Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Our Favorite Board Books with Non-White Main Characters

Being in a family of mixed ethnicities, and because we have welcomed 6 foster kiddos of different ethnicities than ourselves into our home and especially because we hope to adopt children of various ethnicities, I am very conscious about the skin tones of characters in the books we read and the toys we own.

Growing up, I had a few black and Asian dolls and went to a school with a lot of diversity (about half black, half white with a few Asian sprinkles, at the time these were about the only races represented our town), but I never thought much about it.  Different cultures and skin tones seemed normal to me, and I am blessed to have been raised by parents who didn't make skin tone a big deal one way or another.

Now as a parent myself, I want to continue in that pattern: raising our children to be exposed to many ethnicities without making a big deal out of it or patting ourselves on the back for being so open minded/diverse/multi-cultural, etc.  I want it to be natural for our kids to be use to people who look and sound different.  But I also find that I do need to be intentional in ways to make sure that this is happening.

One way that I do this is by making sure that we get books from the library with non-white main characters.  The vast majority of books that I see have white main characters, so I don't have to be intentional about picking those up, but to see anyone who isn't white is pretty rare.  And many of the books with non-white characters I do pick up end up being a disappointment (I wonder if they are only published as the token minority book and not because they have good quality writing and illustrations?).

Since we are still in the stage of life where many/most of the books we check out are board books, so I am most familiar with those.  I want to share three board books featuring non-white main characters that we have really been enjoying.

Waiting for Baby by Rachel Fuller - The first time I opened this book, I was so happy.  The child was mixed and the parents were of two different races!  This is the first book I have ever seen with that kind of family make up, and its close to my heart because that is how our family looks (currently).  It was also a very appropriate read for us recently, because it is about a family who is waiting for their second baby to come.  The writing style is very conversational, and makes it easy to talk about adding a new member to the family.  We read this over and over while waiting for Hudson, and had many conversations about him during that time because of this book.

Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim - Esther loves this book.  Every time we check it out, she asks to read it over and over again (good thing I also love the book!).  The illustrations are beautiful (I probably especially love them because they feature a lot of purple- my favorite color!).  I think she also really likes it because it has a song in the middle (Esther likes books with songs), to the tune of "Rock a Bye Baby", with different words.  This is a sweet, sweet book.

Whose Toes are Those? by Jabari Asim - This is a really cute book by the same author (and possibly the same illustrator?) as Girl of Mine.  Like Girl of Mine, it has a nursery rhyme in the middle ("This Little Piggy") and Esther always gets a kick out of the piggy going "wee wee wee".  The illustrations are gorgeous, and the writing very poetic.  This is another book that gets read frequently when it is checked out from the library.

Unfortunately, I have yet to find a book (board book or paper) about another under represented minority... large families.  Almost every book I've seen has one or two kids in the family.  I think I've seen one with three children.  I'm sure books about families with more than three kids don't make it past the PC police at the book publishers, since those families are clearly contributing to world overpopulation...

What books would you add to this list?

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