I am always looking for books to read and recommend for the Read Aloud Project. During this search, I came across an EmbraceRace webinar titled “Finding and Reading Great Stories for and With Children.” The guest speaker was Katie Potter of Lee & Low Books. I had never heard of Lee & Low Books before and was excited to learn about their efforts to promote diversity in children’s books. Potter provided a surprising statistic on how Black, Latino, and Native authors combined wrote only 7 percent of new children’s books published in 2017.
A major part of Lee & Low Books’ business is publishing own voice books. Own voice refers to books written by authors from underrepresented groups about their own experiences. It is important to let marginalized groups tell their own stories because when other privileged groups tell their stories they may misinterpret information and portray stereotypes that are harmful. Now before I read or suggest a book for the Read Aloud Project, I check to see if it is an own voice book.
The theme for the project in July will be #OwnVoices to highlight its importance. If you are interested in recording a video, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Below are a few own voice books that Lee & Low Books has published:
When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that did not fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life. Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning—from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does “making things right” actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.
Saturday at The New You by Barbara E. Barber
Saturday is Shauna's favorite day of the week, because that's the day she helps Momma at her beauty parlor, The New You. Shauna describes how she and Momma prepare for the day's customers stacking clean towels, donning smocks, making fresh coffee. An engaging array of customers comes and goes, all of whom are as colorful as the cheerful salon. Though Shauna is a big help, Momma is the only one who gets to do the hair-styling. But when temperamental little Tiffany proves to be the toughest customer to please, it's Shauna who comes up with the perfect solution. And after the last customer leaves, this loving mother-daughter team work on their favorite customers of all each other.
When the Shadbush Blooms by Carla J. S. Messinger, Susan Katz Illustrated by David Kanietakeron Fadden
Today when a Lenape Indian girl ventures to the stream to fish for shad, she knows that another girl did the same generations before her. Through the cycle of the seasons, what is important has remained: being with family, knowing when berries are ripe for picking, listening to stories in a warm home. Told by Traditional Sister and Contemporary Sister, each from her own time, this is a book about tradition and about change. Then and now are not so very different when the shadbush blooms.
Gracias-Thanks by Pat Mora
A young boy celebrates family, friendship, and fun by telling about some of the everyday things for which he is thankful.
Surprise Moon by Caroline Hatton
On a Fall night, a Vietnamese American boy named Nick shows his friends how to celebrate the Autumn Moon Festival, a special holiday in his father’s home country. See which part of the celebration Nick likes the best.