14 Children’s Books To Help Parents Talk About Race
Storytelling and books are a great way to have difficult or uncomfortable conversations with our children. We recognize that recent events may have left our children with questions, fears, and a feeling of instability. Below is a short list of books that may help open up those conversations.
Read the book yourself ahead of time to see if this story fits the needs and questions in your family, and be prepared for the questions that might come from it. Try reading and listening to these books with your child. Your child might immediately want to talk with you about their feelings and observations, or they might want to take some time to digest what you’ve read and come back to you later. Both are developmentally appropriate and healthy responses. Children may want to read a book or hear a story multiple times. These are large topics, and revisiting a story may help your child process the information as they connect the relevancy of the content to their lives.
Don’t Touch My Hair
Written and Illustrated by Sharee Miller
A glimpse of the black experience from the perspective of a young black girl.
Topics: The Black Experience, Boundary Setting, Points of View, Consent, Unintentional Racism.
The Kindness Book
Written and Illustrated by Todd Parr
The Kindness Book provides proactive examples of what kindness looks and feels like at a time when media images of unkind acts can be frightening and overwhelming. The Peace Book and It’s Okay To Be Different are also age appropriate and accessible ways to approach what may be difficult topics and are excellent companion books.
Topics: Kindness, Outreach, Community, Respect, Self-Acceptance
Maybe Something Beautiful
Written by F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell
Illustrated by Rafael López
Based on a true story of a community coming together through art! Maybe Something Beautiful features characters of diverse backgrounds in the community working together and a heroine who is a person of color. 2018 Jump Start book selection for the Read Across America program.
Topics: Diversity, Community Building, Healing Through Art, Activism
We’re Different, We’re The Same
Written by Bobbi Kates
Illustrated by Joe Mathieu
This poignant and delightful book from our friends at Sesame Street features familiar puppet characters and illustrations of diverse people. Great for early learners, the drawings in this book provide plenty of opportunities to make observations and ask questions.
Topics: Diversity Acceptance, Language Development (specifically using language to express observations), Empathy Through Examination of Similarities
Little Black Pearls for Little Black Girls
Written and Illustrated by Kennedy Jordan Turner
Written by Dominique Jordan Turner
This book from mother/daughter team Kennedy and Dominique Turner support self-acceptance and confidence in young black girls. Hear from Kenne
herself about why she wrote this book:
Topics: The Black Experience, Black Girls and Women, Self-Acceptance, Confidence Building, Daughters and Mothers
A is for Activist
Written and Illustrated by Innosanto Nagara
This book covers many of the reasons why, and ways, that people are activists. A frank and hard look at difficult civil right topics is a possible option for families whose children may have questions about why people protest. Great video of the author, Innosanto Nagara, reading the book to his young son:
Topics: Activism, Protests, Justice, Civil Right Issues, Politics
A Kids Book About Racism
Written by Jelani Memory
Clear and concise explanation of racism, it’s effects, and how to be the change. The book read by the author, Jelani Memory:
Topics: The Black Experience, Mixed Race Experience, Racism, Activism
The Skin You Live In
Written by Michael Tyler
Illustrated by David Lee Csicsko
An easy fun and beautiful read, this book reads like a quick poem. This book is not just about different skin tones, and how they’re beautiful and uniquely you, but also how we should love our skin, because it’s the one we’re in, forever! Listen to Michael Tyler read the book here:
Topics: Skin Tones and Colors, Identity, Race
The Day You Begin
Written by Jacqueline Woodson
Illustrated by Rafaek Lopez
This is a book for anyone who may have felt different, different because of where you came from, different because of the way you look, or your name, but that’s something special and should be celebrated.
Topics: Self Identity, Self-Expression, Confidence
Written and Illustrated by Peter Reynolds
A book celebrating everything that a child can grow up to be. This is an important book for all ages and all kids, but can be especially powerful for kids who may be feeling extra concerned about their futures. Listen to Peter H Reynolds read it himself:
Topics: Self Identity, Confidence
Bippity Bop Barbershop
Written by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley
Illustrated by E.B. Lewis
This book goes through a common task that we’re all familiar with, getting a haircut. However, this is told through a young black boy’s perspective, learning about what it means to be brave, and beautiful after his first haircut. This is a story that can highlight a task we’re all familiar with, through a different lens.
Topics: Black Identity, Rights of Passage, Black Point of View, Being Brave
The Youngest Marcher
Written by Cynthia Levison
Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
A really powerful non-fiction story about 9-year-old Audrey Faye who becomes one of the youngest civil rights activists. This book delves into civil rights injustices during the 1960’s but is told through the perspective of Audrey Faye, so while the subjects are heavy, they seem accessible to children.
Topics: Racism, Activism, The Civil-Rights Movement
Written by Taye Diggs
Illustrated by Shane W Evans
In this book, Mike explores his identity as a son of mixed-race parents. This book showcases what a lot of children have to go through when their parents are of different races, but can be a good read for all children.
Topics: Mixed-Race, Racial Identity, Self Confidence
Something Happened In Our Town
Written by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard
illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Something Happened in Our Town follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story tries to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and deal with racial injustice in their own lives.
Topics: Race. Coming of Age, Emotions and Feelings, American History, Perseverance