10 books to help you discuss anti-racism with children and teenagers

These books will help you start important conversations about race and justice.

Get the latest from TODAY

Sign up for our newsletter
SUBSCRIBE
By Lisa Tolin

As protests continue across the US following the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, many parents feel unsure about how and when to talk to kids about racism and police violence.

Some might want to shield young children from harsh reality, but experts say children become aware of race and skin color as young as age 3.

"We have to make decisions about whether or not it's more important to protect or to prepare," Jason Reynolds, the National Ambassador for Young People's Literature, told TODAY. "What's worse than sort of scaring them ... is them seeing it, and then no one talking to them about it, and then they're even more afraid."

Reynolds and other children's authors helped explain the issues during a virtual kidlit community rally for black lives that is available for children to view.

If you are a parent looking for resources to help you raise and teach your kids to be anti-racist, children's books about racism and anti-racism are one powerful way to start the conversation and keep it going for years to come.

Here are books for toddlers through teenagers:

1. “Antiracist Baby,” by Ibram X. Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky

Penguin Random House

From the author of the National Book Award-winning “Stamped from the Beginning” comes this illustrated introduction to nine principals of anti-racism for children, including opening your eyes to all colors, celebrating differences and shouting about policies, not people.

2. “Something Happened In Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice,” by Marianne Celano PhD, Marietta Collins PhD, Ann Hazzard PhD and Jennifer Zivoin

Magination Press

This book written by three psychologists explains police violence and the history of slavery and racism in a child-friendly narrative. It also helps check the narrative given to preschoolers that police are always heroic helpers. Watch it here.

3. “The Undefeated,” by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson

HMH Books

This powerful picture book is a winner of both the 2020 Caldecott Medal for illustration and a Newbery Honor for writing. It's a tribute to achievements throughout black history, and an unflinching look at the horrors to overcome.

4. "You Matter," by Christian Robinson

Simon and Schuster

For the very youngest children, this timely new release could serve as an introduction to a conversation about why some people feel they don't matter. It's not explicitly about race, but there’s no better time to let children know they matter. Robinson’s simple affirmation is expressed with childlike wonder.

5. "Black Is a Rainbow Color,” by Angela Joy and Ekua Holmes

Macmillan

Black may not be in the rainbow, but a girl reflecting on the color of her skin finds plenty to admire. With references from Rosa Parks to Black Lives Matter, this book has an uplifting message followed by explanations of black history.

6. "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You,” by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds

LBYR

This "remix" of Ibram X. Kendi’s “Stamped From the Beginning” with Reynolds explains racism to younger readers by exploring the origin of racist ideas and explaining how to stamp them out in their own lives.

7. "This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work," by Tiffany Jewell and Auréila Durand

Frances Lincoln Children's Books

In the clear language of an educator, Tiffany Jewell examines the concept of race and history of oppression of black and indigenous people, then follows with a clear guidebook for how to stop racism in our own hearts and minds.

8. "All American Boys," by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely

Simon and Schuster

This novel takes the perspective of two teen boys, one white and one black, as they see the effects of police brutality. It's co-written by authors of each race to bring both lenses to the same problem.

9. “Dear Martin," by Nic Stone

Penguin Random House

This bestseller is a story about Justyce McAllister, an Ivy League-bound student who is eventually put in handcuffs because of his race.

10. “The Hate U Give," by Angie Thomas

HarperCollins

This riveting young adult novel is about a young girl whose best friend is killed by the police in an act of racial injustice. She finds herself in the heart of protests against police.

More books about racism, anti-racism and diversity: