10 Banned Picture Books That Belong in Your Home Library

As Critical Race Theory is attacked, so are our stories. Add these banned picture books by Black authors to your child's library to keep them alive.

We have all heard about the sweeping book bans engulfing entire school districts and states. More than 32 states banned almost 1650 books from public schools in the 2021-2022 school year. It is clear that resistance to critical race theory has evolved into nationwide book bans.

According to PEN America, a literary advocacy group that defends freedom of expression, 40% of the 1,648 unique titles banned last school year had either main or secondary characters of color. An additional 20% of those titles banned address race and racism. 

Black mom and Daughter read a book in bed

Kristen Curette & Daemaine Hines/Stocksy

Over 50 different groups formed in 2021 with the sole intent of removing stories featuring characters of color. Incidents like Senator Ted Cruz of Texas discussing Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Baby during the confirmation hearings of now Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson show there is a blatant effort to quite literally take these books from the hands of kids.

Youth of all ages can see their school libraries impacted by these bans. But there is concern that banning picture books means even some of the youngest marginalized students attending schools with such bans may not have the opportunity to see themselves represented. So, what can parents and guardians do to combat them?

There are many misconceptions about how to support our children when books are banned. One simple thing we can do is purchase those books for our homes. Parents are children’s first and most important teachers. Black families have had a long tradition of providing supplemental education at home. Having a few of these books around for your little ones will be beneficial in the long run.

Here are 10 Banned Picture Books by Black authors, perfect for your child’s library.

01 of 10

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day You Begin Book Cover

Nancy Paulsen Books

The Day You Begin is a lyrical story that reminds children—and us grown-ups—that we can feel like outsiders sometimes, but we can all be brave anyway. Sometimes, we are pleasantly surprised that when we are brave, there will be people who will happily meet us halfway. Families reading this book will see how kindness, compassion, and a smile can make all the difference. The Day You Begin also has its own eponymous Netflix special

02 of 10

Hair Love by Matthew Cherry

Hair Love Book Cover

Kokila

Hair Love is a heartwarming story about a girl and her dad learning to embrace the challenges natural hair can bring. When mommy can’t do her hair, it’s up to Zuri and her daddy to style it for a special day. This story about self-love and acceptance is inspired by former NFL wide receiver Matthew A. Cherry’s life. Children who read this book will see the value of embracing who they are and the power of loving themselves.

03 of 10

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Sulwe is written by award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o. The book tells a story about a little girl named Sulwe’s struggles to accept her dark skin and stop comparing herself to others. But one day, something magical changes her perspective and improves her self-esteem. Sulwe combats colorism and affirms the beauty of everyone, no matter their complexion. It is also a sweet reminder to children to fully embrace their own unique beauty even when they don’t see many people who look like them.

04 of 10

Little Legends/ Little Leaders by Vashti Harrison

Little Leaders Book Cover

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Both written and adorably illustrated by Vashti Harrison, Little Legends and Little Leaders are books with a lot to offer even the youngest readers. Little Leaders introduces families to a round-up of biographical information for “bold women in Black history.” Harrison uses a similar format to show “exceptional men of Black history” in Little Legends. But both books feature Black history notables and change-makers that even the youngest minds can appreciate. Whichever you choose, these books feature well-known and lesser-known figures that will inspire the entire family.

05 of 10

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

I Am Enough Book Cover

Balzer + Bray

I Am Enough, a book by actress, activist, and author Grace Byers, is what you would get if you rolled powerful affirmations and a ballad-like self-love poem into the pages of a lovely art book. Whether read to your little one or read aloud by your little one, the themes of identity, kindness, and self-acceptance can be felt. I Am Enough reminds children of every shape and shade that they are exactly that, enough as they are.

06 of 10

Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin

Book Cover Not Quite Snow White

HarperCollins

Professor and author Ashley Franklin’s debut book Not Quite Snow White tells the story of Tameika, a talented kid who auditions for her school’s upcoming play, Snow White. But the other kids laugh and tell her she, a Black girl, is not quite right for the role. Tameika has to decide if she will audition anyway or let the voices of the other kids drown out her own confidence. Tameika’s story will inspire children to courageously listen to their hearts rather than naysayers and pursue their dreams.

07 of 10

I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

I Love My Hair Book Cover

LB Kids

Natasha Tarpley’s I Love My Hair has been a staple in many a Black home since it was written almost 20 years ago. Keyana’s hair hurt each time it was combed, no matter how hard her mother tried to be gentle. Keyana begins to wish for a different type of hair until her mother shows her how special and beautiful her unique hair is. Families who read I Love My Hair will show their children that by embracing this small part of themselves, they can fully love their unique identity.

08 of 10

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

The Undefeated Book Cover

Versify

The Undefeated began as a poem that was originally written and performed for the ESPN show of the same name by Kwame Alexander. This award-winning book is a beautifully illustrated, passionate, and impactful love letter to Black history, Black culture, and Black perseverance. The Undefeated is a powerful introduction to our rich history that celebrates both those figures with big names alongside those who are unnamed.

09 of 10

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut Book Cover

Agate Bolden

Derrick Barnes’ award-winning book Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut feels like your favorite feel-good hip-hop song in storybook form. The book rhythmically illustrates and captures the quintessentially cultural magic of the barbershop. It also shows that feel-good moment when boys step out of that barber’s chair and emerge into the world, feeling new, feeling fresh. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut reminds children, especially Black boys, to feel good in their skin and to be free to feel happy over anything that brings them joy.

10 of 10

Skin Like Mine by Latashia Perry

Skin Like Mine Book Cover

G Publishing

Skin Like Mine is the second book in Latashia Perry’s “Kids Like Me” series, which futures her mission to enrich and empower the lives of children through positive affirmations and self-imagery. In this book, Perry joyfully explores the differences in every skin shade while simultaneously celebrating them all. If you are looking for a playful way to talk about diversity with your little ones, Skin Like Mine will help you do just that.

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