Thu | Jul 19, 2018

Positive messages for Black children

Published:Sunday | May 28, 2017 | 12:03 AMGlenda Anderson

Riley Can Be Anything is a 10-page, easy read targeting parents of preschoolers, especially children of colour.

In the narrative, Riley, a young black boy, has a discussion with his older cousin, Joe, about what he wants to be when he grows up.

Joe's suggestions are both fun and real and totally capture Riley's imagination in what becomes a pep talk for the curious, timid Riley.

The title and recurrent refrain - Riley Can Be Anything - reinforces its general idea of confidence building and nurturing, positive role models for children.

In fact, author Davina Hamilton, former entertainment editor with the United Kingdom's Voice newspaper, says that this was her motivation for writing the book.




"The book is targeted at all preschool children but also seeks to address the conversation about the need for positive imagery for black children," Hamilton said.

"During my time at The Voice (she worked there for 14 years), I wrote numerous articles and had many discussions about the importance of black children seeing reflections of themselves in literature. As a mother of two, this became important to me on a personal level, hence ... I decided to write this children's book, which has a young black boy as the main character," Hamilton said.

The language is a mix of sight words as well as more complex words, but remains simple enough for a nursery read-aloud.

Delivered in poetry form, it is very engaging as it employs rhyming that is both fun and informative for young readers.

"Riley loved his big cousin Joe

There were so many things Joe wanted to know

Like 'How does honey come from bees?'

And 'Why must I always say 'thank you' and 'please'?

Considering his options for a career, Riley is intrigued by Joe's suggestions.

A chef, said Riley.

"That sounds good.

But do you really think I could?"

Joe said: Your food would be fit for a king

Riley, you can be anything.

The central character, portrayed as a young black boy. He could be any black child as even the name itself is not gender specific.

His cousin Joe and each professional identified - doctor, jazz player, and chef - are also black.

Riley Can Be Anything will inspire many children to dream, and indeed, help some child to find themselves and their story in literature.