Like most white parents right now, we are struggling to come up with a good way to explain to our young children about racism and diversity.
At first, we simply found this great video explaining Systemic Racism:
But we realized it wasn’t quite enough.
We have always been very clear and adamant to our childrent that skin color makes no difference in a person’s value to God. Skin color doesn’t define a person’s worth any more than hair or eye color.
We’ve taken in children of color as foster parents, we are friends with people of color, and we served our missions in the Caribbean – Barbados, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. We firmly believe that all are alike unto God, and we have so much love for people of color.
However, not everyone believes this way. Racism and biases strongly exist in this country, and white privilege is a real thing.
How do we teach our children about diversity and racism in the right way, especially when we haven’t experienced it first hand?
The closest we’ve come is being missionaries in Barbados where we were one of the few white people on island, and we were labelled at elitist, spoiled tourists – which is nothing compared to being labelled as dangerous. Our lives were never at risk.
We reached out on social media, specifically to people and women of color, to get a list of accurate, helpful books that can be used to teach kids about racism, privilege, and discrimination.
For our family, it’s not enough to teach that everyone is equal – we want our children to actively look for ways to stand up for equality and fight intolerance and hate. We want them to fight against any natural biases they may absorb.
This is one reason why we chose to homeschool – we don’t want the world teach our children what their values and beliefs should be.
And as you teach your children, you should also education yourself with these books for adults.
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Children’s Books about Racism and Diversity
Here are the many books that friends and acquaintances of color have recommended to us as accurate ways to teach our children. You can also check out our post on books for adults to educate yourself.
Although we are sharing the Amazon links for these books, we also strongly recommend you support these independent black-owned bookstores by purchasing from them, even if the cost is a little more than Amazon.
We’re Different, We’re the Same (Sesame Street)
Who better than Sesame Street to teach us that we may all look different on the outside–but it’s important to remember that deep down, we are all very much alike. We all have the same needs, desires, and feelings. Elmo and his Sesame Street friends help teach toddlers and the adults in their lives that everyone is the same on the inside, and it’s our differences that make this wonderful world, which is home to us all, an interesting–and special–place. This enduring, colorful, and charmingly illustrated book offers an easy, enjoyable way to learn about differences–and what truly matters. It is an engaging read for toddlers and adults alike.
Disney It’s A Small World Hello, World!
This charming board book takes children on a world tour by teaching them to say “Hello” in 10 different languages and includes all-new, colorful artwork inspired by Mary Blair’s designs for the famous Disney theme park attraction, “It’s a Small World.” It’s a great book for kids about racism and diversity.
Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children
I am Black / I am Unique / I am the creamy white frost in vanilla ice cream / and the milky smooth brown in a chocolate bar…
Using simple poetic language and stunning photographs, Sandra and Myles Pinkney have created a remarkable book of affirmation for African-American children. Photographic portraits and striking descriptions of varied skin tones, hair texture, and eye color convey a strong sense of pride in a unique heritage. A joyous celebration of the rich diversity among African-Americans.
Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X
Malcolm X grew to be one of America’s most influential figures. But first, he was a boy named Malcolm Little. Written by his daughter, this inspiring picture book biography celebrates a vision of freedom and justice.
Bolstered by the love and wisdom of his large, warm family, young Malcolm Little was a natural born leader. But when confronted with intolerance and a series of tragedies, Malcolm’s optimism and faith were threatened. He had to learn how to be strong and how to hold on to his individuality. He had to learn self-reliance.
Together with acclaimed illustrator AG Ford, Ilyasah Shabazz gives us a unique glimpse into the childhood of her father, Malcolm X, with a lyrical story that carries a message that resonates still today—that we must all strive to live to our highest potential.
Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters
Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus and sparked a boycott that changed America. Harriet Tubman helped more than three hundred slaves escape the South on the Underground Railroad. Shirley Chisholm became the first black woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives.
The lives these women led are part of an incredible story about courage in the face of oppression; about the challenges and triumphs of the battle for civil rights; and about speaking out for what you believe in–even when it feels like no one is listening. Andrea Davis Pinkney’s moving text and Stephen Alcorn’s glorious portraits celebrate the lives of ten bold women who lit the path to freedom for generations. Includes biographies of Sojournor Truth, Biddy Mason, Harriet Tubman, Ida B.Wells-Barnett, Mary McLeod Bethune, Ella Josephine Baker, Dorothy Irene Height, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Shirley Chisholm.
Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation
Almost 10 years before Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, was denied enrollment to a “whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Latinx community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California. It’s a great book for kids about racism and diversity.
The Day You Begin
A heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone. There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you. There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.
Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged!
In 1946, Viola Desmond bought a movie ticket at the Roseland Theatre in Nova Scotia. After settling into a main floor seat, an usher came by and told her to move, because her ticket was only good for the balcony. She offered to pay the difference in price but was refused: “You people have to sit in the upstairs section.” Viola refused to move. She was hauled off to jail, but her actions gave strength and inspiration to Canada’s Black community.
Something Happened in Our Town
Something Happened in Our Town follows two families — one white, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives. Includes an extensive Note to Parents and Caregivers with guidelines for discussing race and racism with children, child-friendly definitions, and sample dialogues.
Harlem’s Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills
Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by fellow Black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights. Harlem’s Little Blackbird is a timeless story about justice, equality, and the importance of following one’s heart and dreams.
Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement
Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950s until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson’s interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats. Voice of Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength.
Ruth and the Green Book
Ruth was so excited to take a trip in her family’s new car! In the early 1950s, few African Americans could afford to buy cars, so this would be an adventure. But she soon found out that Black travelers weren’t treated very well in some towns. Many hotels and gas stations refused service to Black people. Daddy was upset about something called Jim Crow laws. Finally, a friendly attendant at a gas station showed Ruth’s family The Green Book. It listed all of the places that would welcome Black travelers.
With this guidebook — and the kindness of strangers — Ruth could finally make a safe journey from Chicago to her grandma’s house in Alabama. Ruth’s story is fiction, but The Green Book and its role in helping a generation of African American travelers avoid some of the indignities of Jim Crow are historical fact. It’s a great book for kids about racism and diversity.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History
An important book for all ages, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of forty trailblazing Black women in American history. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash.
Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things — bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn’t always accept them.
The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come. It’s a great book for kids about racism and diversity.
Walking many miles to school in the dusty road, young Coretta knew, too well, the unfairness of life in the segregated south. A yearning for equality began to grow. Together with Martin Luther King, Jr., she gave birth to a vision and a journey — with dreams of freedom for all. This extraordinary union of poetic text by Ntozake Shange and monumental artwork by Kadir Nelson captures the movement for civil rights in the United States and honors its most elegant inspiration, Coretta Scott.
Fifty years after her refusal to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Alabama, city bus, Rosa Parks is still one of the most important figures in the American civil rights movement. This tribute to Rosa Parks is a celebration of her courageous action and the events that followed. Award-winning poet, writer, and activist Nikki Giovanni’s evocative text combines with Bryan Collier’s striking cut-paper images to retell the story of this historic event from a wholly unique and original perspective.
Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History
Frederick Douglass was a self-educated enslaved man in the South who grew up to become an icon. He was a leader of the abolitionist movement, a celebrated writer, an esteemed speaker, and a social reformer, proving that, as he said, “Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”
Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride
Born into slavery, Belle had to endure the cruelty of several masters before she escaped to freedom. But she knew she wouldn’t really be free unless she was helping to end injustice. That’s when she changed her name to Sojourner and began traveling across the country, demanding equal rights for Black people and for women. Many people weren’t ready for her message, but Sojourner was brave, and her truth was powerful.
Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up
This picture book is a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the momentous Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, when four college students staged a peaceful protest that became a defining moment in the struggle for racial equality and the growing civil rights movement. Andrea Davis Pinkney uses poetic, powerful prose to tell the story of these four young men, who followed Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words of peaceful protest and dared to sit at the “whites only” Woolworth’s lunch counter.
Ordinary People Change the World: “I Am” series by Brad Meltzer
This friendly, fun biography series focuses on the traits that made our heroes great–the traits that kids can aspire to in order to live heroically themselves. Each book tells the story of one of America’s icons in a lively, conversational way that works well for the youngest nonfiction readers and that always includes the hero’s childhood influences. At the back are an excellent timeline and photos.
Zuri’s hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it’s beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he’ll do anything to make her — and her hair — happy.
Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair — and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere.
The Story Of Ruby Bridges
The year is 1960, and six-year-old Ruby Bridges and her family have recently moved from Mississippi to New Orleans in search of a better life. When a judge orders Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school, Ruby must face angry mobs of parents who refuse to send their children to school with her. Told with Robert Coles’ powerful narrative and dramatically illustrated by George Ford, Ruby’s story of courage, faith, and hope is now available in this special 50th anniversary edition with an updated afterword!
