Diverse Children's Literature
During Black History Month we are celebrating two remarkable books in the nursery. Read on to find out more.
One of our favourite books at Rebecca Cheetham Nursery is Look Up written by Nathan Bryon and illustrated by Dapo Adeola. What a firework of a book this is, which tells us the story of our hero, Rocket, who is obsessed with space and stars and has visions of becoming an astronaut in the future, just like her hero Mae Jemison. Throughout the story she encourages her community to Look Up and in effect, “reach for the stars”. Whilst the book reminds us of the importance of looking up to see what is around us (and up from our phones and devices), on a metaphorical level it is also inviting us to be ambitious and aspirational. Rocket’s determination and enthusiasm manages to bring together the whole of her community to Look Up and be inspired by the Phoenix Meteor Shower.
Rocket, effectually becomes a role model for our children and invites us to break down stereotypical views of traditional gender roles and jobs that haven’t traditionally embraced ethnic diversity; “of the 350 astronauts in NASA’s 61-year history, only six are Black women—a fact that Jemison has expressed frustration about.” (Dana Dovey, https://www.marieclaire.com/career-advice/a31959000/women-of-color-astronauts/) We are invited to want to find out more about Mae Jemison, the role of astronauts and space travel. This book is important because our black children will feel represented in this book and reminded to believe that they too, can “reach for the stars”.
Representation is so important for our children and slowly, but surely, more and more literature is offering children an opportunity to be seen, however more needs to be done to bridge that gap. “Reports into representation in children’s books ... with the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE) finding that 5% of children’s books published in the UK last year had an ethnic minority main character, compared to 4% in 2018 and just 1% in 2017.” (Guardian, Wednesday 11 November 2020) Therefore, it becomes even more important that we think about what books are on offer for our children on a daily basis and make sure children feel they can imagine themselves in the wonderous stories and adventures that exist in literature.
“All I know is that one day I’m going to be the greatest astronaut, star-catcher, space-traveller who has ever lived, like Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space.”
Dapo Adeola is working hard to challenge racism and bring forth a sense of equality in children’s literature. His latest book for children, Hey You, which he authored, brings together 18 of the most exciting black artists today to bring his beautiful and inspiring words to life. “As I’m just one person, I can’t possibly hope to speak for the entire diaspora.” (Dapo Adeola, Hey You) Readers will feel enveloped in the warmth of such reassuring words like, “Hey you…welcome to the world. We’ve waited so long to meet you – and, oh, has it been worth it.” Amidst pages of encouragement and hope, Dapo doesn’t shy away from the injustice that exists in the world but he reminds us that we need to come together to fight against racism. Black children will feel empowered through this book with words such as, “With your own incredible superpowers, and the love of your family and friends, you will be unstoppable.” In terms of suitability, Hey You offers challenge for nursery aged children but could be suitable for a variety of ages to help explore various issues.
These are just two books that we would wholeheartedly recommend to you and they have been our BOOKS OF THE MONTH at Rebecca Cheetham Nursery during Black History Month in October. What better way to feel important, included, loved and empowered than with books that speak to you and where you feel represented.
Try these three wonderful books as well:
So Much—Trish Cooke and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
Hair Love—Matthew Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison
Coming To England—Floella Benjamin and illustrated by Diane Ewan