Singable books are a staple in many music therapists’ toolkits, but upon inspection of our collections we realized that even the books we owned featuring BIPOC characters were primarily written by white people. There are so many incredible singable books written by Black authors with lived experience, and these books should be prioritized in therapeutic spaces and on our personal bookshelves.
While this blog post seeks to focus on Black authors, we acknowledge that identities are intersectional and not always apparent. These authors may claim the identities of biracial, multiracial, or another racial identity entirely.
The 10 books below were identified as “singable” based on rhyming text or having a predictable rhythmic pattern. They also have limited text compared to some extended rhyming books that may be more challenging to set to music. Some are based on songs with existing melodies, but many could be paired with melodies from other songs or original, music therapist-created melodies. If you’re looking for more non-singable books to supplement your library, check out this list of children’s books by Black authors. We also encourage you to consider additional curated booklists for children, such as those created by Ashay By the Bay and Embrace Race.
If you purchase a book, please prioritize Black owned bookstores. There are so many, but if you cannot find what you need there, we encourage you to use a local bookstore. Many are currently donating a portion of their profits to Black led organizations. If you absolutely cannot find what you need at an independent retailer, use AmazonSmile instead of Amazon and set your supported organization to non-profits such as the NAACP or Minnesota Freedom Fund.
The books below are listed in alphabetical order. This is not a ranking of books, as they are all equally important. It is also important for us to note that this is in no way an all-encompassing list; we hope you’ll let us know what books we’ve missed, and plan to continue creating singable booklists in the near future.
This book is still in preorder, but we do know it rhymes! From the author of How to Be an Antiracist comes Antiracist Baby, a board book outlining 9 steps to begin dismantling racism. The book is illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky, a prolific political artist and POC.
This book follows a young boy as he explores all the exciting career options available to him. Words like “horticulturalist” mean this may be better suited for slightly older clients/students, but the bright illustrations and predictable refrain make it attractive to learners of all ages. (Please select the non-profit of your choice if purchasing through Amazon Smile.)
The Hey, Carter! Book Series is full of books based on Tomishia Booker’s own son. With her Masters in Social Work and Doctorate in Education Counseling Psychology and a background in Early Childhood Mental Health, Tomishia brings a wealth of experience to this sweet rhyming book about the beauty of being a brown boy.
This is one of our most used books in school based music therapy. There are so many opportunities to address “wh” questions, and it follows the pattern of Bob Marley’s original song (with lyrics changed in the verses), so you don’t have to come up with a melody. Cedella Marley’s adaptation of “One Love” is also a must have.
Written by the author of “I Am Enough”, this book provides a series of positive affirmations for children and their parents. “My presence matters in this world. My life is worthy; there’s a plan. I know I can do anything.”
While this book does not rhyme, its poetic nature and natural reading rhythm lend themselves to singing and snuggling.
In this collaboration by musician and producer Timbaland and artist Christopher Myers, a rhyming bedtime story describes the sounds of a storm that slowly help a little one fall asleep. We suggest pairing this story with ambient instruments, like a rainstick or thunder tube, to use as a cool down experience.
This book pairs text from a well-known spiritual with beautiful illustrations of a Black boy and his family. We envision using this story as a conversation starter for children to celebrate their unique personhood and what “makes them shine”. A musical arrangement of the song is also included for easy playing.
This story is all about celebrating a new baby as they encounter the world for the first time. Meeting friends and family, eating, playing, taking a bath, snuggling, and dancing are just a few of the excitements this new baby experiences! Specific words are highlighted on each page, which lends itself nicely for use with early readers and students working on vocabulary, rhyming, and “wh” questions.
This book is excellent for little ones learning body parts and body love. Bounce, pat, and find your right and left knees while singing along in a family-centered session or music class.