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CANADA: Black reading lists are being widely shared, but what’s it like trying to find books for children?

Authors for youth say lessons about race should start as soon as possible
books and learning
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At the end of February this year, Nadeene Blanchard-Martin said she was looking to purchase what seems to be one of the few primers on Black Canadian history geared toward kids. But she hit a wall. 

“The Kids Book of Black Canadian History” was sold out online and in brick and mortar stores. As recently as this month, used editions were going on Amazon Canada for $89 and as high as $430.56.

The author of the book Rosemary Sadlier said, to her knowledge, copies of the book had been sold out and none had been reprinted for at least two years, maybe longer. 

The award-winning book, first published in 2003, was a part of a series geared to children with titles such as “The Kids Book of Canada” and “The Kids Book of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada” and more, most of which seem to be available for sale at major retailers.

But at a time where anti-racism literature and Black reading lists have been making the rounds on social media, the book has made a comeback and is once again available for sale from Kids Can Press directly. 

Kids Can Press responded to confirm that it is indeed available again, but did not respond in time for publication as to why it may have gone out of print to begin with.

With adults making a point to broaden their own knowledge of Black issues, what about books for kids that are specifically about Black people in Canada?

Sadlier, who has written several books for youth and has an education background, said she thinks lessons about race should start as soon as possible.

“There’s no point in waiting until somebody is an adult and then begin talking to them about this topic,” she said. “The inroads need to be made when they’re young, so that it’s normal and regularized.” 

Sadlier has long been an advocate of making Black history a school requirement. 

With her own roots in Canada dating back to the 1700s, Sadlier made a point to teach her own three kids about their history. They’ve visited notable sites around the country significant to Black Canadian history, including the church that Harriet Tubman had attended.

Sean Liburd, the owner of Knowledge Bookstore, a Black bookstore in Brampton, agrees that teachings about Black history and race should begin at home.

“For me, I believe the education of a child, the primary responsibility falls with the parents or guardians of that child. I see teachers and others as support.” 

Liburd also points out that if the educational system doesn’t have your history and culture — which is the case for Black people in Canada — it’s even more important. 

The bookstore owner also said it was a popular title for him and he still gets requests for “The Kids Book of Black Canadian History.”

But one of the challenges lies in the broader demand. 

“People are interested in Black Canadian history come February,” he said. “You would like a product to be doing well 365 days a year.” 

The hope for him is that this hunger for Black literature isn’t just a fad of the moment. “That’s what this needs, it needs to mean advocating a lifestyle ... something that’s an everyday thing.”

Sean Liburd has owned Knowledge Bookstore for 23 years. Here are some children’s books on Black Canadians and Black culture that he recommends:

  • Loving Me by Angelot Ndongmo
  • Boy! I am Loving Me by Angelot Ndongmo
  • Harriet Tubman by Nadia Hohn
  • Talking About Freedom by Natasha Henry
  • Brothers and Sisters from the 6th by Jeff A.D. Martin
  • The Underground Railroad: Next Stop, Toronto! by Afua Cooper and Adrienne Shadd
  • Africville by Shauntay Grant and Eva Campbell
  • Little Leaders Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
  • Little Leaders Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
  • Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged! by Jody Nyasha Warner & Richard Rudnicki
  • All Things Are Possible: Learn from African Canadian History Makers Vol.1 by Sean Liburd
  • The Stone Thrower by Jael Richardson

- Angelyn Francis, Local Journalism Initiative, Toronto Star