By: Cara Kneer
As our country continues to listen to voices speaking out against racism, it's important that we also include our children in the discussion. Keeping an open dialogue is important to inform and educate us all on being anti-racist, and books can certainly help. If you’re looking for a place to start the conversation, please keep reading!
My children are 8 months, 4 and 7 years old. Ever since my husband and I began reading to them, we have been cognizant of selecting books with characters who don’t look like them. Surround your children with people of different creeds, race and thought; in life and on the literal pages you turn at night before bedtime. It will enhance their very being and introduce them to a culture to be learned and celebrated. Ok, back to the books. Here are the winners of the 2019 Coretta Scott King Book Awards. The awards are given to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.
Commonsense.org does a great job reviewing each of these books. I’ve laid out some excerpts of each review. Below you can find links directly to the reviews to learn much more about each book! Here’s a sneak peak into what commonsense.org writes.
- PRESCHOOL (AGES 2-4) – Sulwe is the first picture book by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o. It tells the story of a little girl who “was born the color of midnight” and feels she’s treated differently than her lighter-skinned friends & family members because of it. The tale takes a magical turn when a star comes in her bedroom and takes her on a journey explaining the mythological origins of Day and Night -- who are sisters. After learning about the value and beauty of the dark night, she can embrace her dark skin, and feels "beautiful inside and out!"
- LITTLE KIDS (AGES 5-7) – The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander is a tribute to African American heroes and regular folks who faced struggles, prejudice and oppression and survived -- as well as those who didn't. Just a few of the historical figures & events featured include John Lewis, the American civil rights movement activist, Duke Ellington, LeBron James, Trayvon Martin and many more. While there are no images or descriptions of graphic violence, the author doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the pain & suffering because so much of American history “has been forgotten, left out of the textbooks, and to truly know who we are as a country, we have to accept and embrace all of our woes & wonders.”
- BIG KIDS (AGES 8-9) – New Kid by Jerry Craft is a graphic novel that chronicles the year-long adjustment of an African American boy from Washington Heights to seventh grade at a private, predominantly white middle school at the opposite end of Manhattan, in the Bronx.
- TWEENS (AGES 10-12) – Look Both Ways: A Tale Told in Ten Blocks by Jason Reynolds is a set of 10 interconnected short stories set in the context of kids walking home from school. It doesn't follow a conventional structure with a beginning, middle and end. Each story can stand alone, but together they add up to a bigger picture making it a good match for readers who get impatient with long chapter books. It’s also great for advanced readers who can appreciate the literary qualities.
- TEENS (13+) – The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus is a work of magical-realism about two teen girls who fall in love and how their relationship grows after one of them receives a life-threatening diagnosis. It alternates between the two girls' points of view: Audre, who grew up in Trinidad and moves to her father's home in Minnesota, and Mabel, who grew up in Minnesota.
And, here is a BONUS! Ibram X Kendi is an American author, historian and leading scholar of race and discriminatory policy in America. Seek him out. He can be seen often on CBS This Morning or search his name wherever you listen to podcasts. You will learn something, I promise. He explains how culture and behavior essentially make us all racists. And how important it is to identify and undo the norms of the society we were brought up in. Most of it seeped into our subconscious. Undoing those ingrained ways of thought and being will take work. It will take a lot of WORK. Let's keep it going - or get started. Wherever you happen to be on your journey. Anyway, back to Ibram X Kendi. He wrote How To Be An Anti-Racist, which is a must read. But just in the last few weeks he released a children's book, AntiRacist Baby. He says it's for ages 0-5. I will be reading it to all of my kids.
No matter how or where you were raised, it's important to talk about race; To make sure your children know that racism isn't fixed. It will take work. But I do believe, if we all try, we can make the future brighter for ALL of us. For our brothers and sisters of color deserve our effort, our time and most importantly our ally-ship.
About the books:
Cara Kneer is a mother of three and wife. She has worked/reported at KUTV (Salt Lake City) and WTHR (Indianapolis). Cara currently hosts a lifestyle show in Atlanta for the local NBC affiliate.