Brian and I met Aster when she was a bit more than a year old. Her baby ears had heard only the Tigrinya language; no English. Reading books to her was of little interest for the longest while. I have no singing voice whatsoever; lullabies were out of the question. Most nights as a baby, I simply rocked her in silence, a calm CD playing quietly in the background. I could not wait for her to be interested in my thing: Books! Now, more nights than not, as the sun sets and we are all exhausted, having read the required two, Aster will whine, “One more book, Mommy!” More nights than not, I answer, “Okay, one more book.” Be careful what you wish for, no?
Books are a bedtime ritual in our home, with at least two, and up to five stories part of the routine. It has taken quite a while, and I continue to seek out, appropriate, “smart,” and entertaining books to read with Aster. The first of our collection arrived from Aster’s auntie Robin, an African American childhood friend of mine, with bi-racial nephews. Shout out to all Aunties: good bedtime books make the best gifts!
Following is a short list of some books that Aster loves to sit and “read” with me, books that I (mostly) feel good about sharing with her. I parenthetically write “mostly” because there is a strong need for children’s books that depict brown skinned kids who are adopted by light skinned parents. I have to admit that each time I buy the best book I think I can, books that feature brown skinned children, behind that child sits a parent of the same color and my heart constricts. I try not to let Aster hear my voice change its tone, but still, she’s a bright girl and she must realize that “there’s something wrong with this picture.”
I am not an author of children’s books, nor am I an illustrator. But, oh how I wish I were! What I believe is missing in the world of children’s books are simple, ordinary stories that feature light parents and dark kids. This would make reading time ever more rich and meaningful for Aster, Brian, and me, to see families that look like us, as if the unit were ordinary instead of extraordinary. Run of the mill. A no-brainer kind of experience. Duh. Of course! No big deal kind of thing.
But, we do what we can as adoptive parents and hopefully the list I have started will grow in our community. Please add your own picks to the comments box on this blog, so that other families like ours can enjoy the plethora of great children’s books out there for people like us!
Ysaye M. Barnwell (author) & Synthia Saint James (illustrator): No Mirrors In My Nana’s House (book & CD)
Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee: please, baby, please; please, puppy please
Natasha Anastasia Tarpley: I Love My Hair
A Sesame Street Book: We’re Different We’re The Same
Ezra Jack Keats: Anything! Such as: The Snowy Day; Whistle for Willie; Peter’s Chair
Arthur Dorros: Aubela (English with Spanish phrases)
Allia Zobel-Nolan: What I Like About Me!
Andrea and Brian Pinkney: Pretty Brown Face
Margret & H.A. Rey’s: Curious George Books–all of them!
Keiko Kasza: A Mother for Choco
Anna McQuinn, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw: Lola Loves Stories, and other Lola books
Iza Trapani: All of her books are incredibly illustrated, fun, and multi-racial. Try: The Itsy Bitsy Spider; Twinkle Twinkle Little Star; I’m a Little Teapot; Jingle Bells
Jabari Asim: Whose Toes Are Those?
Elizabeth Verdick: Pacifiers Are Not Forever
*Please visit http://www.ameasite.org/ for more information about Multiethnic families.