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Raising Antiracist Kids: 12 Books for Children and Teens that Address Racial Inequities

By Ashly Moore Sheldon • June 07, 2020

Putting the Issues into Context

Slavery. Segregation. Civil rights. Racial profiling. Police brutality. These can be tough topics to talk with kids about. As protests explode in cities around the world following the death of George Floyd—an unarmed black man in police custody—it's important to acknowledge the issues behind the unrest. Here we offer twelve books for young readers, from toddlers to teens, to help them understand the reasons behind the anger and the ongoing need for activism.

From Antiracist Babies to Socially Conscious Kids

I am Enough by Grace Byers
A lyrical and beautifully illustrated (by Keturah A. Bobo) ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another, this book is aimed at kids ages four to eight.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford
"Where is our historian to give us our side?" Amidst the luminaries of the Harlem Renaissance stood Afro-Puerto Rican law clerk Arturo Schomburg. Noting the lack of African-American literature publicly available, he amassed a collection. This is is his story. For ages nine and up.

Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin, illustrated by Ebony Glenn
Tameika was born for the stage, so it's a given that she'll audition for the lead in the school musical, Snow White. But when other kids suggest that she's "not quite right" for the role, will she let it shake her confidence? Aimed at kids four to eight years old.

Henry's Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad by Ellen Levine
As a child he is torn from his family. As an adult, his wife and children are taken from him. With nothing left to lose, Henry decides to make an unusual run for freedom. Based on an amazing true story, this book is for kids aged four to eight.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
A powerful message on anti-bullying, this story from an award-winning team illustrates the profound impact of even small acts of kindness. Beautifully illustrated by E. B. Lewis, the book is good for ages five through eight.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
Coming out June 16, this board book by the National Book Award-winning author of How to Be an Antiracist and Stamped From the Beginning provides nine easy steps for uprooting racism in our society and in ourselves. For tots three and under.

Conscientious Citizens

All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely
Two teens, one black and one white, are at the center of this story about racism and police brutality. In a moment of misunderstandings and snap judgments, Rashad became the victim of false accusations and assault by a police officer. Quinn witnessed it all. Will he take a stand for justice?

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and embattled in her Harlem neighborhood. The only way she knows to express her difficult feelings is in the pages of her notebook. But when she discovers slam poetry, she finds her voice and taps into her hidden strength. A National Book Award winner!

Dear Martin by Nic Stone
Justyce McAllister is a brilliant young man working hard to make something of his life. Despite living in poverty, he has earned a scholarship to a prestigious prep school where he's the only black student. He's on track to attend Yale University after graduation. But none of that seems to matter when he gets caught in the crosshairs of social injustice.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
From the author of The Hate U Give, this homage to hip-hop tells the story of a girl with big dreams. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died too soon, Bri knows she has what it takes to make it as a rapper. But when her mother loses her job and the family faces homelessness, she finds herself fighting against all odds.

Day of Tears by Julius Lester
This novel reimagines the largest slave auction in American history. In 1859, to pay off his gambling debts, plantation owner Pierce Butler sold more than 400 slaves. Told from the point of view of Emma, an enslaved young woman who cares for Butler's children, the story invokes the heartwrenching brutality of this devastating chapter in history.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
Six years ago, his father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Now a sophomore in high school, Moss lives with crippling anxiety. As racial tensions mount in his high school and community, he struggles with a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or find the purpose in his anger.

In a May 29 YouTube video, author and The Daily Show host Trevor Noah discusses the domino effect leading to our current situation. As many of us are still looking for resources to educate our kids at home, timely topics like this can be particularly resonant. It is, as they say, a teaching moment. Rather than trying to push these difficult issues into the shadows, shine a light on them and let your children glean the importance of the lessons that are playing out all around us.

More children's books on race and equality:

See here for more on Anti-Racism and some adult book picks.

Read more by Ashly Moore Sheldon

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