Don’t Touch My Hair! 13 Children’s Books Celebrating Black Hair by Black Authors

The Conscious Kid
May 7, 2018 · 8 min read
Illustration by Sharee Miller from Don’t Touch My Hair!

This children’s book list was created by The Conscious Kid, in partnership with LINE4LINE. The Conscious Kid is a critical literacy organization that promotes access to books by and about underrepresented groups. LINE4LINE is a Baton Rouge-based barbershop program that strengthens literacy skills and attitudes around reading for young men of color by providing free haircuts to boys in exchange for reading books. All of the books featured on this list are available to read at the LINE4LINE barbershop program during the month of May.

Don’t Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller: An entertaining picture book that teaches the importance of asking for permission first as a young girl attempts to escape the curious hands that want to touch her hair. It seems that wherever Aria goes, someone wants to touch her hair. In the street, strangers reach for her fluffy curls; and even under the sea, in the jungle, and in space, she’s chased by a mermaid, monkeys, and poked by aliens…until, finally, Aria has had enough! Ages 4–8.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James: The barbershop is where the magic happens. Boys go in as lumps of clay and, with princely robes draped around their shoulders, a dab of cool shaving cream on their foreheads, and a slow, steady cut, they become royalty. That crisp yet subtle line makes boys sharper, more visible, more aware of every great thing that could happen to them when they look good. A fresh cut makes boys fly. This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair — a tradition that places on their heads a figurative crown, beaming with jewels, that confirms their brilliance and worth and helps them not only love and accept themselves but also take a giant step toward caring how they present themselves to the world. Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut is a high-spirited, engaging salute to the beautiful, raw, assured humanity of Black boys and how they see themselves when they approve of their reflections in the mirror. Ages 3–8.

My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera: After a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie can’t take any more and she seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. Most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural Black hair is beautiful. Ages 5–7.

I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E.B. Lewis: A modern classic, this whimsical story has been celebrating the beauty of African-American hair for 20 years! In this imaginative, evocative story, a girl named Keyana discovers the beauty and magic of her special hair, encouraging Black children to be proud of their heritage. I Love My Hair! has been a staple in African-American picture books for 20 years, and now has a fresh, updated cover that shines on the shelves! Ages 5–8.

Furqan’s First Flat Top, El Primer Corte de Mesita de Furqan by Robert Liu-Trujillo: Furqan Moreno wakes up and decides that today he wants his hair cut for the first time. His dad has just the style: a flat top fade! He wants his new haircut to be cool but when they get to the barbershop, he’s a bit nervous about his decision. He begins to worry that his hair will look funny, imagining all the flat objects in his day to day life. Before he knows it, his haircut is done and he realizes that his dad was right — Furqan’s first flat top is the freshest! Ages 4–8.

Princess Hair by Sharee Miller: Celebrate different hair shapes, textures, and styles in this self-affirming picture book! From dreadlocks to blowouts to braids, Princess Hair shines a spotlight on the beauty and diversity of Black hair, showing young readers that every kind of hair is princess hair. Debut author-illustrator Sharee Miller encourages confidence and pride in this playful, colorful picture book that teaches readers to love every bit of themselves. Ages 5–6.

Happy Hair by Mechal Renee Roe: Happy Hair is a call and response picture book that promotes positive self-esteem and hair love to girls of all ages! Happy Hair covers different shades and hair types all while being fun and fashionable! This book is the foundation to building Happy Hair. Ages 4–7.

Bippity Bop Barbershop by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley, illustrated by E.B. Lewis: In this companion book to the bestselling I Love My Hair, a young boy, Miles, makes his first trip to the barbershop with his father. Like most little boys, he is afraid of the sharp scissors, the buzzing razor, and the prospect of picking a new hairstyle. But with the support of his dad, the barber, and the other men in the barbershop, Miles bravely sits through his first haircut. Written in a reassuring tone with a jazzy beat and illustrated with graceful, realistic watercolors, this book captures an important rite of passage for boys and celebrates African-American identity. Ages 4–7.

Emi’s Curly, Coily, Cotton Candy Hair by Tina Olajide, illustrated by Courtney Bernard: Emi is a creative 7-year-old girl with a BIG imagination. In this story Emi shares a positive message about her Curly, Coily, Cotton Candy Hair and what she likes most about it. The vibrant illustrations and fun story teach basic natural hair care techniques and tips in a playful and memorable way. Ages 4–8.

Uncle Jed’s Barbershop by Margaree King Mitchell, illustrated by James Ransome: Offers the touching story of a man who spends his life struggling, saving, and sacrificing to build and own his own barbershop and who, despite the many racial difficulties that stand in his way, opens the doors of his new shop to the public at the age of seventy-nine. Ages 4–7.

Happy to Be Nappy by bell hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka: Happy to be nappy! Happy with hair all short and strong. Happy with locks that twist and curl. Just all girl happy! Happy to be nappy hair! Legendary author bell hooks and Caldecott Medalist Chris Raschka present a lyrical celebration, brimming with enthusiasm for girls and their hair. Ages 0–5.

Cornrows by Camille Yarbrough, illustrated by Carole Byard: Every design has a name and means something in the powerful past and present richness of the Black tradition. Mama’s and Great-Grammaw’s gentle fingers weave the design, and their lulling voices weave the tale, as they braid their children’s hair into the striking cornrow patterns of Africa. Ages 5–8.

Crowning Glory by Joyce Carole Thomas, illustrated by Brenda Joysmith: With these joyous poems, National Book Award and American Book Award winning author Joyce Carol Thomas lovingly celebrates the beauty and distinction of Black hair. Thomas’ lyrical language shares what is special about hair that is dreadlocked, braided, adorned, or worn free. Ages 4–8.

The Conscious Kid is an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to cultivating equity, uplifting counter-narratives, and promoting positive identity development in youth. The Conscious Kid works with schools, organizations and families nationally and internationally to promote access to children’s books that center underrepresented groups. www.theconsciouskid.org

LINE4LINE strengthens literacy skills and attitudes around reading for young men of color in a creative way by providing free haircuts to boys in exchange for reading books. Within the African American Community barbershops have historically served as social hubs. By bringing reading into this culturally significant space, youth not only build self-esteem with a fresh new haircut but also strengthen reading skills in a familiar environment. Using relatable role model mentors, LINE4LINE builds community from within. Founded in 2014 by O’Neil Curtis, LINE4LINE takes place at his Baton Rouge barbershop the first Monday of each month from 4–7pm. During this time LINE4LINE has given 1500 haircuts; placed over 3000 books into homes; created an onsite 24/7 Free Little Library; built a Barbershop Library of multi-cultural books; started a program with the East Baton Rouge Parish Public schools; participated in community outreach events, and established a back-to-school giveaway, serving an additional 3000 youth and families. In 2016, LINE4LINE received its 501c3 status and kicked off the 449 Book Club giving new books to boys which are read and discussed at the following month’s program. In 2017 LINE4LINE began seeking funds through grants and private donations and entered a partnership with The Conscious Kid to further diversify its Barbershop Library. Looking to the future, LINE4LINE plans to create an on-site space for youth to gather during out of school time with a lending library, support services and programs that seek to develop life passions. https://www.facebook.com/Line4LineBR/

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Children's books by and about underrepresented groups. Critical literacy.