Brytani Cavil and Darriana Donegan faced a parenting dilemma in the summer of 2018: They couldn’t find diverse children’s books for their kids. Both avid readers through- out their childhoods, the two mothers were troubled by the prospect of raising families without access to diverse youth literature. “It was shockingly difficult to find books reflective of Black culture, or people of color in general. There’s just not a lot of diversity in mainstream children’s literature,” Donegan says. “As our search intensified, we realized that parents in communities across the country are likely experiencing this same issue.”
Within months, The Brown Book Box was born. After scouring online retailers for titles that embodied their company’s core values of equity and inclusion, Cavil and Donegan (both of whom are Black) rolled their new brand out in February 2019. Almost immediately, they sold out of boxes, each of which came with three books and interactive activities to complement the literature’s Black History Month–themed curriculum.
While Cavil admits growth was slow in their first year of operation, it allowed them to hone their craft and prepare for the barrage of orders they’ve received over the past several months—a spike she attributes to COVID-19’s impact on learning at home and the heightened awareness surrounding race in America. These movements and the groundswell of support for Black-owned companies has caused The Brown Book Box’s customer base to explode this year. Since the start of 2020, business has quintupled, and Cavil and Donegan hope that bump in sales will allow their monthly subscription boxes (which serve ages 9 and under and focus on themes ranging from Earth Day in April to September’s Hispanic Heritage Month) to continue reshaping representation in children’s literature. “Getting to hear my sons talk about how our books’ main characters have hair like them, that they wear headphones like them, just really warms my heart,” Cavil says. “At the end of the day, that’s our goal. We want the families we serve to see themselves in the stories that they’re reading.”
Brown Book Box Top Picks
AS BRAVE AS YOU
by Jason Reynolds
Brooklyn-raised brothers Genie and Ernie spend their summer in Virginia with their grandparents, showcasing the value of intergenerational bonds.
RAINBOW JOE AND ME
by Maria Diaz Strom
By befriending a blind man, Eloise learns that people’s differences— and different abilities—not only shape their experiences, but also bring them together.
by Diane de Anda
As their father faces deportation, children are left to wonder what comes next. An important read to underscore how so many families are impacted by separation, whether through deportation, incarceration, or divorce.