I've always loved books. I was that kid in elementary school who always had a book on the playground, and as an adult, I've yet to live in an apartment with adequate bookshelf space for a collection that never stops growing. Connecting with a new book always elicits a thrill, and if I'm feeling down in the dumps, opening an old favorite can feel like a comforting hug from a good friend.
When I first found out I was pregnant with P1, one of the things I most looked forward to sharing with my future kid was my love of reading. I was eager to share my old favorites (Anne of Green Gables!) and discover new ones.
As I revisit some of my old favorites, though, I'm reminded of the disappointing lack of representation. Growing up, I rarely saw characters in books that looked like me. I remember the specific joy I felt when I would finally come across a character that shared part of my identity, and how tightly I would clutch on to those books.
The bookshelf in P1's room definitely contains more than its share of some of the old classics (Madeline and Where the Wild Things Are, to name two in our regular rotation of bedtime stories), but it's also been wonderful to discover new favorites with characters of all different shades and backgrounds. The transportive magic of reading, after all, shouldn't be limited to just one perspective. It's important to see characters that look like us, and also characters that don't. Here are some great kid books that, in addition to being fun to read and bearing lovely illustrations, also feature a range of faces.
Everywhere Babies, by Susan Meyers & illustrated by Marlee Frazee: it includes one of my favorite drawings in a board book, of a breastfeeding mom who is so utterly exhausted, it's perfect. The ending - celebrating babies "for working so hard" - also gets to me every time.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, by Mem Fox & illustrated by Helen Oxenbury, is delightful and sweet.
Baby Talk, by Stella Blackstone has a delightful rhythm and loving photos of grown-ups and their babies. P2 likes to kiss each baby as we read the book.
We're Different, We're the Same, and We're All Wonderful (Sesame Street), by Bobbi Kates & illustrated by Joe Mathieu: mixed in with all the different faces are the familiar monsters of Sesame Street to help kids appreciate their uniqueness as well as their shared humanity.
Counting on Community, by Innosanto Nagara: in the follow-up to A is for Activist (another much-loved title in our collection), kids learn how to count to ten and about the value of community, with lines like "7 bikes and helmets, and scooters to share," and "8 picket signs, showing that we care."
Whoever You Are, by Mem Fox & illustrated by Leslie Staub: this lyrical trip around the world underscores that no matter our external differences (languages, schools, lands), inside, we are all the same (hurts, joys, laughter, love).