Ingram Blog

I Love My Hair! (Hair Diversity in Picture Books)

By Wendy Rancier, MLS, Collection Development Librarian
Creating diverse and inclusive collections is a goal of every public librarian. Recently, many library professionals have viewed or attended informational sessions or seminars to help make our content more representative of the communities we serve. A recent study by The Cooperative Children’s Book Center of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Education exposes a thought-provoking and discouraging statistic in the publishing world: Even after years of work in the areas of diversity and inclusiveness, just 10% of Children’s titles published in 2018 featured characters who were African or African American, 7% Asian Pacific, 5% Latinx, and only 1% Native American. Most characters in children’s literature are white/Caucasian (50%) and nonhuman/animals (27%).  Although there is still much work to do, demand for titles with diverse casts is on the rise.

One of the latest trends in picture books is the conversation about African American hair. Among them, Caldecott 2018 winner Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes is one of the first titles that comes to mind, but there are several other great titles about this topic:

Hair Love

By Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

A wonderful debut #ownvoices title that explores the struggle of a young African American girl needing to have her hair done by her unprepared dad when Mom is out. Based on football star Matthew Cherry’s own experience of learning how to fix his daughter’s hair, this book conveys a loving father-daughter relationship, accentuated by Vashti Harrison’s warm illustrations. Dad is very sweet with some amusing first failed attempts at hair styling, leaving his daughter unimpressed. With the help of the internet and some perseverance, Dad saves the day and creates a new bonding activity with his daughter. All families can certainly enjoy this book, but it is an essential title for African American father-daughter representation. 

Boonoonoonous Hair

by Olive Senior, illustrated by Laura James

Boonoonoonous Hair presents the story of Jamilla, a darling girl of Jamaican descent, who is averse to having her hair styled, so much so that she hides the comb from her mother. She wishes her hair was more like her friends at school, soft and flowing. Her mother explains that she has Boonoonoonous Hair (a word meaning “Wonderful” or “Delighful” in Jamaican patois), and that due to this very special aspect, she can wear her hair in an abundance of styles. The book proceeds to show Jamilla wearing her hair in plaits, cornrows, and yes, even wild and free. This story celebrates what makes us different, and the bold colors and warm characters make this book a joy to read and share.