37 Kids Books to Aid Talks on Race and Racism

Kids Books to Aid Talks on Race and Racism

At some point, many parents decide to talk to their children about race or racism. While it’s an important talk to have, it can be difficult to know what you should and shouldn’t say. Furthermore, depending on the child’s age, these conversations are best approached in different ways.

Thankfully, there are many books to aid talks about racism and race with young ones. These can get the conversation started, share views in sensitive and age appropriate ways, and encourage your child to ask questions around the topic.

Here are our favorite of these books.


“A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Published: 2013

Recommended Reading Age: 1 to 4 years

This board book gives toddlers their first lesson in race and empathy. The words rhyme to promote engagement, and the illustrations are vibrant, with a kitten hiding on every page to ensure your toddler gives the book their full attention. Topics in this book include race, civil rights, and justice, with a hopeful and inspiring outlook.

“A Kids Book About Racism” by Jelani Memory

A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory

Published: 2019

Recommended Reading Age: 3 to 6 years

Jelani Memory had the tough task of explaining racism in a way that toddlers and kindergarteners would understand, and this book hits the mark. It’s the perfect book to start talking about race with young children, starting with defining the term.

Memory digs deep to share how it feels to experience racism so children can develop empathy and understanding. He also shares child-friendly tips for spotting racism to help them eradicate it among their peers. This book is the ideal starting point for conversations about race.

“Our Diversity Makes Us Stronger” by Elizabeth Cole

Our Diversity Makes Us Stronger by Elizabeth Cole

Published: 2021

Recommended Reading Age: 5 to 8 years

This book is part of the World of Kids Emotions series, focused on helping young children learn about others, embrace their differences, and handle their emotions. The story focuses on Nicky, who worries that his friends think he’s too different from them. As Nicky talks to his friends, he realizes that everyone is different, and diversity helps us with kindness and compassion.

“The Day You Begin” by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Published: 2018

Recommended Reading Age: 5 to 8 years

Jacqueline Woodson is a big name in literature, and her picture book “The Day You Begin” reinforces how much she deserves her reputation. The story addresses a girl starting a new experience and worrying she won’t fit in.

The concepts address belonging and inclusivity for any situation children face: starting school, moving, joining a club or team, or trying to make friends. The illustrations are vibrant and appeal to all ages.

“Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History” by Vashti Harrison

Little Leaders - Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Published: 2017

Recommended Reading Age: 4 to 9 years

Little Leaders is part of a great nonfiction series for children, with titles including:

  • Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World
  • Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History

This book empowers black girls and teaches readers about women who changed the world, well-known and lesser-known, like Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, Maya Angelou, and Alice Ball. The pictures are engaging, and Harrison shares tutorials to learn how she brings her illustrations to life.

“Rosa” by Nikki Giovanni

Rosa by Nikki Giovanni

Published: 2007

Recommended Reading Age: 4 to 8 years

For children who want to learn about powerful black women, this book will grab their attention. Giovanni uses engaging text, paired with cut-paper illustrations, to tell the story of civil rights activist Rosa Parks in a fresh, unique way. Children will love hearing a story they may already know and learning new facts about the incident and how it changed the country.

“I Am Enough” by Grace Byers

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

Published: 2018

Recommended Reading Age: 3 to 7 years

Written by activist Grace Byers, this book inspires people of all skin tones and body shapes to love who they are and have self-confidence. Though the book’s title proclaims, “I am enough,” the beautiful poem also expresses the need to have empathy and show kindness to people around you. Byers has other picture books to help children embrace their differences.

“Harlem’s Little Blackbird” by Renée Watson

Harlem's Little Blackbird by Renée Watson

Published: 2021

Recommended Reading Age: 3 to 7

Renée Watson has written many books for children and young adults and partnered with award-winning illustrator Christian Robinson for this stunning picture book about singer Florence Mills. Born to former slaves, Florence loved singing and eventually performed on Broadway in the 1920s, but she never stopped experiencing prejudice.

This book takes an engaging approach to show children that they can be who they want to be by staying true to themselves and lifting others in the process.

“Let the Children March” by Monica Clark-Robinson

Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

Published: 2018

Recommended Reading Age: 5 to 9 years

This picture book shares the action of the Civil Rights movement with young children. It focuses on the pivotal action in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. Black people rallied around Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and children wanted to march with the adults, intent on earning equal rights.

