5 great children’s books with a BAME protagonist

Jun 3, 2020

The Black Lives Matter movement is not just for the USA. It is also relevant for The Netherlands, the UK and Europe as a whole, for there is racism everywhere!

According to associate professor Erin N. Winkler of the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, by the age of 2.5 years children use race to choose playmates and expressions of racial prejudice often peak at age 4 and 5. By 5 years of age children show many of the same racial attitudes held by adults in our culture and associate some groups with an higher status then others. So, it is important to start talking about diversity and race already from those early years.1

To combat racism, I truly believe that we must actively talk about it with our children. Don’t be silent. Actively seek out diversity in what you let your children watch and what you read to your children.

I always do my best to have my son read books that show diversity (not only in race), but in light of what is happening in the USA I wanted to share with you my top 5 children’s books with BAME protagonists.

Father reading to son in bed from a children's book with a BAME protagonist.

The ‘Anna Hibiscus’ Series by Atinuke

Anna Hibiscus lives in amazing Africa with her mother, her father, her baby twin brothers and lots of her family. When reading the books, I can feel the warmth of the family and the love between them. Anna Hibiscus has little everyday adventures from wondering what to do with all the happiness she feels to a book about getting her brothers. The illustrations are beautiful, which is always particularly important to me. These are my personal favourites and my son loves them too, so we read them a lot!
It is for age 6+ but we have started reading them at the age of 3.

‘Ravi’s Roar’ by Tom Percival

We absolutely love this book! Mainly because it helps my little one, who can be very angry sometimes. And this book is so good for him to learn about expressing his emotions and making amends. We have read it often after tantrums and it helps him understand what is going on. The book is even better due to celebrating diversity and the illustrations are again wonderful.
Another book by the author is ‘Ruby’s worry’ which also has a BAME character – and is on my own wish list.
For the age of 3-6

Child crying for another bedtime story.
An ‘I want another story’ meltdown.

‘Ada Twist, scientist’ by Andrea Beaty

This book is so important, it does not only show a brown girl but also one that is amazing at science. Ada is very curious and always asks why, does experiments, and wants the answers to all her questions. Her family are loving and supportive. So, this is definitely a book to read as women are still underrepresented in the STEM subjects.
For the ages of 5-7.

‘If all the world were…’ by Joseph Coelho

This book was so beautiful, and it made me shed some tears. The illustrations are amazing, but the story is even more beautiful. It introduces a heavy but very important subject to children, namely death and the loss of a grandparent. It is done is such a sensitive, and poetic way. The story focusses on the beautiful memories a little girl has of her grandfather and the love she has for him which stays with her after his death.
I recommend this book for the ages 2-6.

I also wrote a list of my 5 favourite children’s books on bereavement. Which includes another wonderful book of Joseph Coelho ‘No Longer Alone’. This book and ‘The Garden of Hope’ by Isabel Otter both feature BAME protagonists.

‘Have you seen elephant?’ by David Barrow

A small boy and his elephant play an absurd game of hide and seek. My son enjoys pointing out the elephant who is hiding on the pages.  There is almost no text and the focus is on the beautiful illustrations.
This book is from ages 2-6.

Close-up of father reading to son in bed from a children's book with a BAME protagonist.

I hope these children’s books with a BAME protagonist will help you diversify your bookcases!

More resources:

There is an amazing Ted-talk on ‘The danger of a Single Story’ by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, one of my favourite Nigerian authors. To me this explains how it is not only important to read stories that depict diversity, but very importantly are also written by people from diverse backgrounds.

‘Princess Nina’ is written by my very close friend Marlise Achterbergh. The main character is however white (I therefore didn’t put it in my top 5 list), but the book does support diversity in many ways. Princess Nina is an extraordinary princess, but she isn’t interested in getting married. Her parents invite princes from China, France, Mexico, and Yemen, but none of them are what she wants. To get advice on the matter, the King and Queen invite their friends from Ghana who bring their daughter princess Melowo with them. Princess Nina and princess Melowo fall in love and rule the kingdom together. This book depicts different cultures, but also supports different sexual orientations. My son really likes the book and finds it funny.
This book is for ages 4-6.

1 These statistics are based on the research ‘Children are not colorblind: how young children learn race’. by Erin N. Winkler

4 Comments

  1. Satu Francis

    Great recommendations, thank you. Will be adding to my list of books.

    Reply
    • sassie

      I am so pleased! I’d love to know which ones you liked the most!

      Reply
      • Jacob Essilfie

        Fantastic Auntie Sas. Thank you for sharing this list.

        Reply
        • sassie

          Thank you Yacob! It is my pleasure!

          Reply
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