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28 Awesome African American Children's Books for Little Readers

From educational biographies to beautiful picture books, these kid-friendly reads are a perfect way to celebrate Black History Month as a family.
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February 2, 2022
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It’s so important for kids to see diverse characters in the books they read. But it hasn’t always been easy to find kids’ books focused on the Black experience. Thankfully, many publishers have upped their game in recent years by adding more African American children’s books to their collections. And nowadays, there are many inspiring and educational options to check out, from kid-friendly Black history books to beautiful stories written by African American authors and illustrators. Whether you’re looking for a way to involve your child in Black History Month this year, or simply want to add some inclusive options to your kiddo’s bookshelf, the perfect bedtime story is waiting for you. Ready to start browsing? Check out our pick of the best African American children’s books for little ones ranging from 0 to 8 years old.

African American Children’s Books: Ages 0-3

Your little one is never too young to enjoy a good book. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has stated that reading books with a child beginning in early infancy can boost vocabulary and reading skills later in life. Here, you’ll find African American picture books from acclaimed authors, for even the youngest babies and toddlers.

Image: Courtesy Amazon

The Snowy Day

Searching for classic Black children’s books? Take a stroll down memory lane with The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. It tells the story of Peter, a little boy who embarks on a winter adventure through his neighborhood. This charming tale has enduring appeal, so it’s no surprise to hear that the board book earned the top spot on New York Public Library’s list of “Top Check Outs of All Time.”

Age: 0 to 2-years-old

Buy it: The Snowy Day Board Book by Ezra Jack Keats, starting from $7, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Bookshop

Whose Toes Are Those?

This rhyming tale has a sing-song cadence that baby will love to hear read aloud. Inspired by the giggle-inducing game of “this little piggy” (yes, you know the one!), this board book has lush illustrations and a simple narrative that’s perfect for infants and tots. Snuggle with your mini and recite the story as you count their toes.

Age: 0 to 3-years-old

Buy it: Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim and Leuyen Pham ,$8, Bookshop.org

Image: Courtesy Nordstrom

Reggae First Playlist

Introduce baby to reggae with this interactive songbook. The board book features lyrics from Bob Marley’s biggest hits accompanied by sweet animal illustrations. Plus, each sturdy page has a built-in sound button—encourage your little songbird to press the button to hear a clip and kickstart a sing-along.

Age: 6 months to 4-years-old

Buy it: Calis Books Reggae First Playlist Sing-Along Board Book, $24, Nordstrom.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Love You Head to Toe

Next up is a sweet, read-aloud book by illustrator Ashley Barron. The playful tale compares newborns to baby animals, by illustrating the different yet strikingly similar activities they take part in each day. We love the colorful, cut-paper collage art depicting babies of all ethnicities with their caregivers.

Age: 0 to 3-years-old

Buy it: Love You Head to Toe Board book by Ashley Barron, $10, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Bookshop

Antiracist Baby

This award-winning African American children’s book is one that should be on every family’s shelf. Written for readers young and old, this illustrated book introduces the concept and power of antiracism to kids of all ages.

Age: 0 to 3-years-old

Buy it: Antiracist Baby Board Book by Ibram X. Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky, $9, Bookshop.org

Image: Courtesy Nordstrom

Brown Baby Lullaby

This African American children’s book follows two parents lovingly caring for their baby from sunrise to sunset. Spanish words are peppered throughout the story, making it a great option for bilingual families. Plus, warm illustrations by AG Ford—the recipient of two NAACP Image Awards—bring this humble tale to life.

Age: 2 to 6-years-old

Buy it: Brown Baby Lullaby book by Tameka Fryer Brown, $17, Nordstrom.com

Image: Courtesy Bookshop

Respect: A Children’s Picture Book

Otis Redding’s classic song “Respect”—a smash hit recorded by Aretha Franklin—has been reimagined as an empowering, African American children’s book exploring the concept of mutual respect. Told through the eyes of a little girl, the iconic lyrics are paired with inspiring vignettes of a life full of endless possibilities. One thing’s for sure—you’ll be tapping your foot as you read this book aloud.