The illustrations in this book are oil paintings, bringing to life vibrant images of the protests that children will appreciate differently than pictures in textbooks.

“Amazing Grace” by Mary Hoffman

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

Published: 1991

Recommended Reading Age: 4 to 8 years

When Grace’s school holds play tryouts, she knows she wants to become an actress, even though her friends don’t think she’ll get onstage. Her grandmother takes her to see a famous black ballerina to show Grace that she can become whatever she wants. The beautiful watercolor illustrations in this book bring Grace to life.

“Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” by Carole Boston Weatherford

Voice of Freedom - Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford

Published: 2018

Recommended Reading Age: 10 to 13 years

Sharing picture books about race is a great way to bond with young children, but sharing more advanced work helps you reach tweens and teens. This nonfiction book about Fannie Lou Hamer teaches older kids about voting rights. Weatherford draws the reader in by writing poems about Hamer’s life and activism, paired with collage illustrations.

“Who Was Martin Luther King Jr.?” by Bonnie Bader

Who Was Martin Luther King Jr by Bonnie Bader

Published: 2007

Recommended Reading Age: 7 to 10 years

The “Who Was” series is a collection of biographical books about famous historical figures. This book about Martin Luther King Jr. shares his life story in easy-to-read chapters that focus on the facts. Children will learn the actions King took to make a change in the country.

If your child likes this book, there are many others in the series about other black activists, including:

  • Booker T. Washington
  • Coretta Scott King
  • Harriet Tubman
  • The Tuskegee Airmen

“Sulwe” by Lupita Nyong’o

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o

Published: 2019

Recommended Reading Age: 3 to 8 years

This award-winning book focuses on Sulwe, who has the darkest skin of anyone she knows. That feature makes her stand out, while she just wants to blend in and be beautiful like her mother. However, when a shooting star slips into Sulwe’s room, she realizes that she’s unique and confident and that loving herself will teach others what she deserves.

“The Undefeated” by Kwame Alexander

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

Published: 2019

Recommended Reading Age: 5 to 12 years

Kwame Alexander is an award-winning author for young adults who wrote a picture book for elementary and middle school students to learn about black history. Alexander originally performed this poem for the ESPN podcast The Undefeated before turning it into a book. Kadir

Nelson’s stunning illustrations help showcase the trauma of slavery and the civil rights movement juxtaposed with the beauty of the population’s passion and perseverance.

“Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard

Something Happened in Our Town - A Child's Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard

Published: 2018

Recommended Reading Age: 4 to 8 years

This picture book addresses the harsh reality of stories ripped from the headlines. Injustice and outrage sweep through a town when police shoot an unarmed black man. The book includes a note for adults to help them navigate this difficult discussion with children. There are also links to additional materials.

While you might worry about broaching this topic with young children, explaining the bias and injustice woven into society will empower them to have kindness and empathy as they grow.

“The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

Published: 2002

Recommended Reading Age: 2 to 5 years

This book centers around Lena, a young girl who wants to draw a self-portrait. She decides she’ll use brown for her skin, but later she starts noticing how many shades of brown there are in her community. Her mother uses this experience as a jumping-off point to talk about race and diversity that the adults reading the book can model to their children.

“Elijah of Buxton” by Christopher Paul Curtis

Elijah of Buxton by Christopher Paul Curtis

Published: 2009

Recommended Reading Age: 9 to 12 years

Christopher Paul Curtis, best known for his popular novel, “The Watsons Go to Birmingham,” wrote this book about the first boy born free in a village of runaway slaves. The book addresses a heavy topic in an interesting way, including a sense of humor, to draw in the tween readers and give them context about that period of history.

“The Story of Ruby Bridges” by Robert Coles

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

Published: 2010

Recommended Reading Age: 6 to 9 years

Ruby Bridges was the first black student to attend a newly-integrated school in New Orleans. She was only six years old, but bravely went into the school building and faced the hatred from students and their parents. This picture book, complete with compelling illustrations, helps young children relate to and draw inspiration from Ruby Bridges.

