Books to teach Children about Race and Anti-Racism

I guest blogged for early educators on how to introduce diversity and differences to children through the use of books. I thought it was important to also show you all how to introduce the topic of race and racism to children through the use of books.

Something I’ve seen many people struggle with is how to introduce the topic of diversity and differences to young children. How do we introduce the topic of race to children? How do we teach them about anti-racism? How do we make this topic age appropriate?

I’ve found that a great way to introduce the topic of race and racism to children is through the use of books. Books are a great way to get children talking about many things and a great way to simplify what we may call “difficult” subjects. We can use certain books in order to start a conversation and give children the opportunity to ask questions meaning that all we have to do is continue that conversation by answering their questions or asking more questions.

Don’t be afraid to start these discussions in our classrooms and with your children, there are so many ways to do this. These books are a great start but something else you can do is make sure to read books written by Black people to all children. Read books that celebrate Black people along with books that teach about race and racism.


Here are a few books I feel would be a great way for you to discuss race and racism with children. All links will take you to Eso Won Books, a Black owned bookstore in Los Angeles, or Bookshop, where I recommend supporting The Lit Bar, a Black owned bookstore in the Bronx.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson , Rafael López  (Illustrator) 

National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpre Illustrator Award winner Rafael Lopez have teamed up to create a poignant, yet heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.

There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.

There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael Lopez’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

Jacqueline Woodson is the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.

The Skin I’m in: A First Look at Racism a First Look at Racism by Pat Thomas, Lesley Harker (Illustrator)

Racial discrimination is cruel–and especially so to younger children. This title encourages kids to accept and be comfortable with differences of skin color and other racial characteristics among their friends and in themselves. A First Look At… is an easy-to-understand series of books for younger children. Each title explores emotional issues and discusses the questions such difficulties invariably raise among kids of preschool through early school age. Written by a psychotherapist and child counselor, each title promotes positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. The books are written in simple, direct language that makes sense to younger kids. Each title also features a guide for parents on how to use the book, a glossary, suggested additional reading, and a list of resources. There are attractive full-color illustrations on every page. (Ages 4-7)

Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton, Raúl Colón (Illustrator)

In this Bank Street College of Education Best Children’s Book of the Year, Paula Young Shelton, daughter of Civil Rights activist Andrew Young, brings a child’s unique perspective to an important chapter in America’s history. Paula grew up in the deep south, in a world where whites had and blacks did not. With an activist father and a community of leaders surrounding her, including Uncle Martin (Martin Luther King), Paula watched and listened to the struggles, eventually joining with her family–and thousands of others–in the historic march from Selma to Montgomery.

Poignant, moving, and hopeful, this is an intimate look at the birth of the Civil Rights Movement. 

Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside by Kenneth Braswell 

This engaging story begins when two children are awakened by noises in the middle of the night outside the window of their inner-city neighborhood. Both their Dad and Mom spend the next morning explaining to them what was taking place in their community.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson , E.B. Lewis (Illustrator) 

Clover’s mom says it isn’t safe to cross the fence that segregates their African-American side of town from the white side where Anna lives. But the two girls strike up a friendship, and get around the grown-ups’ rules by sitting on top of the fence together.

Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner, Richard Rudnicki  (Illustrator) 

In 1946, Viola Desmond bought a movie ticket at the Roseland Theatre in Nova Scotia. After settling into a main floor seat, an usher came by and told her to move, because her ticket was only good for the balcony. She offered to pay the difference in price but was refused: “You people have to sit in the upstairs section.” Viola refused to move. She was hauled off to jail, but her actions gave strength and inspiration to Canada’s black community. Vibrant illustrations and oral-style prose tell Viola’s story with sympathy and historical accuracy. 

6 thoughts on “Books to teach Children about Race and Anti-Racism

      • Yes, he did have that for a short while BUT… he realized he was wrong and he became very much anti-racist, and outspoken about it later. I urge you to read Sneeches because the lesson it teaches children is that it doesn’t matter what’s on the outside, nothing physical makes us superior to anyone else. The other story – What Was I Scared Of – teaches children that our fears of the Other are unfounded, and the best way to conquer that fear is to get to know the person you are unreasonably afraid of. Two excellent lessons that are truly the opposite of racism. Read them. It will take you 15 minutes at the most. You’ll see.

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      • The point is, you can’t actually delve into the problem of racism with children that are as young as his target audience. You can, however, teach them how to accept people who are different than themselves. You can also teach them the importance of getting to know people who are different than yourself. When a young child learns the value of these things, at this very basic level, they are already learning how not to be racist. As a Jew, I was taught to “teach a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” In other words “get them while they’re young”!

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  1. Pingback: Books to teach Children about Race and Anti-Racism – The Library Mouse Tales

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