads and Daughters Nappy and Happy
One inspiring story that has gained widespread popularity is “Hair Love: A Celebration of Dads and Daughters Nappy and Happy” by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison. This heartwarming children’s book tells the story of a father who learns to do his daughter’s hair for the first time. Through this touching tale, readers are reminded of the importance of self-love and acceptance, as well as the beauty of the bond between a father and daughter.
I Love My Hair: A Coloring Book of Braids, Coils, and Doodle Dos
Another book that celebrates black hair is “I Love My Hair: A Coloring Book of Braids, Coils, and Doodle Dos” by Andrea Pippins. This interactive coloring book offers a fun and creative way for people of all ages to explore and embrace the diversity of black hairstyles. From intricate braids to bold afros, this book celebrates the unique beauty of black hair.
For those interested in the history and cultural significance of black hair, “Nappy Hair” by Carolivia Herron, illustrated by Joe Cepeda, is a must-read. This book tells the story of a young girl who proudly wears her “nappy” hair despite the negative comments of her classmates. Through her journey of self-acceptance, readers are introduced to the rich history and cultural significance of black hair.
A Kid’s Book About Black Hair
In addition to these inspiring stories, there are also educational books that provide valuable information on hair care and history. “A Kids Book About Black Hair” by LaToya Council is a great resource for parents and educators looking to teach children about the importance of hair care and self-love. This book covers topics such as hair texture, hair care routines, and the history of black hair.
Hair Rules!: The Ultimate Hair Care Guide for Women with Kinky, Curly, or Wavy Hair
For those looking for a more in-depth guide to hair care, “Hair Rules!: The Ultimate Hair Care Guide for Women with Kinky, Curly, or Wavy Hair” by Anthony Dickey is a comprehensive resource. This book offers practical advice on everything from choosing the right products to creating a healthy hair care routine. With tips from industry experts and personal anecdotes from the author, this book is a must-read for anyone looking to improve their hair care knowledge.
Natural Woman: Memoir of a Hair Journey
Finally, “Natural Woman: Memoir of a Hair Journey” by Terez Mertes Rose offers a personal account of one woman’s journey to embracing her natural hair. Through her own experiences, Rose explores the societal pressures surrounding hair and the importance of self-acceptance. This book is a powerful reminder that our hair is a reflection of our identity and should be celebrated as such.
In conclusion, whether you are looking for inspiration, education, or simply a good read, there is no shortage of biographies and non-fiction books about black hair. These books offer a unique perspective on the history and culture surrounding black hair, as well as valuable information on hair care and self-love.
Award-Winning Books That Celebrate Black Hair
These award-winning books have been recognized for their contributions to children’s literature featuring black hair:
Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners
- Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James
- The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
- X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz with Kekla Magoon
Other Notable Awards and Recognitions
- The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas – Michael L. Printz honor and William C. Morris Award finalist
- The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – National Book Award for Young People’s Literature
- American Street by Ibi Zoboi – National Book Award for Young People’s Literature finalist
Overall, children’s books that celebrate black hair not only affirm the beauty of black hair but also contribute to a larger conversation about representation, diversity, and inclusion. By including these books in your child’s reading repertoire, you’re contributing to a more accepting, empathetic, and inclusive world.
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