“The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist” by Cynthia Levinson

The Youngest Marcher - The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson

Published: 2017

Recommended Reading Age: 5 to 12 years

This picture book is chock-full of information about civil rights for elementary and middle school students. It takes the reader back to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963. It focuses on the true story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a nine-year-old girl jailed for marching in the protests. She’s the youngest person this happened to, and her story serves as inspiration for child advocates.

“Crown” by Derrick D. Barnes

Crown by Derrick D. Barnes

Published: 2017

Recommended Reading Age: 4 to 8 years old

Even young black boys understand the importance of hair and how magic can happen in the barbershop, where the community comes together. In this book, Barnes captures how the right haircut and style can boost your self-confidence. It’s a great story to read aloud due to the rhythm and swagger bursting from each page.

“The Skin You Live In” by Michael Tyler

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler

Published: 2005

Recommended Reading Age: 2 to 5 years

Michael Tyler’s book aims to unite all children, regardless of size, skin tone, or appearance. He focuses on friendship, self-esteem, and diversity. Children will love the vivid illustrations of diverse children experiencing everyday things. There are wonderful comparisons to common items, which you can use as a jumping-off point to help your child explore.

“Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America” by Carola Boston Weatherford

Gordon Parks - How the Photographer Captured Black and White America by Carola Boston Weatherford

Published: 2015

Recommended Reading Age: 4 to 8 years

This picture book follows the life of Gordon Parks, the first black director in Hollywood who got his start as a photographer. When he was young, adults always told him he’d be a waiter, but he bought a camera and made a name for himself. He faced discrimination due to his skin color but used his art to share stories of segregation and change the art field.

“Rocket Says Look Up!” by Nathan Bryon

Rocket Says Look Up by Nathan Bryon

Published: 2019

Recommended Reading Age: 3 to 7 years

This beautifully vibrant picture book, inspired by Mae Jamison, the first black woman in space, tells the story of Rocket, a young black girl who loves outer space. She excitedly shares information about the upcoming comet passage. Her knowledge intrigues the neighbors, and the community comes together to experience this rare event.

“The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

Published: 2001

Recommended Reading Age: 5 to 9 years

Clover is a young girl living on the black side of town, separated from white people by a fence. Through the fence, she talks to Anna, a white girl who becomes Clover’s friend. Though the story ends without a major change, it shares a hopeful message that one day all fences will come down to prevent separation. This book is sure to inspire young children.

“All Are Welcome” by Alexandra Penfold

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Published: 2018

Recommended Reading Age: 2 to 6 years

“All Are Welcome” is a picture book about the safety and inclusion children feel in school. They accept everyone in their classroom and appreciate people’s differences. The book follows the students through a typical school day, which young children can relate to or aspire to imitate in their own lives.

“My Hair is a Garden” by Cozbi A. Cabrera

My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Published: 2018

Recommended Reading Age: 5 to 8 years

Mackenzie has a terrible day at school because all her classmates tease her about her messy hair. When she gets home, she visits her older neighbor, Miss Tillie, and confides in her. Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie her backyard garden and parallels gardening with haircare. Instead of hating her hair’s maintenance, Mackenzie learns to appreciate the beauty of her natural hair.

“The Name Jar” by Yangsook Choi

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Published: 2003

Recommended Reading Age: 5 to 9 years

Many children can relate to people struggling to pronounce their names, making mistakes instead of asking the correct way to say them. In this book, Unhei is a new student from Korea. Instead of using her given name, she decides to pick an American name from a jar. She soon realizes that her name is a part of her, just like her heritage and culture.

“The Proudest Blue” by Ibtihaj Muhammad

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad

Published: 2019

Recommended Reading Age: 3 to 8 years

Faizah and Asiya are sisters starting a new school year. It’s Faizah’s first day of school and Asiya’s first day wearing a hijab. She wears a beautiful blue hijab proudly until people start making mean comments about Asiya. Faizah hates seeing her sister’s hurt feelings and stays by her side to educate their classmates about their culture.

“Woke Baby” by Mahogany L. Browne

Woke Baby by Mahogany L. Browne

Published: 2018

Recommended Reading Age: Infant to 5 years

This board book is a rhythmic, lyrical work of empowerment. It takes the reader through a day in the life of Woke Baby, from waking up early and raising their fists for justice. They cry and ensure everyone hears their voices. They grow up intending to change the world.

