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There’s a sense of balance and belonging that is found when you’re surrounded by the wonders of nature. I personally have found refuge in the outdoors since my early years and share this enjoyment with my toddler.
Growing up in a small, rural community, surrounded by farmland and trees, I spent a lot of my time outside with my feet in the dirt and riding four-wheelers through the forests. This is one of the many untold narratives of African Americans in the outdoors.
Encouraging Diversity and Inclusion in Outdoor Spaces
The earlier you expose children to nature, the more likely they are to develop a life-long love for it. Also, going outdoors is beneficial in early childhood development, providing support in the sharpening of language and problem-solving skills.” 1
However, the participation in outdoor spaces, namely state and national parks and forests, is disproportionately white with many factors contributing to this, including people of color being three times more likely to live in places with no immediate access to nature. 2 Also, another consideration is the lack of representation in narratives revolving around the outdoors.
We can work towards encouraging diversity outdoors by centering black voices and providing protagonists that these communities can relate to and see themselves in. This is reaffirmed by researchers at NC State’s College of Natural Resources who firmly believe that the outdoors can become more inclusive once the narrative changes. 2
10 Picture Books About Nature with Black Kids
To support in this effort to build diversity outdoors by changing the narrative and encouraging young readers to get outside, we have curated a recommendation of the best outdoor books with black lead characters. From books about our relationships with animals to books about adventure and deforestation, these titles are perfect for bringing nature home.
1. Over and Under the Pond, by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal (Buy)
In Over and Under the Pond, readers will discover the plants and animals that make up the rich, interconnected ecosystem of a mountain pond. Credit to: Chronicle Books
2. Magnificent Homespun Brown by Samara Cole Doyon (Buy)
With vivid illustrations by Kaylani Juanita, Samara Cole Doyon sings a carol for the plenitude that surrounds us and the self each of us is meant to inhabit. Credit to: Tilbury House Publishers
3. Explorers of the Wild by Cale Atkinson (Buy)
When Bear and Boy meet in the woods, they're scared at first. Really scared. But soon these kings of the wild realize that no mountain is too big to conquer. Credit to: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
4. Ruby’s Birds by Mya Thompson (Buy)
Meet Ruby, a plucky young girl who uncovers the wild side of her city neighborhood with the help of a grown-up friend. When Ruby realizes there are amazing birds right in her neighborhood, her imagination takes flight. Credit to: Cornell Lab Publishing Group
5. Hiking Day by Anne Rockwell (Buy)
Beloved author Anne Rockwell celebrates nature and the outdoors with a gorgeous new picture book about a child's first mountain hike! As they climb up and up the path, they see everything from a friendly toad to a prickly porcupine, tall leafy trees to tiny red berries. Credit to: Aladdin
6. The Vast Wonder of the World by Melina Mangal (Buy)
Ernest Everett Just was not like other scientists of his time. He saw the whole, where others saw only parts. He noticed details others failed to see. He persisted in his research despite the discrimination and limitations imposed on him as an African American. Credit to: Millbrook Press
7. How to Find a Fox by Nilah Magruder (Buy)
Equipped with a camera and determination, a little girl sets out to track down an elusive red fox. But foxes are sneaky, and it proves more difficult than she thought. Credit to: Square Fish
8. The Tree in Me by Corinne Luyken (Buy)
Through poetic text and exquisite illustrations of children reveling in nature, this picture book explores the various ways we as human beings are strong, creative, and connected to others. Credit to: Rocky Pond Books
9. A Beach Tail by Karen Lynn Williams (Buy)
An elegantly illustrated story of a boy who gets absorbed in drawing on the beach. This wonderful read-aloud book brings to life a summer experience that is all too familiar for young children. Credit to: Astra Young Readers
10. Ugly Tree by Erica Montgomery (Buy)
This beautiful story gently nudges the reader to seek a deeper view into what they see every day and to find the value they may have missed. Credit to: Elegant Warrior LLC
In addition to the above, you can read The Adventures of Keva: The Power of the Trees, which is an energetic story that celebrates nature, adventure, and the magic of trees, published by Zayzay Literary Co. There are also several organizations at the forefront of promoting diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces, including Outdoor Afro, Black Outside, Latino Outdoors, and GirlTrek.
We strive to create and promote stories that showcase the multi-faceted lives of the BIPOC community, with a special focus on black narratives. Within the nature category, the hope is that there will be increased representation centered around the voices of people of color.