Age: 0 to 7-years-old

Buy it: Respect: A Children’s Picture Book by Otis Redding and Rachel Moss, $17, Bookshop.org

Image: Courtesy Nordstrom

Dear Black Boy

Playing sports is a wonderful outlet for boys and girls alike. This book is a letter of encouragement to Black boys, which teaches them to apply the lessons they’ve learned as athletes, such as dedication, passion and determination, to the game of life.

Age: 2 to 6-years-old

Buy it: Imagination Agency Dear Black Boy book by Martellus Bennett, $18, Nordstrom.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Please, Puppy, Please

We’ve shared a bunch of children’s books by African American authors, but this writer might especially pique your interest: It’s movie director (and household name) Spike Lee! The celebrity took a step away from the screen to pen a super-sweet book with his wife. The tale follows two adorable siblings and their new, feisty puppy.

Age: 2 to 8-years-old

Buy it: Please, Puppy, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee, $12, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Barnes and Noble

My Little Golden Book About Misty Copeland

Raising a dancer? Even if you’re not, ballerina Misty Copeland—the first female African American principal dancer with the prestigious American Ballet Theater—is an excellent role model. This pretty picture book introduces early readers to her life story.

Age: 2 to 5-years-old

Buy it: My Little Golden Book About Misty Copeland by Sherri L. Smith and Tara Nicole Whitaker, $6, BarnesandNoble.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Dream Big, Little One

Featuring trailblazing Black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is an inspiring read for parents and tots. Focused on extraordinary role models like Ella Fitzgerald, Oprah Winfrey and Katherine Johnson (to name a few!), this book illustrates the fact that little girls can grow up to achieve anything.

Age: 0 to 3-years-old

Buy it: Dream Big, Little One by Vashtie Harrison, $5, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Bookshop

A Is for All the Things You Are: A Joyful ABC Book

An alphabet board book is a must-have for toddlers and preschoolers. This pick was developed by the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and each letter is linked to a different trait kids can cultivate as they grow older. The Black children’s book supports the development of racial identity, the joy of human diversity and inclusion, a sense of justice and so much more.

Age: 0 to 7-years-old

Buy it: A Is for All the Things You Are: A Joyful ABC Book by Anna Forgerson Hindley, Nat’l Mus Afr Am Hist Culture, Keturah A. Bobo, $10, Bookshop.org

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Billy and the Beast

How about a modern-day fairy tale? In this whimsical story, Billy the female heroine battles a mythical beast to rescue her woodland friends.

Age: 2 to 5-years-old

Buy it: Billy and the Beast paperback by Nadia Shireen, $15, Amazon.com

African American Children’s Books: Ages 3+

Many of the books mentioned above are suitable for babies and slightly older children, but we’ve decided to add a few more options for kids over the age of 3, for good measure. Read on to discover a few of our favorite Black history books for children—plus, inspiring stories and adventurous tales featuring a diverse crew of characters.

Image: Courtesy Bookshop

I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything!

Check out this empowering African American children’s book, inspired by a viral video. The plot follows Ayaan, a little Black boy who overcomes feelings of self-doubt with a positive attitude and positive affirmations from his Mom.

Age: 3 to 7-years-old

Buy it: I Am Smart, I Am Blessed, I Can Do Anything! by Alissa Holder and Zulekha Holder-Young, $18, Bookshop.org

Image: Courtesy Nordstrom

The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete

Join Aya and her pet sloth Pete on their amazing adventures to Paris, London and New York. Created by a Black-owned business, the box set includes three hardcover books, packaged for travel in a convenient carry case.

Age: 3-years-old +

Buy it: The Amazing Adventures of Aya & Pete Set of 3 Books Gift Box Set, $59, Nordstrom.com

Image: Courtesy Barnes and Noble

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me

Here’s an African American children’s book focused on the work of the literary and art legends: Maya Angelou and Jean-Michel Basquiat. Angelou’s powerful poetry is matched with Basquit’s childlike paintings, with amazing results. Plus, we love the message about the power of having faith in yourself.