Parents will love the humor in this book as it attributes social justice advocate purposes to common baby traits. Babies will love the bold illustrations and sturdy pages they can turn themselves.

“Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story” by Kevin Noble Maillard

Fry Bread - A Native American Family Story by Kevin Noble Maillard

Published: 2019

Recommended Reading Age: 2 to 6 years

Maillard’s debut picture book is an ode to the delicious fry bread loved by Native American families. The family in the book is modern, but they embrace aspects of their heritage to ensure they don’t forget their background. Children will love learning about other cultures and how to honor their past while exploring themselves.

There’s a recipe for fry bread at the end of the book, so you and your children can experience the treat at the center of the story.

“Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters” by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Let It Shine - Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney

Published: 2013

Recommended Reading Age: 6 to 9 years

This picture book compiles dozens of stories of black women who stood up against the majority to fight for their rights and the rights of all black people and women. Profiles include Harriet Tubman, Rose Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Biddy Mason, and Ella Josephine, to name a few. Illustrator Stephen Alcorn provides stunning portraits of each woman to accompany their profile.

“The Patchwork Bike” by Maxine Beneba Clarke

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke

Published: 2021

Recommended Reading Age: 6 to 9 years

This unique picture book inspires children to embrace what they have and create fun. The narrator and her brothers live in a village in the desert and don’t have much money, toys, or resources. But those limitations don’t keep them from having fun. They build a bike using discarded items from around the house and manage to appreciate what they create.

“The Patchwork Bike” leads to discussion questions about accepting people and things for what they are, embracing your possessions and capabilities, and always seeing the potential in things around you—lessons that naturally lead to empathy and kindness.

“Something to Say” by Lisa Moore Ramée

Something to Say by Lisa Moore Ramée

Published: 2021

Recommended Reading Age: 9 to 12 years

This middle-grade chapter book stars Jenae, a girl who doesn’t have any friends and tries to blend in at school to avoid uncomfortable situations. A new boy starts school, standing out with bright red hair that he seems proud of and doesn’t try to blend in. He becomes friends with Jenae and tries to help her understand how her looks make her unique.

“The Great Big Book of Families” by Mary Hoffman

The Great Big Book of Families by Mary Hoffman

Published: 2011

Recommended Reading Age: 3 to 7 years

This picture book has vivid illustrations depicting different families, from those with two parents, single parents, mixed-race children, only children, and blended families. They live in houses, apartments, and on farms. This book shows children that everyone is different, but all families can provide love and support.

“Children Just Like Me” by Anabel Kindersley

Children Just Like Me by Anabel Kindersley

Published: 1995

Recommended Reading Age: 2 to 12 years

This book resembles an encyclopedia of children around the world. Young children will appreciate the photographs of different people and their homes. Older children and tweens will love the informative entries about various cultures and religions.

“I Am Every Good Thing” by Derrick D. Barnes

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick D. Barnes

Published: 2020

Recommended Reading Age: 3 to 8 years

Barnes, the author of “Crown,” wrote another book with a confident black child narrator. He addresses everything about his looks, personality, and culture and appreciates how it makes him unique. This is a great book to boost self-confidence in children and help them understand that everyone has similarly amazing traits to offer.

“A Place Inside of Me: A Poem to Heal the Heart” by Zetta Elliott

A Place Inside of Me - A Poem to Heal the Heart by Zetta Elliott

Published: 2020

Recommended Reading Age: 4 to 8 years

Author and poet Zetta Elliott wrote this powerful poem about a black child tracking their emotions. They feel joy in summer with freedom from school until a police shooting disrupts the peace. They experience confusion, fear, and anger. This realistic story ripped from the headlines helps children understand this situation and eventually experience peace.

Kids Books to Aid Talks on Race and Racism, Final Thoughts

This list isn’t exhaustive—you can read countless amazing kids’ books about race with your little ones. And as they get into their later teens, there are plenty of other black books that cover things in different ways.

Once you find some authors you like from this list, you can check out more of their work.

This subject is challenging, so approach it with sensitivity, keeping in mind the age and background of the children. It’s crucial for parents, teachers, and other adults to have an understanding of the topic before discussing it with kids.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *