8 Books To Teach Kids About Racism And Social Justice
Reading together is a great way to start conversations with kids.
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The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery have incited protests around the world about systemic racism and racial injustice. All these events have also prompted discussions about race within families around the world.
Within these discussions of race, children must be included — even if bringing up race issues seems difficult.
“It is critically important that we talk to our children about racism, the death of George Floyd and the continued violence and protests that have spread across the country,” Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, a medical doctor and founding member of the Child Mind Institute, wrote in a blog post on June 1. “We must engage, comfort and reassure our young people and offer them productive ways to channel their anger and frustration and most of all be heard.”
Silence is not an effective stance, Koplewicz notes. He believes that avoiding this discussion can lead to children developing harmful conclusions about race.
“Encourage questions,” Koplewicz said. “And don’t worry if you can’t answer them.”
If you don’t know where to start, there are resources that can help children develop an understanding and open the discussion surrounding race. Reading children’s books together can assist families in talking about race, racial injustice, the importance of diversity and white privilege.
Here are eight books to consider.
‘What Is Race? Who Are Racists? Why Does Skin Colour Matter? And Other Big Questions’ By Claire Houchan and Nikesh Shukla
This book offers a sensitive introduction to race and race-related issues for young adults aged 10 and up. It explores the concepts of race, race throughout history, racial stereotypes and how to dismantle racist attitudes and behaviors. This book offers a balanced perspective. It also encourages the reader to be thoughtful about racial issues and helps them formulate their thoughts regarding race.
‘A Kids Book About Racism’ By Jelani Memory
This concise text provides children with a foundation of what exactly racism is, how people are affected by it and how to identify racism. This book can open difficult discussions while providing a framework of where to start.
‘IntersectionAllies: We Make Room For All’ By Chelsea Johnson, Latoya Council And Carolyn Choi
Curated for children ages 6-12, this book incorporates bright imagery and poetic verses to portray nine diverse children as it explores their intersecting identities (including sex, race, class and gender) and how they shape each character’s individual experience. Featuring a foreword from law professor Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, who developed the theory of intersectionality, this book gently introduces kids to the concepts of diversity and allyship.
‘Happy In Our Skin’ By Fran Manushkin
Poetry and rhyme convey the beauty of diversity in an array of families while affirming a child’s confidence in their skin and who they are. This colorful read is an appropriate introduction to diversity, inclusion and representation for young children.
‘Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice’ By Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins And Ann Hazzard
This realistic story follows two families’ discussions of the police shooting of a black man in their community. It encourages the audience to open up real-life discussions about how to combat racial injustice by providing kid-friendly guidelines, which include key points about race and racism. This book, written by three psychologists serving families, provides a sensible approach to the discussion of race issues for kids ages 4 and up.
‘The Hate U Give’ By Angie Thomas
Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this young adult novel details the dynamic story of Starr Carter, a black teenager who witnesses the police shooting and murder of her childhood best friend. This event makes national headlines, and Starr must confront how her reality of being raised in a poor neighborhood while attending a preppy, suburban school elicits a harrowing difference of reactions to the shooting. This timely piece elucidates the ingrained racial bias and injustice in society and the effects they have on everyone.
‘Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez And Her Family’s Fight For Desegregation’ By Duncan Tonatiuh
Before Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez — an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage — was denied admission to a whites-only school in California, despite speaking and writing in perfect English. Based on real events, this story discusses the mobilization of the Hispanic community, the lawsuit filed to a federal court and how it brought the end to desegregation in California.
‘Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness (Ordinary Terrible Things)’ By Anastasia Higginbotham
This book discusses white privilege, how to dismantle white supremacy, how white people benefit from systems of oppression and how to actively be anti-racist. It follows the journey of a white child who, after seeing a white police officer kill a person of color on TV, is told, “We don’t see color” by his mother. Instead of accepting this answer, he explores the implications of this notion and the depths of what being white means concerning race.
‘Race Cars: A Children’s Book About White Privilege’ By Jenny Devenny
“Race Cars” details the tale of two cars — one white and one black — who compete in the same race, but have different experiences and face different rules during the race. It tackles white privilege in an accessible way for young kids to grasp.