The right stories can help kids boost confidence, build a stronger identity, and create a connection to heritage. Here are a few must-have reads rounded up by Dominican mama and Instagram kid lit curator Eliana Bishop of Kid Lit is Magic.
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Essential Afro-Latinx Picture Books to Celebrate Your Roots
Credit: Illustration by Francesca Spatola

Being Afro-Latinx can be complicated. Between colorism within families and the lack of dark-skinned representation in movies and books it's no wonder many feel they've had to choose between being Black or being Latinx for so long. Slowly but surely though the rise in voices representing the Afro-Latinx diaspora in publishing over the past few years has begun to help change the narrative and has started to open the eyes of Latinx folk who may have overlooked the Aftro-Latinadad in their communities. 

One of our favorite places to see new voices and representation? Picture books. Finally, Aftro-Latinx kids have books available with characters that look like them. Giving us parents an easy way to nurture their identity from day one. Through diverse images centering Afro-Latinx faces and culture, books allow our children a chance to see themselves in a way that helps boost their confidence, build a stronger identity, and feel proud of their heritage. And for those raising anti-racist Latinx kids it's a way to show niños the breadth of the Latinx diaspora. 

While there is still a long way to go when it comes to representation, we're hopeful that books like these five below will help inspire the next generation of voices.

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If Dominican Were A Color

A book about self-love and acceptance, If Dominican Were A Color, by Afro-Dominican author Sili Recio, honors the exuberant hues and rich shades you'll find across the Caribbean island of the Dominican Republic. The vibrant illustrations by Briana McCarthy paint a picture of how beautiful Dominican people are in all their different skin tones and evokes a sense of belonging for little girls and boys who may have once felt they didn't fit in because of their darker skin. Thoughtfully paired with soft rhymes, this book celebrates all the joys of being Dominican.

octopus stew

Octopus Stew

Afro-Puerto Rican artist Eric Velasquez illustrated and wrote Octopus Stew as an ode to the storytelling tradition of African and Latinx cultures. The delightful adventure in this intergenerational tale begins when the main characters, Ramsey and his grandmother, decide to make pulpo guisado (octopus stew). Velasquez takes us on a wild ride from beginning to end as we follow Ramsey as he throws on his superhero cape and figures out how to save his grandmother who has been captured by the octopus in their kitchen that has grown to epic proportions! Truly entertaining.

Stella's Stellar Hair

Stella's Stellar Hair

Take an interplanetary ride through the variety of hairstyles of the Black and Afro-Latinx Diasporas in Stella's Stellar Hair. Written and Illustrated by Afro-Latina Yesenia Moises, this empowering story is about a girl named Stella who is getting ready for a gala and isn't happy with how her hair is acting. So she takes a trip to space to every planet to get help from her Black aunties exploring "poofy-smooth" styles and "elegant crowns" until Stella finds the style that is perfectly her own. 

Drum Dream Girl

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music

Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who wanted nothing more than to be a drummer in a world where only boys were allowed to drum, Drum Dream Girl: How One Girls' Courage Changed Music is a story of perseverance and free expression written by Cuban-American author Margarita Engle and illustrated by Mexican artist Rafael Lopez. Millo longs to play bongos and conga drums found in Afro-Cuban music—even against the wishes of her father and the island she lives on. Still, she continues drumming until her dad finally realizes her talent should be heard by all. Prepare to be inspired through the story and racially diverse images and motifs on every page. 

Islandborn by Junot Diaz

Islandborn

In Islandborn, we meet a little Afro-Latina girl named Lola who, for a class assignment, has to draw a picture of her homeland. The only problem is that she can't quite remember where she came from because she left when she was a baby. Throughout the story written by Afro-Dominican author Junot Diaz and illustrated by Leo Espinoza, she connects with family, friends and members of the community who share what they remember about the island. Through their memories, she realizes that the island will always be a part of her. It's a vibrant story about identity and connection that puts familia and heritage at the center.