Racism can be a difficult topic to teach your children. Children come into this world with no prejudices and completely loving nature. Sadly, that doesn’t always last. I’m a white woman in rural Idaho. Unfortunately, there is little to no diversity here; however, I feel so strongly the need to teach my children about racism and how to combat it in today’s society and forever. I want my children to not stand idly by and allow, but rather identify and work towards eradicating. Only by education can we begin to make a difference.
In our family, this often means books. Books are a powerful tool in teaching even seemingly difficult subjects. They spark conversation and allow for new ways of thinking. They allow you not just to examine history to but to observe culture. To find commonalities in diverse races, cultures, religions etc. Simply by exposing your kids to different races and diverse cultures, you are starting important, lifelong conversations!
Here is a list of books that will help to start the discussions of cultural (specifically the African American culture) and racial diversity in your home. (Most of these books are Coretta Scott King Book Award Winners) I encourage you, as a parent, to read the book first and be sure it’s a good fit for your child. We hope to add to this list constantly, so please add any suggestions in the comments!
- The New Kid – This is a graphic novel set in a middle school. Jordan is a new student in a predominately white school. Jordan learns to navigate new culture while still maintaining his sense of self.
2. The Undefeated
Winner of the prestigious Caldecott AND Newberry award, this beautifully illustrated tells the beautiful poetic story of black life in the United States. “It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes.”
3. Little Leaders books
These Little Leaders books are a favorite biographical series. Easy enough for younger kids to understand, intriguing enough for the older kids, these two specifically break down black woman leaders, and black male leaders in history. It highlights exceptional men and women in fields from aviation to science.
4. Brown Girl Dreaming
Winner of a National Book and Newberry Award, Brown Girl Dreaming tells the story of a young girl growing up in the 60’s and 70’s in the South. It’s a coming of age type tale that adults and middle school age will all love! Written in beautiful, yet easy to follow poetic form, this is a simply beautiful piece of literature. Powerful and one to remember forever.
5. One Crazy Summer
This Newberry winner (among other awards) tells the story of 3 sisters who travel to California in the late 60’s to meet their mom, who had left them. It’s a moving novel with a funny vibe to it. Good pick for the tween crowd.
6. The Crossover
This is a good choice for a sports lover! It’s written in narrative verse and has a rhythm that is intoxicating. It provides a great look at a tight knit African American family and the bounds that surpass the court.
7. Jabari Jumps
This is a sweet little book about courage. Jabari learns to swim, but the diving board is a whole other feat. His dad stands by and encourages him and you find yourself rooting for Jabari! It teaches that we ALL have fears we have to overcome and about the importance of encouraging others.
8. Freedom in Congo Square
This is a gorgeously written and illustrated book that tells about the week of a slave in Louisiana and how they would look forward to dancing in Congo Square every Sunday. It “captures a human’s capacity to find hope and joy in difficult circumstances.”
9. Last Stop on Market Street
Every Sunday, CJ and his grandma take the bus home. CJ starts to notice, and question, their differences. Why don’t they have a car? Or fancy technology? His grandma always has the perfect response to guide and help him find joy in his own life and world.
10. Crown. An Ode to the Fresh Cut
This book won just about every award there is…for good reason. “This rhythmic, read-aloud title is an unbridled celebration of the self-esteem, confidence, and swagger boys feel when they leave the barber’s chair.” A powerful glance into African American modern day culture and self awareness. This is one you need in your home library.
11. As Brave as You
This contemporary novel follows two brothers and their Summer adventures as they grow to learn what bravery REALLY is. Sometimes bravery doesn’t look like you think it does!
12. The Stars Beneath Our Feet
Teen tries to navigate himself safely in his community of Harlem in the wake of his brother’s death caused by gang violence. This book examines fear, grief and resilience.
A beautiful children’s book of 2 girls, separated by boundaries and race, but brought together because of love and friendship.