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15 Books About Racism and Tolerance to Read With Your Child

Use these age-appropriate books to start a conversation in your family.

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Four years ago, I wrote an article about a project designed by Dr. Timothy Tyler, pastor of Shorter Community AME Church in Denver. The program taught high school students about race, the police, and community justice, based on violent acts that were going on at that time. As I looked back over what I wrote back then, I was taken aback. It could have been written last week, following the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

To our black neighbors, friends, and colleagues, this isn’t a surprising fact. A couple of days ago, a mom posted in an online parenting group, asking at what age parents had “the talk” with their kids. Her question was specifically directed at parents raising black children. “The talk,” she clarified, was “when a mom sits her kids down and talks to them about how to conduct themselves in the world, so they stay alive.”

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Parent after parent from across the country posted replies to the question, stating the process of their family conversations. One mom said the talk came after her child’s first experience with racism in school—at four years old. Other parents replied that their children had not experienced racism, but they still had the talk.

As a white woman raising white children, I know it’s something that I can’t truly understand, but I want to help end it. I’m reminded of one suggestion Dr. Jeanette Patterson, a former middle school principal and the leader of the high school justice group told me four years ago: “Read about it, and understand their stories,” she said. So I will, with these books. And your family can, too.

AntiRacist Baby 

by Ibram X. Kendi; illustrated by Ashley Lukashevski (Penguin Random House, June 16 2020)

Introduce the youngest readers to a more equitable world in nine steps, written by the founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University. Ages 0 to 3.

The Night Is Yours

By Abdul-Razak Zachariah; illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo (Dial, 2019)

A girl engages in a nighttime hide-and-seek game, designed to upend negative stereotypes about apartment complex communities. Ages 3 to 7.

Equality’s Call

By Deborah Diesen; illustrated by Magdalena Mora (Beach Lane Books, 2020)

Learn about the U.S. history of voting rights through rhyming verse the whole family can repeat: But we heard in the distance Equality’s call: A right isn’t right till it’s granted to all. Ages 3 to 8.

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The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver

By Gene Barretta; illustrated by Frank Morrison (Katherine Tegen Books, 2020)

Learn about George Washington Carver’s journey from slave to educated man who addressed the U.S. Congress in 1921, convincing them of the value of the peanut. Ages 4 to 8.

Not Quite Snow White

By Ashley Franklin; illustrated by Ebony Glenn (Harper, 2019)

Tameika loved the stage and was excited to try out for the part of Snow White until she overhears kids saying she is “too brown” for the part. Ages 4 to 8.

Ready To Fly 

By Lea Lyon and A. LaFaye; illustrated by Jessica Gibson (Harper, 2020)

Ballet studios wouldn’t let Sylvia Townsend take lessons because she was black, but she taught herself to dance by reading books and was offered a spot at a prestigious ballet school. Later, she owned her own dance studio. Age 4 to 8.

A Kids Book About Racism

by Jelani Memory (A Kids Book About, 2019)

A black father of a blended family (four white children; two brown children), Jelani Memory originally wrote this book to start race conversations in his own family. Age 5 and up.

The Youngest Marcher 

by Cynthia Levinson; illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton (Atheneum, 2017)

The true story of nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks, the youngest child arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, during the Children’s March in 1963. Ages 5 to 10.

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A Ride To Remember: A Civil Rights Story 

By Sharon Langley and Amy Nathan; illustrated by Floyd Cooper (Abrams, 2020)

Young Sharon Langley loved carousels but wasn’t allowed to ride one due to segregation. That all changed in the summer of 1963. Ages 6 to 9.

Reaching for the Moon 

By Katherine Johnson (Atheneum, 2019)

The inspiring autobiography of African American NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, who helped launch Apollo 11. Age 10 and up.

This Book is Anti-Racist

By Tiffany Jewel; illustrated by Aurélia Durand (Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2020)

Gain a deeper understanding of racism, its origins, and what people still experience today, and find 20 activities to get you thinking. Age 12 and up.

All American Boys

By Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (Atheneum, 2015)

Two teens—one white and one black—wrestle with the aftermath of a single violent act that leaves their school and community divided by racial tension. Age 12 and up.

Color Me In 

By Natasha Díaz (Delacorte Press, 2019)

When her black mother and Jewish dad divorce, a biracial teen girl from an affluent New York suburb is forced to confront her identity. Age 12 and up.

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The Hate U Give 

By Angie Thomas (Balzer + Bray, 2017)

A 16-year-old girl moves between the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends, and witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood friend at the hands of a police officer. Age 14 and up.

Who Put This Song On?

By Morgan Parker (Delacorte Press, 2019)

A black teen girl, living in a small suburban town where she doesn’t fit in, discovers what being black means to her, and finally puts her mental health first. Age 14 and up.

 

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