Books to Teach Your Child About Social Justice and Race

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In today’s current climate, consider yourself privileged if up until this point you have never had to talk to your child about social justice or race. In our household, although we have a 4-year-old, race is almost a daily topic. Whether we are providing affirmations to help Maya love her beautiful brown skin and coily hair, discussing the history and contributions of Blacks to this country, or helping her to understand why protests are occurring, it always comes back to race.

Over the last month, as we’ve watched so many become awakened to the daily concerns of Blacks in the US, I’ve been asked time and time again to provide a list of children’s books to address social justice and race. I’ve done several conferences, Instagram lives, and Zoom meetings all to discuss the importance of diversifying both classroom and home bookshelves. When I receive direct messages asking for recommendations, sometimes I respond with a few of our favorites, other times, I simply say, “You can find many lists via Google”.

Last week, I listened in to a chat one of my dear colleagues, Dr. Anika S. Burtin, was participating in on discussing racism with children. After the discussion, she reached out asking to collaborate on a list that can be provided to participants. As she has older children, we developed a comprehensive list that is divided by age level. This list is no where near exhaustive and I will continue to add to it over time.

As you can see from this list, it is never too early to talk with children about race. While you may not have had explicit conversations, your actions, the classrooms they are in, and the media influences feelings and attitudes on race. Research has shown the following:

  • Babies are able to notice race and express their preferences for faces of their own-race as early as 3 months old (Bah-Haim et al., 2006).
  • Racist language is used intentionally to create social hierarchies, to cause harm to others, and to cause emotional reactions in persons of color by the age of 3 (Van Ausdale & Feagin, 2000).
  • Children between the ages of 4 and 6 years demonstrate racial stereotyping and prejudices (Katz, 2003).
  • Prejudices towards people of color increase until approximately age 7 and then begin to decrease in later childhood (Raabe & Beelmann, 2007)
  • When asked to watch a video and to note bad behavior, preschool teachers were found to be racially biased by focusing on Black boys (there was actually no bad behavior in the video; Gilliam et al., 2016).

The Brown Bookshelf hosted a phenomenal discussion called #KidLit4BlackLives that served as a call to action for parents to raise anti-racist children. One of the authors who participated in the chat, Sarah Crossan, said the quote above, which resonated deeply with me. I hope that you will utilize this list to start the conversation in your homes and classrooms. For my BIPOC families, continue to affirm your children with these books. I’ve created an affiliate store through BookShop, a website that allows you to support locally-owned bookstores, that can be used to purchase these books directly. I urge you to shop Black-owned bookstores now and in the future.


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