Hi! I’m Kanika. I’ve been an educator for 20 years now. I started my career as a kindergarten teacher and fell in love with helping kids discover their reading identities. Listening to them ask for certain books and trying to keep my libraries filled with high-engaging books, so they would be motivated to learn to read them on their own.
As a teacher in underserved communities, I was dismayed by the lack of books that represented characters that looked like my students. Most of our favorites featured white or animal characters, but very few reflected their brown and black hues. I searched, and we cherished the few I could find.
Those same books became instrumental when I became a mother. I wanted my son to feel seen, loved, and confident, walking into the world. I filled his room with books we read often, but the same challenge I faced in the classroom, I also met at home. While I could find a few more books featuring diverse characters for him to enjoy, the challenge of finding books with diverse boy characters, particularly Black boys, still plagued us. Boys of color have historically been and continue to be underrepresented and invisible in children’s literature. There are still too few books that reflect positive and empowered depictions that contribute to the journey of raising bold and brilliant boys. While there has been some momentum in the publishing world to find books featuring male characters of color, it can still be a challenge for parents.
While I no longer have a classroom of my own, educating is in my bones. I love connecting people with diverse books, resources, and educational tips.
In December, my long-time college friend, Vanessa and I launched Stories of a Colorful World. We wanted to increase access to children’s books that show diverse representations of characters of color, highlight the voices of #ownvoice authors, and instill a love of reading in our young people that will help them grow into life-long learners. We aim to put more diverse books into the hands of young readers while also making high-quality texts more accessible to parents that want to provide their children with a reading life that resembles the world around them. Check out our Bookshop.org store to find diverse books to fill your child’s library.
We recently created The Brown Boy Bookshelf newsletter. Through the newsletter, myself and others provide book recommendations, learning activities, resources, and informative tips for parents of preschoolers dedicated to raising boys of color that love to read.
We are now seeing how critical it is for kids to see themselves and others with empathy and love. After the murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police department, I felt mentally and emotionally drained. I thought about my Black son, who was only a few months away from entering high school. I knew that some people would view him as a threat, and I was limited in my ability to protect him. I needed a space where I could see, truly see, Black boys just being. @black_boys_are is my attempt at that. It’s an Instagram page that features a collection of pictures, stories & children’s books featuring black boys just being, a space where it’s okay just to be a Black boy.
Thank you for stopping by and joining us on this ride. Please send any and all feedback. 🙏🏾