I did the research, and in 2013, out of 3,200 children’s books published, only 93 featured African American characters. Sadly, that’s even more than I had expected. And the numbers aren’t much better for other races and ethnicities. Thankfully, campaigns like #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #1000blackgirlbooks have brought some awareness and change to the publishing industry, which I’m definitely cheering — I know that moms of all kinds would love to fill their kids’ bookshelves with more diverse stories about more diverse characters. But as the mother of two biracial girls, this is really personal for me.
That’s why I’m thrilled to find the new Just Like Me! Book Box, a monthly children’s book subscription service from mom Tamara McNeil that’s created exclusively with African American readers in mind.
Each month, kids up to 12 years old receive a thoughtfully curated, age-appropriate selection of 2-3 books that will expose them to more stories and characters that are reflective of them; plus fun activities to help bring it all to life.
I know my girls will be jumping at this!
From what I’ve seen, the selections are excellent, including plenty of my own favorites including Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold, Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats, Lola at the Library by Anna McQuinn, and Dancing in the Wings by Debbie Allen — actually, books that I think kids of any race would adore.
Now to be sure, you are definitely paying for the luxury of having someone else do the (unfortunately, often hard) work of tracking down the best books in the category and deliver them right to your door. Which is why the $25/month service makes a terrific, special gift that keeps on giving for a birthday, a grade-school grad, or the upcoming holidays.
My only complaint is that when subscribing, you’re asked to choose both an age group and specify gender. I understand the intent is to personalize the book selection, but I don’t subscribe to the belief that there are gender-specific books, especially when we’re talking about younger kids still in the picture book stage.
Even so, I’m delighted to have discovered the Just Like Me! Box. Ever since my first daughter was born 12 years ago, I’ve seen first-hand how tough it can be to find outstanding books that allow her and her sister to read about characters who look like them. I want them to feel represented, as any parent does. Because when we all think back to our own favorite childhood books, they’re probably the ones that allowed us to see ourselves in the characters.
Let’s hear it for more kids getting that same opportunity.
Check out Just Like Me! subscription book box for a terrific gift. All boxes ship on the 5th of each month and will continue each month until you cancel. You also have the option to skip a month.