Age: 3 to 7-years-old

Buy it: Life Doesn’t Frighten Me (Twenty-fifth Anniversary Edition) by Maya Angelou, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sara Jane Boyers, $20, BarnesandNoble.com

Image: Courtesy Barnes and Noble

Bedtime for Sweet Creatures

Voted the best book of the year by Barnes & Noble, Bedtime for Sweet Creatures is an African American children’s book that celebrates imagination, playful moments and the love between mother and child. With the help of a menagerie of imaginary animal friends, the little boy at the heart of the tale does everything he can to dodge his bedtime. But by the end of the book, he’s all tuckered out from his adventures and safely snuggled in bed.

Age: 4 to 8-years-old

Buy it: Bedtime for Sweet Creatures by Nikki Grimes and Elizabeth Zunon, $18, BarnesandNoble.com

Image: Courtesy Bookshop

Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood

Harlem Grown tells the true story of community spirit in NYC. Upon witnessing a lack of healthy and affordable food in his area, Tony Hillery invited students from an underfunded school to turn a vacant lot into a functional farm. By getting their hands dirty, these kids turned an abandoned space into something beautiful and useful, while learning about healthy eating and cooperation. It’s a delightful tale about sustainability, food and how they (deliciously) intersect.

Age: 4 to 8-years-old

Buy it: Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood by Tony Hillery and Jessie Hartland, $18, Bookshop.org

Image: Courtesy Barnes and Noble

Mae Among the Stars

Encourage your child to (literally) reach for the sky with the help of Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space.

Age: 4 to 8-years old

Buy it: Mae Among the Stars by Roda Ahmed, $18, BarnesandNoble.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

This Jazz Man

Pay tribute to the Jazz Age with a book as lively as the music it celebrates. Set to the tune of the song “This Old Man,” it teaches kids about the musical genre while helping them learn to count.

Age: 4 to 7-years-old

Buy it: This Jazz Man by Karen Ehrhardt, starting from $8, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Lullaby (For a Black Mother)

Here, the work of renowned poet Langston Hughes appears in the form of a children’s book. The lyrical book focuses on the bond between a Black mother and her child. Talk about a beautiful piece to read to your little one.

Age: 4 to 7-years-old

Buy it: Lullaby (For a Black Mother) by Langston Hughes, $8, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Walmart

Hair Love

Teach your little one to celebrate the beauty of natural hair, with a tender African American children’s book. In this charming yet modern tale, Zuri relies on her Daddy to give her an extra-special hairstyle.

Age: 4 to 8-years-old

Buy it: Hair Love by Matthew A Cherry and Vashti Harrison, $18, Walmart.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

The Story Of Ruby Bridges

This powerful Black history book for kids tells the story of Ruby Bridges, the first African American girl to attend an otherwise all-white school. The power behind the story of courage, faith and hope continues to resonate more than 60 years later, so much so that it’s pegged as a top teacher’s pick on Amazon.

Age: 4 to 8-years-old

Buy it: The Story Of Ruby Bridges: Special Anniversary Edition by Robert Coles, starting from $4, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

I Am Enough

No kid should doubt themselves—a cause the book I Am Enough by activist and Empire actress Grace Byers fully stands behind. This wonderful read is all about being kind to others and, perhaps most importantly, yourself.

Age: 4 to 8-years-old

Buy it: I Am Enough by Grace Byers, $13, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut

There are few books as uplifting as this fun, fresh ode to Black barbershop culture and the beauty and power of hair.

Age: 3 to 8-years-old

Buy it: Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, starting from $4, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream

This children’s book is by two very special African American authors: Michael Jordan’s mom and sister. The mother-daughter duo recounts the basketball star’s journey to stardom.

Age: 4 to 8-years-old

Buy it: Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream by Deloris Jordan and Roslyn M. Jordan, starting from $9, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Before She was Harriet

Learn about Harriet Tubman’s many different identities, from Underground Railroad hero to Union spy, in poetry form.

Age: 4 to 8-years-old

Buy it: Before She was Harriet by Lesa Cline-Ransome, starting from $8, Amazon.com

Image: Courtesy Amazon

Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem

Looking for more African American children’s books by Black writers? Check out the much-anticipated picture book by poet and activist Amanda Gorman. Written in lyrical prose, this uplifting tale follows a young girl leading a cast of diverse characters on a musical journey where they learn that they have the power to make changes—big and small—in the world.

Age: 4 to 8-years-old

Buy it: Change Sings: A Children’s Anthem by Amanda Gorman, starting from $10, Amazon.com

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