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Books that teach children about race, ethnicity and culture

Children’s books on racism are a wonderful tool for teaching equality during reading time. It makes perfect sense to combine stories with morality, because reading shapes the way we see the world.

Children's books on racism
Photo by Paul Hanaoka

I’ve compiled a list of kids’ books on racism that feature stories surrounding race, ethnicity and culture. They should help to educate children and open up conversations in the home — regardless of the race of the reader.

If you’re looking for books on race for adults, click here and if you’re looking for sources to help you support the Black Lives Matter movement, click here.

The pictures linked contain Amazon affiliate links but rest assured, any commission I receive will be donated to relevant causes and help support anyone arrested while protesting.

Something Happened in Our Town (£9.60)

This book follows two families  —  one white, one Black   — as they discuss the police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events, and to help identify and counter racial injustice. It includes an extensive ‘Note to Parents and Caregivers’ with guidelines for discussing race and racism with children, child-friendly definitions, and sample dialogues.

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness (£30)

A children’s picture book about racism and racial justice. It invites white children and parents to become curious about racism, accept that it’s real, and cultivate justice.

Mixed (£6.99)

Discord breaks out and eventually, the colours decide to live in different parts of the city. Then one day a Yellow befriends a Blue and they become inseparable, discovering a world of different possibilities and colours. This children’s book on racism is perfect for gentle exploration with little ones.

All the Colors We Are/Todos los Colores de Nuestra Piel (£14.90)

This bilingual book explains how all the colours we are come from our ancestors, the sun, and the pigment melanin. For ages three and above, it answers all the ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘hows’ children have while busting myths and stereotypes.

What’s the Difference? Being Different is Amazing (£13.94)

This tackles not just our visible differences but also cultures. It looks at what we do together as friends, families, colleagues, and citizens.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (£6.50)

Featuring 40 trailblazing black women in the world’s history, this book educates and inspires as it relates true stories of women who broke boundaries and exceeded all expectations. Author/illustrator Vashti Harrison pairs captivating text with stunning illustrations as she tells the stories of both iconic and lesser-known female figures of black history.

Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History (£9.50)

Learn all about the exceptional black men who broke barriers and fought injustice. They were able to realise their dreams and make the world a better place. Created with Vashti Harrison’s beautiful illustrations and writing

That’s Not Fair! / ¡No Es Justo! (£15.50)

This book tells the true story of Emma Tenayuca. A vivid depiction of the early injustices encountered by a young Mexican-American girl in San Antonio in the 1920’s. She learns about poverty and hunger during a time when many Mexican Americans were starving to death and working unreasonably long hours at slave wages.

We Are Grateful, Otsaliheliga (£14.99)

This is modern Native American life as told by an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this book looks at one group of Native Americans. It is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.

A Piece of Home (£13.17)

When Hee Jun’s family moves from Korea to West Virginia, he struggles to adjust to his new home. Lyrical prose and lovely illustrations combine in a gentle, realistic story about finding connections in an unfamiliar world.

Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story (£11.50)

Lailah is in a new school in a new country, thousands of miles from her old home. When Ramadan begins, she is excited that she is finally old enough to participate in the fasting. However. she is worried that her classmates won’t understand why she doesn’t join them in the lunchroom.

The Day You Begin (£9.50)

“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.” Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes. It also shows how brave it is that we go forth anyway.

When We Were Alone (£14.99)

When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long, braided hair and beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family?

I Am Not A Number/Gaawin Gindaaswin Ndaawsii (£7.90)

Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from despite being told to do otherwise.

A is for Activist (£7.50)

An ABC board book with alliteration, rhyming and illustrations. For families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism of any kind.

The Story of Ruby Bridges (£5.77)

In 1960, six-year-old Ruby Bridges moved to New Orleans with her family. A judge orders Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school, this results in Ruby facing angry mobs of parents who refuse to send their children to school with her. 

I am Jackie Robinson (£12.40)

A picture book that tells the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black person to play Major League Baseball.

American Born Chinese (£10.70)

The first graphic novel to be a finalist for the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. This 2006 book is really three cleverly interwoven tales.

If you know of any good children’s books on racism I might have missed, comment them below!

Children's books on racism
Children's books on racism

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