If you’re having a difficult time helping your children understand issues about race and systemic racism, one easy but effective thing you can do is read to them. In 2018, fewer than a third of all U.S. children’s books featured a person of color as a main character. When a child reads a book and sees a person like themselves as the main character, it’s like a mirror to them. But finding age-appropriate kids books about racism isn’t always easy.
“Literature transforms the human experience and reflects it back to us, and in that reflection, we can see our own lives and experiences as part of the larger human experience. Reading, then, becomes a means of self-affirmation.”
– Rudine Sims Bishop, Windows, Mirrors, and Sliding Glass Doors
Why you should read diverse stories to kids
According to DiverseBooks.org, there are lots of reasons to seek out kids books with diverse characters and subjects:
- Children can see themselves represented & explore their own identity.
- It is a way for children to sample a culture other than their own.
- Reading diverse books builds community unity and inclusitivity.
- It emphasizes similarities in people.
We consulted Huntsville bookseller and local mom, Lady Smith with Snail On the Wall Books, to share with our readers her book recommendations for families that want to diversify their bedtime story routine. Below you’ll find titles for babies, toddlers, elementary-age, and up through high school!
NOTE: Many, if not almost all, of these books are currently backordered due to high demand across the country. But they are being reprinted and restocked and will eventually be available. If you decide to order a copy, those orders will be fulfilled as the books are available. You can also experience some of these books available now as audiobooks, through https://libro.fm.
Age Appropriate Kids Books About Racism
For Baby: Board Books About Racism & Race
This releases in mid-June. From the National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist comes a fresh new board book that empowers parents and children to uproot racism in our society and in ourselves.
A timely book about how it feels to be teased and taunted, and how each of us is sweet and lovely and delicious on the inside, no matter how we look.
Every Little Thing
A beautiful book that brings Bob Marley’s beloved song to life for a new generation: Every family will relate to this universal story of a boy who won’t let anything get him down, as long as he has the help of three special little birds. This cheerful book will bring a smile to faces of all ages—because every little thing’s gonna be all right!
All the World
Following a circle of family and friends through the course of a day from morning until night, this book affirms the importance of all things great and small in our world, from the tiniest shell on the beach, to the warmth of family connections, to the widest sunset sky.
Picture Books About Race & Racism
Let the Children March
In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak.
Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness
A picture book about racism and racial justice, inviting white children and parents to become curious about racism, accept that it’s real, and cultivate justice.
Get Up, Stand Up
The third picture book adaptation of one of Bob Marley’s beloved songs that has a timely message for children: To counter injustice, lift others up with kindness and courage.
Separate Is Never Equal
Almost 10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California.
I Am Enough
This gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another comes from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo.
Can I Touch Your Hair?
Two poets, one white and one black, explore race and childhood in this must-have collection tailored to provoke thought and conversation.
The Big Umbrella
By the door there is an umbrella. It is big. It is so big that when it starts to rain there is room for everyone underneath. It doesn’t matter if you are tall. Or plaid. Or hairy. It doesn’t matter how many legs you have.
All Are Welcome
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms.
That Is My Dream!
Langston Hughes’s inspiring and timeless message of pride, joy, and the dream of a better life is brilliantly and beautifully interpreted in Daniel Miyares’s gorgeous artwork.
Where Are You From?
This resonant picture book tells the story of one girl who constantly gets asked a simple question that doesn’t have a simple answer. A great conversation starter in the home or classroom.
We Are America
Over the centuries, from a blank canvas of mountains, plains, and canyons, the American landscape has been richly carved by revolution, progress, and possibility. Yet its story is still being written.
The Skin You Live In
With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers.
Kids Books About Racism for Middle Schoolers
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You
Through a gripping, fast-paced, and energizing narrative written by beloved award-winner Jason Reynolds, this book shines a light on the many insidious forms of racist ideas–and on ways readers can identify and stamp out racist thoughts in their daily lives. It has a great Educator’s Guide!
The Unsung Hero of Birdsong, USA
The Coretta Scott King Honor-winning author tells the moving story of the friendship between a young white boy and a Black WWII veteran who has recently returned to the unwelcoming Jim Crow South.
Brown Girl Dreaming
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement.
A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history, from award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes.
A timely, honest graphic novel about starting over at a new school where diversity is low and the struggle to fit in is real, from award-winning author-illustrator Jerry Craft. This middle grade graphic novel is an excellent choice for tween readers in grades 5-6.
Gone Crazy in Alabama
Powerful and humorous, this companion to the award-winning One Crazy Summer and P.S. Be Eleven will be enjoyed by fans of the first two books, as well as by readers meeting these memorable sisters for the first time.
Books About Race for Young Adults and Up
We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices
Fifty of the foremost diverse children’s authors and illustrators–including Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Kwame Alexander–share answers to the question, “In this divisive world, what shall we tell our children?”
This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work
Who are you? What is racism? Where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can you do to disrupt it? Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation.
We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide
his YA is written in an approachable narrative style that provides teen readers with additional context to these historic moments and includes photographs and additional backmatter and resources for teens.
Just Mercy (adapted for young adults): A True Story of the Fight for Justice
In this very personal work–adapted from the original #1 bestseller, which the New York Times calls “as compelling as To Kill a Mockingbird, and in some ways more so”–acclaimed lawyer and social justice advocate Bryan Stevenson offers a glimpse into the lives of the wrongfully imprisoned and his efforts to fight for their freedom.
March, by John Lewis
March is a vivid first-hand graphic novel account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.
The Hate U Give
Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.
Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.
More Kids Books About Racism
- A teacher tweeted her favorite books about racism and it went viral
- This list of books, films, & podcasts about racism is a good start
Rocket City Mom is a website about raising children in and around Huntsville, Alabama. Started in late 2010 by a local mom and newcomer to Huntsville, Rocket City Mom has grown into a thriving community of local parents and now boasts a staff of four, thirteen regular contributors, and tens of thousands of Tennessee Valley readers making it the #1 Parenting Resource in North Alabama.