When I became a mother, I knew I wanted to pass on my love for books and reading to my children. I figured I needed to buy them age appropriate books to start them on this reading journey, so I went to Google. There was just one problem – I was not intentional enough in my Google search. A quick search for “Books for toddlers” got me a very western (and white-male centered) best sellers list.
I did not specify that I wanted books about girls, African girls, for that matter. Neither did I specify that the books should speak to the African experience; and be sympathetic to the messages my girls needed to hear to navigate the complex world they were born into. I did not specify that I wanted books that would empower my girls, lift their souls, and acknowledge their experiences, with central, dynamic characters they could relate with; characters who would then become constant affirmation-whispering companions during their internal monologues for years to come. No the simple google search was not enough. I had to be very intentional about finding the books to reinforce and validate the strong personalities my girls were already brimming with.
Over time, I learned precision in finding such treasures, especially board books my kids could flip through by themselves and without damage. As such, our library is full of books that reflect diversity and protagonist characters that look like my daughters, intentionally reminding them that girls and women just like them are worthy, and do amazing things. Why? Because trust me, they will be bombarded with enough negative self imagery from TV and the ‘Western classics’ foisted on them at school.
One day, one of my daughters was doubting herself while attempting an exercise. I said to her “Remember, girls can do anything”. The self doubt immediately disappeared from her face and her eyes cleared up. She remembered, believed and tried again. It was like I spoke gospel. Intentionality has been proven to work for bad, but it also works for good.
These are some of the books that my 2 and 3 year olds love. This is certainly not an exhaustive list of the amazing books out there. But it might be a helpful start for like-minded parents of kids at similar ages. I will try to keep it updated as our library expands. Please feel free to share suggestions you may have, especially ones by authors from the continent.
- Don’t touch my hair – by Sharee Miller
- ABC What can she be? – By Sugar Snap studio
- I am enough – by Brace Byers
- Girls can do anything – by Caryl Hat and Ali Pye
- Sulwe – by Lupita Nyongo
- Maya – My first Maya Angelou
- Dream Big Little one – by Vashti Harrison
- Princess hair – by Sharee Miller
- Aerospace engineering – by Ruth Spiro
- I know a lot – by Stephen Krensky
- Mary had a little glam – by Tammi Sauer
- Ada Twist, Scientist – by Andrea Beaty
- Goodnight stories for rebel girls – by Francesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli
- Not all princesses dress in pink – Jane Yolen and Heidi Elisabeth Yolen Stemple
- I like myself – Karen Beaumont
- Hair love – Matthew Cherry
- I got the rhythm – Frank Morrison
- When God made you – Matthew Paul Turner
- Please, baby, please – Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
- Tobi Bakes a Cake – Olubunmi Aboderin Talabi
Photocredit: Shaquel Painting by Nicole Minnis