Books We’re Reading with Black Characters and Adoption Themes

Adoption booksWe read a lot at our house. Miles would rather read a book than do just about anything else (except play outside). We visit the library a couple of times a week to freshen our supply and are always on the lookout for books to buy.

One thing you notice as a transracial adoptive parent is that the majority of children’s books out there feature white characters. Growing up white, this was just the norm for me and I never really thought about how fortunate I was to have book characters and heroes that looked like me. When you have a child of color, you quickly realize how privileged that is and that you’re going to have to look a little harder to find books that reflect your child’s skin tone and hair texture.

Children’s Books with Black Characters

By far, Miles’ favorite book right now is Taye Diggs’ debut effort, Chocolate Me! He love, love, loves this book and asks me to read it to him several times each day. The little boy in the book looks just like him–something I think he notices now. Whenever we read this one, he imitates the little boy, holding or pointing to his face and spreading his arms wide when the little boy does. The message is empowering: chocolate skin is beautiful.


For Christmas, my brother got Miles The Snowy Day, a classic Caldecott Medal winner by Ezra Jack Keats. Miles really likes this one, too, about a little boy who gets bundled up and enjoys a beautiful snowy day outside.


Spike Lee and his wife Tonya Lewis Lee teamed up with Kadir Nelson to write and illustrate another of our favorite books, Please, Puppy, Please. The illustrations are awesome in this one–we love the kids and the puppy (the kitty, too).


Books about Adoption and Family (for tots)

Now that Miles is getting a little older, I’ve started looking for books with adoption themes as well. On a recommendation, we got two books by Todd Parr, a children’s writer who tackles tough subjects in sensitive ways. The Family Book is all about the many different kinds of families. The illustrations are basic — stick figures really — but it’s colorful and Miles seems to like it.


We Belong Together is a book about adoption and families, similar in style and looks to The Family Book but focused on adoption. I feel like these two books are age-appropriate for Miles right now (not yet two) and a good introduction to a complicated subject. He’s not ready for too many details but it’s time that we start talking about adoption and family in ways that he can understand.


We’re discovering more all the time, so I will write regularly about what we’re reading. If you have recommendations for books about adoption or with characters of color, I’d love to hear them. There’s no such thing as too many books!

p.s. These books would be good to read to white children, too, and kids with traditional families–it would serve them well to see characters of color and diversity in families so they can learn to be empathetic adults.


9 thoughts on “Books We’re Reading with Black Characters and Adoption Themes

  1. One of the books on our Littlest’s shelf is Spike and Tonya Lewis Lee’s Please Baby Please – it’s about a little girl, but sweet, all the same. Looks like the same illustrator as Please, Puppy Please.

    The blog White Sugar, Brown Sugar posted a great article back in August that you might’ve seen – it’s got some great ideas that Miles might like!

    Reading together is such an important thing – it’s probably my earliest memory with my parents and was a nightly ritual – there are stories of my refusal to go to bed without reading at least for a little bit. I’m so glad this is part of Miles’ experience (and yours too, as parents!) This is one of the things we look forward to most some day 🙂

    1. Thanks, Ethan! I’ll check that post out from White Sugar, Brown Sugar and add Please, Baby, Please to my list. I love that illustrator. Reading together IS so important. We read every night and at times during the day, he’ll bring a book over to me to read to him. It’s so great how much he enjoys it. I can’t wait for it to be your turn to do the reading!

  2. Pingback: What I’m Reading This Week on Race | My Real Kid: life as a transracial adoptive mom

  3. Beth

    We love “Whose Toes are Those”, “Girl of Mine” (there is a boy of mine), and “Whose Knees are These” all by Jabari Asim and “I Can Do It Too” by Karen Baicker. I’m not sure how old your boy is, but our 1 year old loves these books!

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