A Kids Book About Racism
A clear explanation of what racism is and how to know when you see it.
Yes, this really is a kids book about racism. Inside, you’ll find a clear description of what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens.
This is one conversation that’s never too early to start, and this book was written to be an introduction for kids on the topic.
Marvelous Me: Inside and Out (All about Me)
There is no one else quite like Alex. With his special laugh, his grizzly hugs, and his own interesting thoughts, Alex is one of a kind. Presenting similarities and differences Alex has with others, Marvelous Me, by Lisa Bullard, will encourage children to embrace the things that make them unique. Playful illustrations and fun activities make this book a great addition to home and classroom libraries.
Not Quite Snow White
Tameika is a girl who belongs on the stage. She loves to act, sing, and dance—and she’s pretty good at it, too. So when her school announces their Snow White musical, Tameika auditions for the lead princess role.
But the other kids think she’s “not quite” right to play the role.
They whisper, they snicker, and they glare.
Will Tameika let their harsh words be her final curtain call?
Not Quite Snow White is a delightful and inspiring picture book that highlights the importance of self-confidence while taking an earnest look at what happens when that confidence is shaken or lost. Tameika encourages us all to let our magic shine.
All Are Welcome
A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids.
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.
All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.
Teach Your Dragon About Diversity
Having a pet dragon is very fun.
He can sit, roll over, and play…
He can candle a birthday cake, lit a campfire, or so many other cool things…
But what if your dragon is sad because he is DIFFERENT from his friends?
What if he feel bad that his skin is red, and is not like any of his friends?
And what if he’s worried that none of his friend has wings, tails and scales like him?
What if he’s so nervous because he’s different? What should you do?
You teach him about DIVERSITY!
- You teach him that we’re individuals and should celebrate our differences
- And you teach him the difference in appearance, gender, skin color, and beliefs do not separate us
- You teach him that our differences make this world such a beautiful place
- You teach him that we’re all the same inside, and should embrace diversity
- And so much more
Last Stop on Market Street
Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share, and comes to life through Matt de la Pena’s vibrant text and Christian Robinson’s radiant illustrations.
Happy in Our Skin
Is there anything more splendid than a baby’s skin? Cocoa-brown, cinnamon, peaches and cream. As children grow, their clever skin does, too, enjoying hugs and tickles, protecting them inside and out, and making them one of a kind. Fran Manushkin’s rollicking text and Lauren Tobia’s delicious illustrations paint a breezy and irresistible picture of the human family — and how wonderful it is to be just who you are. It’s a great book for kids about racism and diversity.
One Big Heart: A Celebration of Being More Alike than Different
A culture-rich picture book that proudly showcases the beauty of diversity while also celebrating all the wonderful things we have in common.
From skin, hair, and eyes in a multitude of colors to different personalities and interests, God gave us all special traits and characteristics that make us uniquely ourselves. And we all have things in common too: like sharing fun and laughter on the playground, a sense of curiosity, big feelings, and so many other things that show how we are all more alike than we are different.
Ready to celebrate all our likes and differences? So are we! And this diverse picture book—drenched in color and full of laughter and fun—will show you how.
The Skin You Live In
With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers. Themes associated with child development and social harmony, such as friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity are promoted in simple and straightforward prose. Vivid illustrations of children’s activities for all cultures, such as swimming in the ocean, hugging, catching butterflies, and eating birthday cake are also provided. This delightful picturebook offers a wonderful venue through which parents and teachers can discuss important social concepts with their children.
It’s OK to be Different: A Children’s Picture Book About Diversity and Kindness
Every Child is Unique! Whether they are big or small, short or tall, like to swim, dance, sing or bike. Perhaps they have a special need or are from a different ethnic background. Maybe they wear glasses or talk differently. The truth is that all children are different and their individuality should be celebrated, not shunned. And this inspiring and brightly illustrated rhyming picture book does just that.
By highlighting the ways kids are different from one another it helps children to accept themselves and others as the beautifully unique individuals that they are. It’s OK to be Different encourages kids to be kind and befriend those who are different from themselves, showing young children that they don’t have to look alike or enjoy doing the same activities to be kind to one another.
Readers will come away with the message: “You should always to kind to those who are different from you. Because to them, YOU are different too.”
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Check out our webstory about 35 books to teach kids about racism and diversity.