Black males continue to be underrepresented, misrepresented, or invisible in all forms of children’s media, including children’s books. Of the 3,400 children’s books published in 2017, only 2% featured books with Black characters written by Black authors. Even fewer featured Black boys or men. This list of children’s books with Black males as heroes and protagonists was created by The Conscious Kid, in partnership with LINE4LINE. The Conscious Kid is a critical literacy organization that promotes access to children’s books by and about underrepresented groups. LINE4LINE is a Baton Rouge-based barbershop program that strengthens literacy skills and attitudes around reading for young men of color by providing free haircuts to boys in exchange for reading books. All of the books featured are written by Black authors. They will be available to read at the LINE4LINE barbershop program during the month of December.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James: The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good: lesser grades turn into As; girls take notice; even a mother’s hug gets a little tighter. Everyone notices. A fresh cut makes boys fly. This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair — a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. The fresh cuts. That’s where it all begins. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of Black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror. Ages 3–10.
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