15 Children's Books That Celebrate the Beauty of Black Hair
Hair discrimination starts at a young age and is unfortunately a daily reality for Black girls and women. For me, it started in second grade. I remember being at a classmate's pool party and as I came out of the water, one of the boys said, "Whoa, what happened to your hair?" As a 7-year-old, his remark was quite playful and innocent, but it still stung and is one of my earliest memories of feeling "othered."
And I'm not alone. Black girls and women are discriminated against all the time for rocking dreadlocks and natural hair in school and the workplace. A lot is being done to minimize and end discrimination for Black and brown people, including the CROWN Act (a law that grants freedom to Black employees to wear their hair in natural curls, braids, dreadlocks, twists, Afros, and any style they desire) and Black public figures showing out in the media, like Gabrielle Union inviting high school senior DeAndre Arnold to the Oscars earlier this year after he was suspended from a Texas high school for not meeting the dress code when he showed up with dreadlocks. Or Solange Knowles sporting a durag, an essential tool in the Black experience, at the 2018 Met Gala.
But as Adjoa B. Asamoah, an impact and political strategist who developed the legislative strategy for the CROWN Act, told me, "There is a role for everybody in terms of helping to shift both policy and culture." Meaning, legislation and Black celebrities are great, but we have to change the language we are using around Black hair in schools, friend groups, and all other environments. And for Black girls, we need to continue to encourage positive narratives to build up their hair esteem. Introducing young girls to love their hair is an important part of the equation. To help, here's a starting list of great children's books that celebrate Black hair and teach children to be proud of the crown they were born with.
My Curly, Coily Crown by Darcel Craft
The uplifting My Curly, Coily Crown ($10) tells the story of Yana, a young Black girl who fully embraces who she is and inspires others to do the same. Each page is filled with stunning real-life images of the young Black hair experience.
I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
I Love My Hair! ($8, originally $9) follows the story of Keyana and her hair. Every night, her mother detangles and braids her hair. When the comb hurts or pulls her hair, her mother reminds her that her hair is beautiful because it can do many things. "I can spin your hair into fine, soft yarn just like our grandmothers did at the spinning wheel," she said. "Or I can part your hair into straight lines and plant rows of braids across your scalp, the way we plant seeds in our garden." These teachings help Keyana love and appreciate her hair.
Coco Loves Her Curly Hair by Colleen Dixon
A beautiful message of self-love and acceptance, Coco Loves Her Curly Hair ($8) teaches kids to embrace their differences and authentic selves. Coco loves the versatility of her hair and has her mom style her hair differently every day of the week. The illustrations and text properly celebrate the beauty and diversity of Afro-textured hair.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, Illustrated by Vashti Harrison
The relationship between a father and his daughter is marvelously displayed in Hair Love ($17, originally $18). Zuri, the lead, has curly, coily, and kinky curls and loves her hair. Her father steps in to style her hair for a special occasion, and although he has a lot to learn, Zuri and he bond over the love she has for her natural hair. Although Zuri doesn't love the first couple of hairstyles her dad creates, what I love about Hair Love is that it shows all the things Black hair can do. It teaches Black girls to have patience with their hair on days it doesn't feel like cooperating. It also shows Zuri's beautiful mom in a head scarf, further hammering in that Black hair is beautiful, different, and worthy of love.
Big Hair, Don't Care by Crystal Swain-Bates
Big Hair, Don't Care ($17) is all about owning the space your hair takes up. Lola, the main character, loves her hair but often receives stares from kids at school and finds her big hair gets in the way of hide and seek and other playground fun. With that being said, her self-esteem and confidence shine as brightly as her hair in this book.
Bedtime Bonnet by Nancy Redd, Illustrated by Nneka Myers
I saw myself in Bedtime Bonnet ($17, originally $18). Created by a mother who was looking for resources to show her daughter bonnets are a must, it follows around the main character in search for her bonnet. It tells readers why the bonnet is used while showing her siblings and parental figures using it, too.
Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe
The adorable Happy Hair ($16, originally $17) is a beautiful illustration of the versatility of Black hair. It shows all the styles Black hair can do, including the Fro-hawk, blowout, pom-pom puffs, braids, locs, and curls while creating a repetitive chorus on each page for girls to shout, "I love being me!"
My Curly Perfection by Chelsetia Davis, Illustrated by Mariel Garcia
My Curly Perfection ($16) follows a young girl who finds it hard to accept and love her hair. At the end, girls will all cheer at her discovery: "I was too busy noticing how perfect Claire's hair was, that I didn't notice that my hair was just as perfect."
Emi's Curly, Coily, Cotton Candy Hair by Tina Olajide, Illustrated by Courtney Bernard
There are many books that embrace natural textured hair, but very few shed light on the maintenance techniques as well as Emi's Curly, Coily, Cotton Candy Hair ($9). Seven-year-old Emi shows readers just how she styles her hair with multiple tips and jokes along the way. Lines like, "Today Mommy is washing my hair and these are all the tools she needs," and, "Growing healthy hair is easy when you're gentle and patient," all focus on the importance of a wide-tooth comb and leave-in conditioner to retain moisture for Black hair.
Hair Like Mine by LaTashia M. Perry
Hair Like Mine ($11) is a great book for a bit of an advanced reader (ages 7-12) and shows how everyone is different. "I don't like being different, it doesn't feel good," the main character frustratedly explains as she searches for someone at her school with hair like hers. As her mom explains that being different is a good thing, she realizes, "It's kind of cool to know there's only one me in sight."