Are you looking for a clear way to talk about race with your kids but don't exactly know how? The following anti-racism books for kids will help you start these important conversations.
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It can feel overwhelming to think about how to explain the reality of racism and anti-racism. The deaths of African-Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were incredibly difficult to process for grown-ups, much less for children.
As a nanny and as a future teacher, I am often looking for children’s literature, in general, to read with my kids. Often, I am looking for books that are able to explain the importance of anti-racism through concepts like diversity and inclusion. The goal is not to be color-blind but to celebrate what makes us special. These book recommendations ideas stem from that search and promote social justice. They're age-appropriate and accurate to raise children with an anti-racism mentality.
Are you an educator, caretaker, or parent interested in helping children grapple with this incredibly important concept? Check out these book recommendations for Young Readers below based on age and reading level.
For the littlest readers, discussing differences between people in a positive light may be a good starting point to anti-racist discourse. Picture books that celebrate these differences and highlight different people's unique features are great to be read aloud to a class, small group, or one-on-one. Even something as silly as Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears a Who or The Sneetches can help Young Readers understand and appreciate differences. After all, “a person’s a person no matter how small.”
Books like Hair Like Mine explore subjects that most children can identify with, in this case, not liking your dark, curly hair. The little girl in this story looks for someone with hair like hers but realizes that everyone’s hair is special and unique in its own way. This book is part of a great series called Like Mine that helps children learn to embrace their unique qualities, from skin color to hair texture.
As children begin to read on their own, you can direct them towards books that provide age-appropriate anti-racism themes. Focusing on representation is helpful, being sure to find books that feature characters of all sizes, shapes, and colors.
This is especially important in a classroom setting where you as the teacher might be coming from a different socio-cultural background from the students you teach. You want your students to be able to see themselves reflected in the stories you read, in addition to exposing them to other cultures and new concepts.
Books like A Snowy Day and Brown Boy Joy feature Black characters (specifically Black Boys) in stories that don’t necessarily relate to issues of racism but allow all students to see people of color doing everyday things. They also help children, especially Black or Latinx children, see themselves positively in a narrative. In fact, representation can improve children's self-esteem.
You can also introduce famous people of color throughout history through picture books, like Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison, filled with beautiful illustrations. While this story centers on Black women, Harrison has published numerous children's titles. Some of my favorites explore Black male historical figures and important women from around the world. Check out her board books as well for your littlest ones!
Older elementary students may already grasp what is happening in regards to police brutality and racism. Encouraging discourse about this subject through literature might be beneficial for your home or classroom. Of course, this age group can also benefit from the types of books mentioned above as well.
This book, Something Happened in Our Town (A Child's Story About Racial Injustice) by Marianne Celano is a critically acclaimed story about a town grappling with the shooting of a Black man through the perspective of both a Black and a white family involved. Reading this story to your children might be a good conversation starter. A book like this is a great way of explaining racism without delving into violent details.
As kids get older, it can be more difficult to engage them with a book. This age group might enjoy historical fiction, especially of the coming-of-age variety. During Black History Month, you could steer them towards Black authors. Angie Thomas is a great choice. She wrote The Hate U Give and its prequel Concrete Rose, inspired by Black Lives Matter activism.
If your reader prefers rom-coms, check out Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant. The story follows a 16-year-old who adores reading romance novels. But, she wishes her favorite books featured characters who looked like her. So, she sets out to write her own stories for herself and her best friend. Before she knows it, though, she falls in love for real!
Have you or your kids read any of these books? Do you have any anti-racism recommendations of your own? Share with friends and family on FamilyApp!