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Get on Board: Board Books are Necessary to Early Literacy


As parents, educators, family members, or childcare providers, we look to African American children’s books to help promote self-esteem, cultural identity, and pride for African American children. People are coming to an understanding that authentic and accurate portrayals of African Americans and African American experiences are critical to the self-esteem and self-concept of African American children.


But what is not often addressed is the self-concept and self-esteem of toddlers. We usually don’t think of toddlers as having self-esteem or a concept of identity, but children actually develop a self-concept during their toddler years. They can recognize themselves in the mirror and say “I,” “me,” and “mine.” This recognition of self and self-esteem are two important tasks in early childhood development.


Race is something that is not irrelevant to toddlers, and they are not ignorant of it. As toddlers begin to recognize body parts, shapes, colors, and animals they also begin to notice appearances. Board books are often the catalyst in teaching toddlers about self. Some may think board books are just chunky books that can withstand baby drool; however, they are so much more than that. They play a major role in developing self-awareness in infant and toddler’s lives.


Board book images must accurately and authentically depict African Americans to help toddlers have a positive cultural and self-identity. If toddlers are rarely given books with people who look like them, the development of self-hatred will possibly manifest in this early stage. Therefore, encouraging a positive self-concept, self-esteem, and healthy cultural identity is very necessary as young as infancy. We can’t overlook this important role board books play for African American babies and toddlers.


So, get on board and allow the child in your life to drool on as many board books as possible! Finding board books with African American images is a challenge, but below is a list to get you started. If you know of a book that I have not listed please share in the comments!

A list of African American Board Books:

  • Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim illustrated by LeUyen Pham

  • Whose Toes are Those? by Jabari Asim illustrated by LeUyen Pham

  • I Can Do It Too! by Karen Baicker illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max

  • You Can Do It Too! by Karen Baicker illustrated by Ken Wilson-Max

  • Little Mister by Randy DuBurke ( hard to find may be out of print)

  • Whose Knees are These? by Jabari Asim illustrated by LeUyen Pham

  • Animal Sounds For Baby by Cheryl Willis Hudson illustrated by George Ford

  • Good Morning, Baby by Cheryl Willis Hudson illustrated by George Ford

  • Good Night, Baby by Cheryl Willis Hudson illustrated by George Ford

  • Let's Count, Baby by Cheryl Willis Hudson illustrated by George Ford

  • Joshua by the Sea by Angela Johnson illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell

  • Rain Feet by Angela Johnson illustrated by Rhonda Mitchell

  • Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee, Tonya Lewis Lee illustrated by Kadir Nelson

  • I Smell Honey by Andrea Davis Pinkney illustrated by Brian Pinkney

  • Pretty Brown Face by Andrea Davis Pinkney illustrated by Brian Pinkney

  • Shake Shake Shake by Andrea Davis Pinkney illustrated by Brian Pinkney

  • Watch Me Dance by Andrea Davis Pinkney illustrated by Brian Pinkney

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