Without being deliberate to think about it I’m fairly certain our holiday collection of books would feature the same white Santa with rosacea that is seemingly everywhere. But because my children are African-born and because their father and I are of European descent I choose to think about it. I want them to see their skin tone mirrored in the books we read, especially because they do not see it in their parents’ faces.
Our holiday book collection is still small. Because we are still in the “read the same book four hundred times and then read it once more in case we missed something” stage of reading. But slowly we’re adding to it. Here are our current favorites, all bought second-hand online.
“A Child is Born” by Margaret Wise Brown
This is a simple board book that tells the story of the birth of Jesus without ever mentioning his name. The illustrations are lovely, the words rhyme and we read it year-round.
“Over the River & Through the Woods” a Jump at the Sun Holiday Classic
I have never met a book published by Jump at the Sun that I don’t like. And we have several as they also do fairy tales and Bible stories. This one can be sung to the “Over the River” song (obviously) and features a large family that fills up the sleigh as more and more people pile in. The horse’s expressions are also quite funny. Thane’s favorite page is the last one where he always proudly declares that it is Gigi and him and they are eating pumpkin pie. We also like the page with the whole family gathering around. It’s fun to see which person the kids decide is which person in our family.
“Twas the Night Before Christmas” a Jump at the Sun Holiday Classic
If this book looks worn out that’s because it is. Based on the classic poem it tells a slightly different version of the same story. Our family doesn’t do presents from Santa but we do love this story.
“Christmas for 10” by Cathryn Falwell
This is a simple counting book. It counts to ten twice all the while showing fun holiday activities. Again, featuring a large and loving family.
“Carol of the Brown King – Nativity Poems” by Langston Hughes
I first heard this poem during a production we attended a few years ago. It was beautiful and happy and the illustrations in this book match the tone. Just gorgeous. It has a few other poems as well.
“Snowflake Kisses and Gingerbread Smiles” by Toni Trent Parker
This has to be the world’s shortest book. I think there are like five pages. However each one features smiling faces of adorably cute children doing something festive and with my kids’ obsession over older children it’s getting worked into our rotation.
“It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Kwanzaa!” a Jump at the Sun Holiday Classic
The pictures in this one are especially gorgeous and full of life. The happiness from the family just radiates off the pages. I am in the very beginning of learning about Kwanzaa so I feel unqualified to speak to how well it represents the holiday. And it’s goal is not so much to educate as to celebrate.
Lastly in our holiday collection, these are some books we’ve been given that are really sweet but which are a little too “old” for my toddlers. If you’re looking for ideas for your own elementary age kids though they are very nice. Though the bottom two are a little preachy about giving and sharing. Are all children’s books like that and I just didn’t notice when reading them as a child? “An Angel Just Like Me” directly speaks about race and the issue of so many decorations being white-white-white. I think it will be a good topic starter as the kids become older.
I’ve also begun collecting books we can use for our advent readings someday. But those will wait to be posted until next year or the year after. Whenever good intentions morph in actual celebrations.
Until then, Merry Christmas, and if you have a favorite holiday book that happens to feature brown or black characters please leave a comment.