I recently went shopping at a large store with my 6 year old son. He was a pious saver and was ready to spend some of his wealth. I had my doubts, but he was committed to spending a whopping $17.99 on a mechanical snake. He proudly checked out with his wallet in hand. His math skills – addition, skip counting, subtraction – were on full display, as was my smile.
After showering him with compliments, the woman behind the counter asked what he wanted to do when he grew up. After all, the question was rhetorical. When she asked, she was quick to respond, narrowing his future down to her two possibilities. “Are you a basketball player or a football player?”
I countered her suggestion with another career I could suggest to a kid who had just shown impressive math skills: teacher? architect? engineer? I wish I could say I was surprised by her suggestion. It’s like how she saw his success. The general view of many in our society remains limited when it comes to the opportunities for black people, especially black men, to succeed.
While it is true that my children play sports (daughter ice hockey, son soccer and ice hockey), my husband and I encourage them to do so because of the life lessons they learn: other Show up for others, work as a team, give your all and pick yourself up after setbacks. They don’t play sports with career aspirations, because the possibility of playing professional sports is akin to the possibility of being struck by lightning. In fact, we both love sports, but my daughter has her sights set on becoming a food critic or chocolate taste tester. And after getting behind the wheel on a trip to Legoland, her son plans to become a race car driver.
When my baby was born, I was both excited and nervous. Like many black parents, I walk a tightrope to make sure my kids are aware of the world we live in, but not be weighed down by it. was old enough to go to the store alone, would that walk be safe in 15 years? I thought about when both my kids would be old enough to drive, and hoped that by the time they were 16, cars would fly and be safer than driving when they were black. And I hoped that they could live their lives to the fullest and be active in their destinies.
Having children made me more aware of the lack of representation that families still grapple with. Out of her 3,190 books published in 2021 in the U.S. received by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), only those that prominently represented a Black/African character, subject, or topic Only her 439 books. * Most of them focus on our history and culture. These books are very important and we have many of them in our home.but it is also important all Our children can see people of color in books that reflect their own lives and imaginations. A book that is not primarily about race or historical struggle, but about wonder and delight.
I didn’t explicitly say anything about myopia to the lady at the checkout counter. I know she sees examples of black excellence every day. I know I showed her what she could do and gave her a glimpse of what she could one day be able to do. My dream for my children is for them to find a happy and self-sufficient career. I hope the society they live in gives children the space and vision to make sense of it.
Here are some recommended books…
The Mystery of Stella and the Lost Tooth
Clotilde Ewing, Lynn Gaines
The reason why I became a picture book author was because I wanted to see children as much as possible and celebrate them. Here, Stella and her friends Roger and Owen are excited to go see Sue the T-Rex at the museum, but when Owen has to go home early because he lost a tooth, Stella decides to leave him alone. I am determined to find it for
Max and Tag Along Moon
Written and illustrated by Floyd Cooper
This touching tale of a grandfather and grandson will remind you that the same moon says good night whenever you are. We live a decent drive from my kids’ grandparents and love this book.
the skin you live in
Written by Michael Tyler, drawn by David Lee Csicsko
This lyrical book is one of my go-tos for newborn babies. ”
By Brittany J. Thurman, illustrated by Anna Cunha
of jumpfinds a lyrical story about Africa and her quest to become a champion she has never tried before. I didn’t manage to pull it off on my third try, but I’m still open to the journey.
Book of chapters:
Miles Lewis “With Kid”
Written by Kelly Sterling Lyons, drawn by Wayne Spencer
My son is very skeptical of “lesson” books, but this is a friendly series about a sensitive kid who wants to win his school’s science fair. He overcomes self-doubt and jealousy and learns about friendship, teamwork and, of course, science.
how to make sunshine
Written by Lenny Watson
Ryan is sassy and sweet, making us laugh and learn. My kids love Ramona Quimby, too, and I keep imagining what their teacher, Mrs. Whaley, did to both Ramona and Ryan in class!
Bookstores like Atlanta also have excellent book subscription programs for kids of all ages. Brave + Kindcommitted to celebrating literary diversity.
What books would you add to your list? What are the kids around you reading these days?
Clotilde Ewing He leads communications for Chicago Community Trust, a community foundation committed to promoting economic equity. She is a former TV producer for CBS News and The Oprah Winfrey Show.her picture book Stella keep the sun and The Mystery of Stella and the Lost ToothI live in Chicago with my husband and two children.
PS 15 What are the most beloved children’s books by black authors?
(Photo credit: Clothilde Ewing)
*On April 5, 2023, Clothilde Ewing Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC), Department of Education, Diversity Statistics, University of Wisconsin-Madison.