We live in a world where little black girls still favor white Barbie dolls. Additionally, an overwhelming number of black boys still want to be entertainers or sports stars instead intellectuals.  Research shows that even in this new millennia, in spite of the fact that we have had a black president, these disparaging views are still present in black society. Part of this discouraging phenomenon is due to the negative images of black people still portrayed in the news and in social media on a daily basis. There are also other subliminal messages that black is bad. For instance, bad guys wear black, black cats are bad luck, and witches are known as “dark” entities. It is imperative that these images are persistently and consistently combated with positive messages of what it means to be black, and the beauty of things that are black.

Numerous studies indicate powerful correlations between students’ self-concept and their subsequent academic achievement. Children of all races, colors, and creeds who feel good about themselves ultimately have higher student achievement as a result. Those of us who are committed to closing the achievement gap for black children across the diaspora must continue to look for ways to help build these children’s concepts of the black experience.

Black is….is an inspirational book which introduces young children to strong, rigorous vocabulary words which can be used to positively describe the black experience.


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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is intended for young children. It associates positive images of family, success, learning and more with black people in a simple, direct, and thoughtful manner. Despite having recently had a black President in America, many images of blacks today continue to be discouraging and disparaging ones. In truth, however, blacks as a whole are positive contributing members of society, and that is the image that must be depicted. Studies have shown that black children today have negative perceptions of black people and often themselves as a result of negative images. In addition, negative images of blacks can subconsciously facilitate racist beliefs against blacks. This book serves to counterbalance that by helping all youngsters, and especially black youngsters, more clearly see and celebrate the positive attributes of black people

By P. Tyler on January 19, 2017
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased this children’s book for my 16 year old son and including myself. This book is a learning of vocabulary words for discussion in interacting with your children/grandkids/neices and/or nephews in learning what the word(s) “black” and “beautiful” means to oneself. There are activities in the back of the book that you can do with your loved ones in making the learning of the words of discussion more fun. I recommend this book for all, especially to persons of color.

Dr. Heather L. Townsend Teaches Children Black Is Beautiful

August 11, 2017 by Chandra Sparks Splond

Dr. Heather L. Townsend wants children to know that black is beautiful. I recently spoke with the educator and humanitarian about her book, Black Is…

Tell me about your book, Black Is….
Black Is…is a children’s vocabulary book focused on showing positive images and using empowering vocabulary words to describe black culture. Children and adults are encouraged to use the picture clues to help define the word and ponder other examples of how each word can be used.  A host of follow-up activities for parents and educators are listed in the back of the book.

Why did you decide to write it?
I wrote the book in 1994, while taking a children’s literature course at Temple University.  We were challenged in the course to critically analyze Caldecott and Newbery Award–winning children’s books. We were then charged with creating a book of that caliber.  I was told by several members of my class, including my professor, that I should actually have my book published.  It took me 23 years to see it through, but I did it.

What do you want readers to learn from the book?
I want readers young and old to be taught more explicitly the beauty of black culture.  The phrase Black is Beautiful is a generic term of sorts. However, as we delve deeper, it is actually a very necessary message.  For some, it is a reminder.  For others, it is a new concept.  Growing up 30 years ago in a primarily white suburb, I remember resenting that fact that I was born black.  I relied on images from the media and the surrounding urban areas to define what it meant to be black.  The negative portrayals of black people were damaging to my self-esteem.  I want as many children—from all walks of life—to know as early as possible that black culture has many wonderful aspects.  All cultures do!  If the white children that I went to school with had been exposed to a book like mine at that time, maybe I would not have had to endure the same level of prejudice.  For this reason, I see my book as appropriate for all ages, races and cultures, although it is technically a primary-level children’s book.

What do you want readers to learn from your life?
Know that you are beautiful just as you are.  I’d like children to master at an early age what took me 40-plus years to fully understand. Never give up on your dreams. It is often in our moments of darkness that greatness is being created under the surface.  In a moment of pure frustration, I took steps to have my book published.  The process hasn’t been perfect, but I am still here, learning and growing, and pressing forward.  Anger can be a tremendous motivator.  So, always look for the positive, but do not fear negative emotions.  Just allow them to propel you toward your destiny and trust the process.  

What advice do you have for parents who want to teach their children self-worth?
Speak positive affirmations over your child daily.  Teach them to speak the words over themselves.  (i.e., You are beautiful, you are intelligent, you are a winner, you are a child of the most high God.)  Be patient when they make mistakes, and speak with words of kindness, even when delivering a firm message or consequence.  Above all else, be the example of positive self-worth.  Children will hear 20% of what we say but the other 80% they learn by watching how we behave and sensing how we feel.  Take time to affirm yourself as a parent and a child of God.  That energy will exude from your pores onto your children.

What’s next for Heather Townsend?
I am currently working on having my summer enrichment curriculum that I’ve built.  I am also working on two new versions of Black Is… for teens and adults.  I currently have 25 years in the field of education and a doctorate in educational leadership.  I hope to continue inspiring youth, parents and educators through workshops and speaking engagements. I am also looking to share my gifts more nationally and internationally.

Do you have anything you would like to add?
My favorite quote:  Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is the gift–that is why it is called the present!

To learn more about Dr. Heather L. Townsend, visit her website or connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.

Use my affiliate link to purchase your copy of Black Is…