Growing up, Tamara McNeil was an avid reader of series like “The Babysitters Club” and R.L Stine’s “Goosebumps.”

It wasn’t until she was a teenager that McNeil noticed that most of the books she enjoyed didn’t feature characters that were reflective of her experience as an adolescent.

“Most of the (books) would be centered around growing up in the South, segregation, integration, and things like that,” she said. “Sometimes I wanted to read about a black character that looks just like me.

“It wasn’t until after high school that I started to read black literature,” she admitted. “As a child, it was definitely harder to find books with characters that looked just like me. I’m not sure if I was aware or even noticed at the time.

“As I got older I knew that when I had children I would definitely instill a love of being black and being proud into them,” she continued.

McNeil’s mission to promote positive self-awareness in black children began in 2015, when she found that locating children books with characters of African descent was not an easy task.

“After I had my son, my first child in May 2015, I was building his library,” McNeil said. “(I)n building his library, I noticed not a lot of books featured characters that looked like him. So, I set out on a quest to find books with black characters.

When she noticed the lack of black characters in children’s literature, it inspired her to take action. After countless searches through book sections at Barnes & Noble, Target, and Amazon, she decided to take matters into her own hands and created the “Just Like Me!” box, a monthly subscription box dedicated to African American literature.

After leaving corporate America in Charlotte, North Carolina and relocating to Atlanta, Georgia,  she developed the monthly book subscription as a means to help parents foster a love of reading in their children.

“There were plenty of subscription services out there,” McNeil continued. “But they don’t feature our books. If they did, they weren’t regularly. So, I thought maybe this is an opportunity to help other parents out because I know if I am having a hard time finding books, I can’t be the only one.”

The “Just Like Me!” box caters to children from the ages of 2 to 11.

Each month the box features two to three books from authors like Faith Ringgold, the author of “Tar Beach;” Maria Willis, an Atlanta native and the author of “The Secret Keeper;” and Ty Allan Jackson, the author of “Danny Dollar Millionaire,” a book that teaches children early on about money and how to manage their finances.   

For $28 per month, parents can skip the hassle of searching through bookstores and instead have books with African American characters delivered straight to their doorstep. As the child’s reading level advances, so do the book selections.

For more on the Just Like Me! Box visit, www.justlikemebox.com.

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