With illustrations of Black protagonists of different shades, shapes, and hair textures, this special selection of books—which arrives just in time for Black History Month—allows children to step into the shoes of Black heroes that mirror their perspectives. The book club has a growing virtual presence throughout Canada, the U.S., and the U.K. and curates programs for youth aged seven to 18 who identify as Black.
It’s no surprise that children's books have minimized and often left out altogether the presence of Black characters. Throughout history, there haven’t been many positive representations of Black children in literature, making it incredibly difficult for Black youth to envision themselves in the limitless possibilities of the fictional world. A 2020 study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education, shows that only 12% of children’s literature published in 2020 featured Black characters. “The lack of representation in children’s literature can reinforce feelings of exclusion and inadequacy among racialized youth. It’s important for children to see themselves represented,” says Danielle Norris, the founder of Love of Literature Foundation.
As the only non-profit book club for Black youth in Canada, Love of Literature exemplifies the importance of diversity in children's literature. “Our book club creates a safe space for children and teens to review books that feature, celebrate, and represent Black characters,” shares Norris. The books help children to not just imagine what’s achievable but also see stories of Black curiosity and excellence played out through the hues and views of the characters on these pages.
In addition to the huge feat of inspiring Black children through reading, Love of Literature presents an opportunity for other racialized youth and white allies to engage in explorations and discussions centred around Black representation in literature. “What the data shows is that we need to be intentional about book choices. Including white parents who want to harness the opportunity to expose their children to racial diversity through literature. While our reading program is for Black youth, we encourage educators, parents, and caregivers of children of all races to consider these books,” explains Norris.
It’s an indescribable feeling to open up a book and explore what a cast of Black leaders looks like as a child. Love of Literature’s kid-approved reading list opens a rich world of potential for children and empowers Black youth to see themselves reflected as valued members of society. “When you give a child a good book or graphic novel, you help to open up their minds to a world full of adventure, excitement, and learning. And it’s an additional benefit when books feature diverse characters,” shares Norris. “You don’t have to wait for Black History Month to read books with Black characters. You can add these books to your reading lists throughout the year.”
Check out Love of Literature’s reading list at www.loveofliteraturebookclub.ca