Ten Adorable Board Board with Photographs of Real Kids by Jane Whittingham
It’s no secret that children’s literature remains sorely lacking when it comes to representation and diversity. Surveys repeatedly show that children are more likely to encounter a talking animal protagonist in a picture book than a child of color. Representation of physical differences and disabilities remains limited as well.
One format that continues to shine, however, is board books, particularly those illustrated with photography. Board books with realistic photographs are an incredible resource for our littlest readers. They allow babies and toddlers to see children with similar backgrounds, features or abilities represented in the pages of their books, while also introducing them to kids who might look different, or who might experience and interact with the world in different ways. Some board books focus specifically on the differences that make our world such a colorful, beautiful place, while others feature diverse individuals while focusing on other subjects like the alphabet or movement.
Many young children, too, are more drawn to photography than to other forms of illustration, and certain educational philosophies, such as the Montessori method of education, emphasize realistic illustrations in children’s materials. Ensuring your library or learning center includes board books with photographic illustrations can help support families in your community who prefer this style of material.
Here are ten board books with beautiful, colorful, diverse photographs of real children that you’re going to want to add to your collection!
YOGA BABY – Amy Hovey (Orca Book Publishers, 2019)
Think yoga is just for adults? Think again! If you can stretch, reach, wiggle and jump, you can do yoga, too! This playful rhyming board book celebrates young children’s natural flexibility, energy and love of movement, and would be heaps of fun to try out in a circle time setting.
MY HAIR IS BEAUTIFUL – Shauntay Grant (Nimbus Publishing, 2019)
Natural, knotty, fluffy, frizzy, twisted, tangled, pony, puffed – this joyful board book with text by Canadian author, professor and poet Shauntay Grant, showcases natural hair types and styles through beautiful photographs of confident, happy young children.
BEAR HAS A BELLY – Jane Whittingham (Pajama Press, 2022)
Bear has a belly, squirrel has cheeks, moose has legs and fox has a nose – and you do, too! A diverse group of children point out different parts of their bodies, while corresponding photos of woodland animals help reinforce the vocabulary.
THE BABIES AND DOGGIES BOOK – John Schindel & Molly Woodward (Clarion Books, 2015)
Babies and doggies – what’s not to love? The upbeat text and adorable photographs point out some of the many things we share with our canine best friends, while capitalizing on the fascination many young children have with animals.
EAT! – Roberta Grobel Intrater (Cartwheel Books, 2002)
This is definitely an older title, but still worth checking out, especially if you have little ones who are just starting to explore solid foods. Just look at that adorably messy little face! There are other titles in the BABY FACES series as well that are just as diverse in their young subjects.
PRIDE COLORS – Robin Stevenson (Orca Book Publishers, 2019)
A sweet celebration of a caregiver’s unconditional love for their child that’s likely to bring a tear to your eye. It’s a fantastic color (or colour, if you’re a fellow Canadian) primer, too, and while it fits nicely into a Pride-themed storytime, it makes for a wonderful read aloud all year round.
GLOBAL BABY PLAYTIME – Global Fund for Children (Charlesbridge, 2021)
Wherever they live, babies love to play. Young children will delight in watching little friends playing with their favorite toys, whether it’s a child playing a ball in Korea or with a puzzle in India. This is part of a series showcasing babies from around the world.
ANIMALS MOVE – Jane Whittingham (Pajama Press, 2022)
Young children are born to move – and so are their animal counterparts! Children are introduced to the names of different baby animals (did you know a baby echidna is called a puggle?) while being encouraged to get up and participate in different actions. Another title that would be a great pick for an energetic circle time.
PASSOVER FAMILY – Monique Polak (Orca Book Publishers, 2018)
Part of a series highlighting different cultural traditions, this board book introduces readers to the Jewish festival of Passover. Other entries in the series include titles on Holi, Diwali and Lunar New Year.
MAY WE HAVE ENOUGH TO SHARE – Richard Van Camp (Orca Book Publishers, 2019)
Indigenous author Richard Van Camp brings us a beautiful expression of gratitude for all the many things we have to be thankful for. Indigenous representation is particularly sorely lacking in most areas of children’s literature, and this stunning board book features joyful photographs of caregivers and young children provided by a collective of Indigenous women photographers.
While many publishers are producing beautiful board books these days, Canadian independent publishing house Orca Book Publishers stands head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to providing exceptional representation. Other Canadian publishers like Nimbus Publishing and Pajama Press are also worth checking out if you want to expand your board book collections with beautiful, inclusive photograph-filled titles. I might be a bit biased (Canadian over here!), but it really is exciting to see so many must-have board books being produced by publishers from above the 49th parallel.
Board books like the ones listed above provide sorely needed diverse representation in children’s literature, using photography to showcase and celebrate children of all backgrounds and abilities being their adorable, colourful, loveable selves, and you’re going to want to add all these (and more!) to your library collection.
Jane Whittingham is an author and children’s librarian from British Columbia, Canada. You can connect with her on her website at www.raincitylibrarian.ca