5 Books to Teach Children About Race & Racism

Our 6 Favorite Books to Teach Children About Race & Racism

It's never too early to begin having conversations with our children about race, racism and cultural differences. By 3 months old, babies already show signs of identifying with faces that match the color of their own skin ( Hirschfeld, 2008), and by just 2 years old, toddlers can use race to choose their playmates ( Van Ausdale & Feagin, 2001). We have found that simply talking with our kids about race has been the most effective, and since reading is one of our favorite activities in our house, we have found books to be a wonderful way to get the conversation started. Here are a few of our very favorite to help you facilitate these crucial conversations within your own family:

10 Little Fingers and 10 Little Toes
1. 10 Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

by Mem Fox, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

This book has been a staple in our house since the beginning. It's a perfectly simple picture book for little hands, and does a great job of celebrating all beautiful fingers and toes, all over the world through rhyme.

The Day You Begin
2. The Day You Begin

by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael Lopez

We love this book for the story it tells. Great for school aged children, the author does a wonderful job of exploring what it might feel like to walk into a room where nobody there is quite like you. Poignant for parents as well to remind us that children are always observing. We love this one for the conversation it opens up to talk to our kids about how to treat others who might feel out of place, or how to deal with feeling out of place themselves.

The Skin I'm In
3. The Skin I'm In: A First Look at Racism

by Pat Thomas
A perfectly simple and transparent book that encourages little ones to understand and be comfortable with different skin colors among their friends and in themselves. This is a very clear and easy to understand book that we love in our house.

We're Different, We're the Same
4. We're Different, We're the Same 

by Bobbi Kates, illustrated by Joe Mathieu

Sesame Street brings the lesson yet again! The visuals in this book are perfect for young ones to understand that we all have differences; from our noses, to our hair, to the color of our skin - and we're all wonderful! This one is a great conversation starter and a fabulous, visual read.

Race Cars
5. Race Cars: A children's book about white privilege

by Jenny Devenny

Such a cleverly written book about a black and white car that are best friends, yet they both have very different experiences in the world. This is an awesome book for toddlers to let them know how this is not okay, and how to notice it in their own circles. 


6. It's Okay to Be Different

By Todd Parr

This one is not specifically about race, but one that we wanted to include because we love it at our house, and our kids always want to talk about the differences they see around them afterwards. This one is a great starting point for any families that want something easy to grasp and to get started.

These conversations don't have to wait, and in fact, it's important to get them started as early as possible to have our children comfortable with people who may look or speak or live differently than them from the start. We can't control all of the experiences they are going to have when it comes to race, so starting these conversations helps them have an understanding of what is right and what is wrong, which can support them in making the kindest choices possible.

Sources

Hirschfeld, L. A. (2008). Children’s developing conceptions of race. In S. M. Quintana & C. McKown (Eds.), Handbook of race, racism, and the developing child (pp. 37–54). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.
Van Ausdale, D., & feagin, J.R. (2001). The first R: How children learn race and racism. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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