We 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.