The My Reflection Children’s Store is exposing children to books with black main characters
What does your reading list look like?
More importantly, if you are a parent reading this, what does your children’s reading list look like?
For youngsters in the Caribbean, Nneka Ruiz Montalvo has created a space to purchase reading material where children can “see themselves”.
Her website myreflectiontt.com offers an array of children’s books, highlighting young, Black characters as a way of “giving kids fun and engaging books with relatable characters”.
Montalvo launched the business in January this year inspired by The Black Lives Matter movement in 2020 as she sought ways to increase Black representation in her son’s bookshelf which eventually led her to launch the My Reflection Children’s Store.
Its primary focus is to provide children’s books with Black main characters, she said, “Giving your kids fun and engaging books with relatable characters is a far better way to teach them values than giving them a lecture”.
If you grew up in the Caribbean, you may recall reading books like Beppo Tate, Becca Lamb, The Castle of My Skin, The Wide Sargasso Sea, The House of Mister Biswas and many others highlighting the Caribbean child and their story. Montalvo agrees that books like these were readily available for the pre-teen and teenage age group. They were, however, less available for kids 10 years and under.
As a mother she noted, “When visiting a bookstore locally, it can be challenging finding books with a Black child on the cover or stories of inspirational young, Black kids. For this age we see fairytales and other stories that mostly reflect the Caucasian child.”
One of her goals for My Reflection Children’s Store has been to focus on books that also represent Black, ambitious characters following their dream in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers.
Parents can also appreciate that she carefully selects books that are designed to teach primary school children important values like being honest, doing their homework, accepting others, etc.
She shared her blog ‘Why Black Representation Matters for Children of African descent’ with Catholic News, which highlights three crucial points:
· Representation – Books are mirrors, reflecting an aspect of our own lives, hopes and dreams back at us. Reading is therefore a form of self-affirmation. The ‘mirror’
experience is exactly why representation matters. When children see themselves reflected in their reading material, they feel validated and valuable.
· Affirmation – Many of the books with Black main characters celebrate a child’s brown skin and Afro-textured hair. This leads to self-acceptance and builds a child’s self-esteem, self-image and confidence.
· Inspiration – Many books with Black main characters feature children in leadership or STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) roles. This gives Black children inspiration to believe in themselves and become high achievers. When children see someone who looks like them doing something they never thought of, it makes them think ‘This could be me someday!’.
The blog emphasises that, regardless of ethnicity, parents should take steps to increase diversity in their children’s bookshelves.
Visit www.myreflectiontt.com to view books for both boys and girls. Once your order is confirmed, books will be delivered to you by TTPOST couriers within three business days.
–By Renee Smith