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. 

Non-Fiction Books about Racism to Read

I don’t know how to put my thoughts into words about the injustice that occurs on a regular basis towards Black people. There is just so much to say and I find it better to in these cases to listen to the voices of Black people. What I do know is that things have to change. I had to do something though and creating this list for you all is one of the things that I could do. Pick up one of these books or more to learn more, and to work towards understanding.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi 

Kendi’s concept of antiracism reenergizes and reshapes the conversation about racial justice in America–but even more fundamentally, points us toward liberating new ways of thinking about ourselves and each other. In How to be an Antiracist, Kendi asks us to think about what an antiracist society might look like, and how we can play an active role in building it.

In this book, Kendi weaves together an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science, bringing it all together with an engaging personal narrative of his own awakening to antiracism. How to Be an Antiracist is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond an awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a truly just and equitable society.

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander 

Jarvious Cotton’s great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole.”

As the United States celebrates the nation’s “triumph over race” with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status–much like their grandparents before them.

In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community–and all of us–to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.

They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery

Conducting hundreds of interviews during the course of over one year reporting on the ground, Washington Post writer Wesley Lowery traveled from Ferguson, Missouri, to Cleveland, Ohio; Charleston, South Carolina; and Baltimore, Maryland; and then back to Ferguson to uncover life inside the most heavily policed, if otherwise neglected, corners of America today.

In an effort to grasp the magnitude of the repose to Michael Brown’s death and understand the scale of the problem police violence represents, Lowery speaks to Brown’s family and the families of other victims other victims’ families as well as local activists. By posing the question, “What does the loss of any one life mean to the rest of the nation?” Lowery examines the cumulative effect of decades of racially biased policing in segregated neighborhoods with failing schools, crumbling infrastructure and too few jobs.

Studded with moments of joy, and tragedy, They Can’t Kill Us All offers a historically informed look at the standoff between the police and those they are sworn to protect, showing that civil unrest is just one tool of resistance in the broader struggle for justice. As Lowery brings vividly to life, the protests against police killings are also about the black community’s long history on the receiving end of perceived and actual acts of injustice and discrimination. They Can’t Kill Us All grapples with a persistent if also largely unexamined aspect of the otherwise transformative presidency of Barack Obama: the failure to deliver tangible security and opportunity to those Americans most in need of both.

Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor by Layla F. Saad 

Based on the viral Instagram challenge that captivated participants worldwide, Me and White Supremacy takes readers on a 28-day journey of how to dismantle the privilege within themselves so that they can stop (often unconsciously) inflicting damage on people of color, and in turn, help other white people do better, too.

When Layla Saad began an Instagram challenge called #meandwhitesupremacy, she never predicted it would spread as widely as it did. She encouraged people to own up and share their racist behaviors, big and small. She was looking for truth, and she got it. Thousands of people participated in the challenge, and nearly 100,000 people downloaded the Me and White Supremacy Workbook.

Updated and expanded from the original workbook, Me and White Supremacy,takes the work deeper by adding more historical and cultural contexts, sharing moving stories and anecdotes, and including expanded definitions, examples, and further resources.

Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

In 2014, award-winning journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge wrote about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain were being led by those who weren’t affected by it. She posted a piece on her blog, entitled: ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ that led to this book.

Exploring issues from eradicated black history to the political purpose of white dominance, whitewashed feminism to the inextricable link between class and race, Reni Eddo-Lodge offers a timely and essential new framework for how to see, acknowledge and counter racism. It is a searing, illuminating, absolutely necessary exploration of what it is to be a person of colour in Britain today.

White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo 

Referring to the defensive moves that white people make when challenged racially, white fragility is characterized by emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt and by behaviors including argumentation and silence. These behaviors, in turn, function to reinstate white racial equilibrium and prevent any meaningful cross-racial dialogue. In this in-depth exploration, anti-racist educator Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what can be done to engage more constructively.

“Why Are All The Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?”: A Psychologist Explains the Development of Racial Identity by Beverly Daniel Tatum 

Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Is this self-segregation a problem to address or a coping strategy? Beverly Daniel Tatum, a renowned authority on the psychology of racism, argues that straight talk about our racial identities is essential if we are serious about enabling communication across racial and ethnic divides. These topics have only become more urgent as the national conversation about race is increasingly acrimonious. This fully revised edition is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the dynamics of race in America.