Books to Help You Start Important Conversations About Race and Justice

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As protests continue across the US following the death of George Floyd it’s impossible to shield your children from the news, and I strongly feel that it’s better to tell your kids in your own words before they hear anything from peers, social media or the television. 

With my own children, ages 6-15, books have been a saving grace. If you are looking for resources to help you raise your kids to be anti-racist, you can find children’s books to be a powerful way to start the conversation and keep it going. Here are some book ideas for toddlers through teenagers.

8 Books To Help Start Conversations About Racism

Mixed: A Colorful Story
by Aree Chung

What fun is a box of crayons if you can’t unleash the colors and mix them up? And what fun is life if we don’t mingle and live alongside people from different cultures, welcoming different languages, cuisines, to mix with our own? In this book, Arree Chung cleverly uses colors as a device to deliver a timeless message about the singular importance of diversity. The reds, yellows, and blues all live in harmony until the time comes when they have to decide who is better.

IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All
by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, and Carolyn Choi
Illustrated by Ashley Seil Smith

IntersectionAllies is a brief but poignant masterclass on issues of race, gender and identity among other things. Building on the idea that “we strive to be equal but not all the same,” it details the lives of a group of friends—Alejandra, Parker, Kate, Adilah, Nia, Dakota, Gloria, Heejung and Yuri—to illustrate how there’s room for everyone. Alejandra who uses a wheelchair, can “zip, glide and play” with her friends, while Adilah is a proud ballerina who happens to wear a hijab. While Gloria helps her mother’s business flourish by using her technology skills, Heejung who belongs to the “1.5 generation” translates English to Korean for her mother. As the lives of these girls intersect, you see how powerful bonds are forged on the strength of compassion and camaraderie, where each adds something invaluable to another’s life. Complete with notes at the end of the book, IntersectionAllies breaks down barriers and builds bridges where there were once walls.

You Matter
by Christian Robinson

This timely new release could serve as an introduction to a conversation about why some people feel they don’t matter. This is perfect for young children. While this book is not explicitly about race, why not let your children know they matter? Robinson’s simple affirmation is expressed with childlike wonder. 

The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism
by Pat Thomas

The Skin I’m In encourages kids to accept and be comfortable with differences of skin color and other racial characteristics among their friends and in themselves. Titles in the A First Look At series explore the dynamics in relationships among children of preschool through early school age, and encourage kids to understand personal and social problems as a first step toward solving them. 

Black is a Rainbow Color
by Angela Joy

This is Angela Joy’s first book. This book is about how a girl is reflecting on the color of her skin and while her skin color might not be in the rainbow she finds plenty to admire. 

With references from Rosa Parks to Black Lives Matter, this book has an uplifting message followed by explanations of black history. This book is geared for readers ages 4-8

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work 
by Tiffany Jewell & Aurelia Durand

In the clear language of an educator, Tiffany Jewell examines the concept of race and history of oppression of black and indigenous people, then follows with a clear guidebook for how to stop racism in our own hearts and minds. This book was released in January of 2020. The Quarto Group will be donating 100% of their proceeds of the This Book is Anti-Racist eBook to Black Lives Matter and Color of Change, throughout the month of June.

The Hate U Give
by Angie Thomas

This riveting young adult novel is about a young girl whose best friend is killed by the police in an act of racial injustice. She finds herself in the heart of protests against police.

Stamped: Racism, Anti Racism, and You
by Jason Reynolds

This “remix” of Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped From the Beginning” with Reynolds explains racism to younger readers by exploring the origin of racist ideas and explaining how to stamp them out in their own lives.

 

Whichever books you choose to either read together or give to your older ones to explore on their own, it’s a chance to open up the discussion and tackle these issues as a family. 

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