Instagram Challenge Turns into Best-Selling Children’s Book

Little Leaders Vashti HarrisonRosa Parks was an icon in the civil rights movement that began in the 1950s. But that bold woman who refused to give up her seat on the bus was also once a child. A new book shares the stories of Parks and other female leaders from black history with illustrations that remind us of their quiet beginnings. 

“I was a quiet, shy child, and I think it’s important to show young readers historical figures in a different way,” says author and illustrator Vashti Harrison in explaining her approach to “Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.” The book’s short biographies of 40 black women in American history – including their childhood experiences – are paired with pint-sized depictions of the women’s grown-up, history-making selves.  

The book was spawned from Harrison’s own Instagram challenge. “I wanted to draw one woman every day for the month of February to celebrate Black History Month,” she says. “I felt inspired to highlight the stories we don’t hear too often and to celebrate contributions black women have made to American history.

I didn’t expect when I started this project how deeply connected I would feel to the women, so I was inspired to dive deeper and share their stories with others in a book format.” 

The result points children toward their own promise, and reminds parents that all history makers were once small children with big dreams.

Little Leaders Vashti Harrison

Author and Illustrator Vashti Harrison

“To be able to see yourself in someone else’s story can be life-changing,” Harrison writes in the book’s introduction. “To know a goal is achievable can be empowering.”  

“Little Leaders” debuted at number three on The New York Times Children’s Best Seller List when it was released in December and was also a winner at the 49th Annual NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Literary Work for Children. The book is written for ages 8 to 12, but would make a good read-aloud for younger children. To learn more about the author or purchase the book, visit Harrison shares her illustrations of women of all shades on her Instagram page @vashtiharrison.  

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