A new shop dedicated to black children’s books has opened in south London to create a “safe space” where young black people are “inspired to read” and can “see themselves as heroes and problem solvers”.

Kelly-Jade Nicholls, 36, from Thornton Heath, London, launched Melanin Magic after establishing Woke Babies, a monthly subscription service providing boxes containing books and activities tailored to black audiences, four years ago.

She opened the bookstore on July 24 in West Norwood after seeing “how huge the demand is” for books with black authors and protagonists.

The entrepreneur described the shop as a “fun” place that allows “black children to be children”.

Ms Nicholls told the PA news agency: “I would describe Melanin Magic as a fun place for kids, it features amazing black-owned brands and amazing books featuring black protagonists.

“The opportunity came where there was a shop available in an area that I just felt was perfect like West Norwood.

“I still see that from time to time I walk into different bookshops to see if access to black children’s books is becoming more available, and it feels like it’s not.

“Black children – all children – deserve to see themselves as heroes and problem solvers, individuals who can make a positive impact.”

She warned that if black children do not see themselves represented in books, it will send a message that “their stories and experiences do not matter”.

Ms Nicholls added: “If you go into your local popular bookstore and the only black books you see tend to be history books, like learning about Rosa Parks.

“I just like to give access to more fun books for kids, and just allow black children to be children and read everyday books like everyone else.”

Great British Life: Kelly-Jade Nicholls (centre) at the opening of Melanin Magic, a new bookshop dedicated to black children's books which has opened in South LondonKelly-Jade Nicholls (centre) at the opening of Melanin Magic, a new bookshop dedicated to black children's books which has opened in South London (Image: Tabz Wilson/PA Wire)

Since opening her store, Ms Nicholls said the response from parents has been “amazing”.

She said: “There has just been non-stop great support from parents saying how needed it is.

“It’s so amazing seeing kids’ faces light up when they walk in.

“Lots of different cultures have come to celebrate the bookstore and understand that it’s not just for black people but for everybody to have diverse books.”

After noticing the lack of black literature at a well-known bookstore in Brixton, the former self-published author decided to establish Melanin Magic.

“In Brixton, I would always walk into this popular chain bookstore, and every time I walked in there were never any black books.

“It used to be shocking because it’s located in Brixton.

“Last year, Dapo Adeola, an amazing illustrator, had the book of the year and his books were not in the store.

“So that kind of has always been in the back of my mind.”

Ms Nicholls founded Woke Babies after hearing how parents “struggled” to find black children’s books.

The company provides parents with a monthly box that includes a variety of books featuring a black protagonist, along with learning resources.

“I thought of the idea of Woke Babies to take the stress away from parents, so they don’t have to go to the end of the earth to find great books,” Ms Nicholls said.

“At the time when I started Woke Babies, books featuring black protagonists were less than 1% of the books being published.

“Woke Babies is something that is definitely needed.”

With her two businesses, Ms Nicholls hopes she has “inspired a lot more book lovers to create a safe space within their area”.