‘Growing up as a young black girl, I always felt represented in the books I read’, is not a sentence you hear very often.
Yet that little girl named Rykesha had a very dedicated mum who was determined that her child would grow up seeing herself reflected back at her.
Now, that ‘little girl’ is a mum herself, and Rykesha is repeating history by giving her daughter Amayah-Rose an eclectic range of literature so that she doesn’t feel alone.
Not only is Rykesha gifting this opportunity to her own child, she is also sharing the love via her Instagram account Amayah’s Diverse Books.
Here, she shines a light on a growing collection of diverse children’s books to help future generations feel that all cultures, faiths and colours are celebrated.
Speaking about her mission, Rykesha said she wants to champion inclusive books and also the importance of reading which she hails as the perfect parent-child bonding experience.
Rykesha said: “I was born in the early 90s and my bookshelf was packed with wonderful treasures featuring little black girls who looked just like me – brown skin, rocking cornrows and afros puffs.
“I had books where characters had a white dad and a black mum and even characters who spoke in patois. I had books where the characters lived in Asia, the Caribbean and Africa. As far as I was aware, this was normal. I never felt underrepresented. I never felt unseen.
“I assumed that all my fellow black peers grew up like this too.”
She continued: “As I got older, just like everyone else, I loved reading Princess Diaries, Harry Potter and anything Jacqueline Wilson wrote. But I also still had a great collection of YA fiction with black lead characters, huge shoutout to Malorie Blackman.
“It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned that my mum would go to specialist bookstores and hunt high and low for those wonderful books of mine. She knew how important it was for me to see myself in the books I read. And boy, am I so grateful for that.”
Rykesha – who identifies as black British, with family from the Caribbean across St Vincent, Antigua and Jamaica – is delighted her daughter is proving to be a bookworm just like her.
While she is protective about sharing images of Amayah-Rose online, Rykesha talks openly about their shared love of books and the titles they read together.
Rykesha explained: “I’ve made the decision not to post photos of her on public pages, but you might spot a cameo from her little fingers or toes in some of my posts.
“Now that I am a mum myself raising a black Muslim girl, I try my hardest to make sure that my daughter is reflected in the books she reads – as well as our beautifully diverse society.”
The Londoner believes that when you’re young and figuring out the world, being able to see yourself (as well as others who don’t look like you) in books is vital as it means that you are valid.
Rykesha added: “It can contribute to who you imagine yourself to be, and a child should be able to imagine themselves as absolutely anyone in the world. These mirrors are so crucial.”
To follow Rykesha’s recommendations, click here: Amayah’s Diverse Books.