A few months ago, I went on an intentional search for books written for and about black girls and women. While I did find a few books with black characters, I was shocked to find upon further research that quite a few of the authors of those books were not black women or even black men for that matter.
I won’t dive into my theory and disappointment on this post because what I did find made several girls that I teach and me very happy, and that’s the book I’m A Pretty Little Black Girl written by Betty K. Bynum.
I absolutely fell in love upon my first reading. I thought to myself- where had this book been when I was a little girl? My son, who shares my love of reading, picked it up when I put it down, enjoyed it as well. I told him that the author also had a book called I’m A Brilliant Black Boy. I’ve since promised him that we would go back to the book store to get him a copy.
I don’t have daughters but on the drive to work that Monday after discovering this book I thought ‘the girls in my class need to read this book. I could write a review of my own, but how cool would it be to get the reaction of some real life pretty little black girls!’
That morning I pulled three girls into a small group during independent reading time and showed them the cover of the book. Their eyes all lit up. I only had one copy, so we read the book together. As we read, the girls were so excited to see themselves depicted positively in a book. One girl exclaimed, “She looks like me!” Another one said, “Look! It’s you!” to one of her friends. They were smiling and giving each other high fives without prompting by the time we reached the end of the book. I quickly jotted down a few questions and had each girl respond with their thoughts.
By the next morning, I had typed out an activity to accompany the book for girls to work in a small group to give their reactions. I’ve recorded a few of their thoughts below.
Question: What do you think and feel as you read and observe the cover?
Student SS: I think and feel this will be a nice book. Student JJ: I think the story is going to be about black girls and how they might live their life.
Student DT: I think I will like this book. I also think the cover of this book looks very nice.
Student KJ: I think this book will be about a black girl who loves her skin color, and I feel happy already by the title.
Student ZT: I feel happy that someone made this book.
What did you notice as you read?
Several Students: I noticed that Mia looks in the mirror and calls herself a pretty little black girl.
Student JD: I noticed this little girl likes being black.
Student DT: I noticed that on almost every page it said the words pretty little black girl.
Student MB: I noticed a girl in the book looks like my classmate.
Student AL: They like each other the way they are. The little girl is unique.
Student AC: This girl is a lot like me. She likes being black. I like how all the girls help each other.
Student TB: There is a black girl on the cover. She likes to dance like me.
Student KR: I notice that all the girls are all shades of brown, and Mia reminds me of me.
Student AL: The little girl is unique. She has lots of friends, and they like each other the way they are.
What did you like about the book?
Student JD: I liked that this book is about black girls.
Student LC: I like how Mia doesn’t look down on herself.
Student AC: I like how all the friends are pretty and black.
Student TB: I like how she knows she’s a pretty black girl.
Student KR: I liked when Mia says, “I’m a pretty little black girl.” I like that Mia didn’t care about the color her friends were and they respect each other.
Student DT: I liked how she looked in the mirror and told herself that she was pretty every day.
What didn’t you like about the book?
Unanimous: I liked everything about this book!
How did this book make you feel?
Student DT: This book makes me feel like a pretty black child.
Student MB: It makes me very happy to be black.
Student JJ: This book made me feel more powerful because I can relate to what Mia is saying.
Student AC: This book made me feel powerful.
Would you recommend this book to a friend?
Each girl said they would recommend this book to a friend. Many girls said they would recommend it because it makes you feel good about your color and the skin you’re in.
As you can see, my fourth-grade girls and I highly recommend this much needed, beautifully illustrated book to be added to the library of all of the pretty little black girls around the world.
Job well done, Betty K. Bynum.