Gathering together and reading beautiful picture books is one of our favorite experiences as a homeschooling family. I notice my children’s eyes sparkle whenever they see gorgeous illustrations of people who look like them—when they read inspiring stories written by people who look like them. It’s a different kind of glow. One that exudes confidence and affirmation. They gaze a little longer, engage a little deeper, and dream a little bigger. Suddenly, they’re inspired to write books of their own and become black authors in their own right.
I’ve come to learn that representation not only matters in picture books but also in the people who write them. Children who see themselves in black authors begin to explore the idea of becoming a writer of their own one day. Today, I’m sharing ten picture books written by black authors that will make great additions to your children’s library. Some of these books are very popular, but I also include books we love that deserve more recognition.
Lastly, you don’t have to be a person of color to enjoy books written by black authors. Like any book, they are for everyone! Reading books about, and by, people of different races and cultures provides rich learning experiences for all children.
1. Vashti Harrison
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History features 18 trailblazing women in American history that inspired generations to come. The book includes adorable illustrations with a one page summary of each woman’s life. Suitable especially for children from eight to twelve-years-old, or who are reading at a third to seventh-grade reading level.
2. Grace Byers
I Am Enough is a #1 New York Times Bestseller. The book is a beautiful collection of positive affirmations to empower young readers—especially little girls of color. The illustrations are amazingly vibrant and will be a great addition to any child’s bookshelf. Most suitable for ages four to eight years.
3. Ayesha Rodriguez
I Am: Positive Affirmations for Brown Boys is a collection of rhyming verses followed by positive affirmations to inspire young readers. The book is a great tool to help build confidence and self-esteem in brown boys of all ages. As a bonus, this affirmations book also includes a chapter for daily activities and discussion questions.
4. Tami Charles
All Because You Matter features amazing illustrations and an incredible message. It’s a reminder to young readers that their worth should never be diminished. The book also inspires parents, caregivers, and educators to become more mindful about speaking positively to the brown children in their lives.
5. LaTashia M. Perry
Imagination Like Mine celebrates self-expression and encourages confidence in young readers. The book takes readers on a journey through the wonders and freedom of the imagination while reinforcing the message that the best thing anyone can be is themselves. Suitable for any child from age one to twelve years.
6. Kimberly Brown Pellum, PhD
Black Women In Science shares fifteen incredible biographies about black women who blazed the trail across STEM fields. Bessie Coleman, Dr. Patricia Bath, Gladys West, and Mae Carol Jemison are among the notable mentions in this book. Best suited for children from age nine to twelve years, or children reading at a fourth to sixth-grade reading level.
7. Matthew A. Cherry
Hair Love is a celebration of natural hair. The illustrations are stunning and capture the beauty of the unique texture and styles that natural hair brings. A great read for any child, but specifically marketed to children from age four to eight years.
8. G.Todd Taylor
Dad, Who Will I Be? encourages young readers to aim for the stars and be great. The book introduces children to heroes of color from many different professions while encouraging the idea of setting goals and establishing purpose. The reading level is age seven to eight years.
Africa Amazing Africa: Country by Country is a beautiful picture book that celebrates all 55 countries on the African continent. The book explores the geography, people, animals, history, resources, and cultural diversity of each unique African country. A great read for all ages, but best suited for children age seven to twelve years.
10. Jehan Jones-Radgowski
The Escape of Robert Smalls is a thrilling story detailing the true account of an unsung American hero. The book is about an enslaved man named Robert who impersonates a captain and carries out a dangerous plan of escape during the deadly U.S. Civil War. A great read for children age nine to twelve years, or who are reading at a third to sixth-grade reading level.
Need more book recommendations for black history? Check out the following blog posts: