• 37 Children’s Books to Help Talk About Racism and Discrimination

    My son came to me one day last year and said he didn’t like the way his eyes looked. I think he called them “Chinese eyes”. He didn’t like that he looked different than his friends. He called himself a few names that I don’t want to repeat. My heart broke for him that day, and so we began our family talk on race, acceptance and being different. 

    While I will never know what it feels like to be Black. My family and I face issues with discrimination and being different. 

    In these heartbreaking volatile times, I hope this post will be of help in having a conversation with your children. May they grow to be inclusive and compassionate. May they imbibe the truth that human beings belong to one family. 

    I had bookmarked a few years ago a blog post on 37 Children’s Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination published by coloursofus . I tried to access that this morning to share the link but their site was down. Probably slammed from a lot of traffic of people sharing that list of resources.  I found a cached copy of the web page before their site went offline and decided to repost it below in case it’ll be helpful for you. 

    You can also checkout a great list of best selling Children’s Books on Prejudice and Racism here on amazon. Lots of great resources there. 

    If you have other helpful resources to educate us and our children on these issues, please let me know in the comments below. 


    “I have a dream
    that my four little children will one day live in a nation
    where they will not be judged by the color of their skin
    but by the content of their character.”
    ~ Dr. Martin Luther King

    Sadly, the above part of Martin Luther King’s famous dream still hasn’t come true and racism is very much alive and well in America (as well as in many other parts of the world).

    Talking to our children about racism and discrimination is as necessary as it is uncomfortable for most parents (especially white parents). Necessary because racial bias in children starts as early as from the age of 3; uncomfortable because it means we have to address our own racial biases, too.

    These multicultural children’s books are a selection of picture books and novels about the past and the present. They can be helpful for talking to your children (Elementary to High School) about racism and its devastating consequences.

    Elementary School Books:

    The Story Of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

    In 1960 a judge orders little Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school in New Orleans. Surrounded by Federal Marshalls, Ruby faces angry mobs of segregationists as she walks through the school door on her first day (and many after). Being the only student in her class she is taught by a supportive teacher. With simple text and engaging watercolor illustrations, The Story of Ruby Bridges is a moving picture book about a little girl’s calm perseverance and gracious forgiveness in the ugly face of hate and racism.

    Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester

    “I am a story. So are you. So is everyone.” In this acclaimed book, Julius Lester shares his own story as he explores what makes each of us special. He emphasizes that race is just one of many facets of a person. With stunning illustrations and engaging text, Let’s Talk About Race will appeal to young readers and is sure to spark further conversations about race and racism.

    Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

    In 1944 Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. With the help of the Hispanic community, her parents filed and won a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually led to the end of segregated education in California. Separate Is Never Equal tells Sylvia’s story in a touching and accessible way.

    Desmond and the Very Mean Word by Desmond Tutu

    Desmond’s pride and joy about his new bicycle turn to hurt and anger when some boys shout a very mean word at him. Responding with an insult, Desmond soon realises that fighting mean with mean doesn’t make him feel any better. Based on Desmond Tutu’s childhood experiences, Desmond and the Very Mean Word is a touching story about compassion and forgiveness.

    White Flour by David LaMotte

    Based on true events, White Flour tells the story of a whimsical and effective response to a Ku Klux Klan rally in Knoxville, Tennessee in May 2007. The Coup Clutz Clowns trumped hatred with humour by ‘misunderstanding’ the racist’s “White Power” shouts. With vivid rhymes and colourful illustrations, this picture book provides a great example of a non-violent response to racist aggression.

    Lillian’s Right to Vote by Jonah Winter

    Slowly making her way up a hill to the polling station to vote, 100-year-old Lillian remembers her family’s tumultuous voting history: Her great-grandfather voting for the first time, her parents trying to register to vote, herself marching in a protest from Selma to Montgomery. Beautifully illustrated Lillian’s Right to Vote is a moving and lyrical account of black people’s fight for voting rights.

    Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey

    When Ruth and her family go on a trip in their new car in the early 1950’s, they soon realize that black travellers aren’t welcome everywhere. Many hotels and gas stations refuse service to the family. Eventually, someone gives them a book that lists all the places that welcome black travellers. The Green Book is a poignant story about racial discrimination in the Jim Crow era, brought to life by expressive watercolour illustrations.

    Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney

    “It was February 1, 1960. / They didn’t need menus. / Their order was simple. / A doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side.” Sit-In celebrates an important milestone in the fight for racial equality: The momentous Woolworth lunch counter sit-in, staged by four young college students. With dynamic illustrations and poetic text, this compelling picture book is a great starting point for conversations about racism and discrimination.

    The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

    The Other Side tells the touching story of a friendship during segregation. Clover’s mom warns her that it is dangerous to cross the fence between their side of town and the white side where Anna lives. But the two girls meet across the fence and strike up a friendship anyway. Expressive watercolour illustrations complement the lyrical narrative perfectly.

    Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo

    Stunningly illustrated Shining Star tells the rags-to-riches story of Anna May Wong, a Chinese American Hollywood star in the 1930s and 1940s. Wong confronted racial discrimination and stereotypes and broke new ground for future generations of Asian American actors.

    Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

    We adore spunky Grace and her love for re-enacting stories, be they from books, movies, or her grandmother. But when she wants to play the lead role in a Peter Pan school play, her classmates tell her she cannot do it because she is a girl and because she is black. With the support of her family and after seeing a black ballerina perform, Grace remains determined to win the lead role. With expressive watercolour illustrations and a strong main character, Amazing Grace is an engaging story about challenging gender and racial stereotypes.

    The Soccer Fence by Phil Bildner

    Little Hector loves playing soccer and dreams of playing on a real pitch with the white boys. When apartheid slowly starts to crumble and the national soccer team wins the African Cup of Nations, Hector’s dream suddenly doesn’t seem so impossible anymore. With simple text and expressive pencil and acrylic illustrations, The Soccer Fence tells a story of hope and change. Includes a (quite advanced) timeline of historical events.

    The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko

    Because he was white and she was African American and Cherokee, Mildred and Richard Loving were not permitted to marry under Virginia’s law in 1958. The couple got married in Washington, D.C., but when they moved back to Virginia, they were arrested. Mildred and Richard fought the discriminatory law all the way to the Supreme Court, and won! The Case for Loving is an inspiring story about a couple who changed the world for interracial couples and opened people’s eyes to the unfairness of any law that restricts whom you are allowed to love.

    If A Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks by Faith Ringgold

    On a magical bus ride to school, Marcie learns about the story of Rosa Parks, the mother of the Civil Rights movement. She even meets Rosa Parks and some other distinguished guests at a birthday party. Illustrated with colourful folk-art style paintings, If a Bus Could Talk tells Rosa Park’s story in an unusual and bold way.

    When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton

    Strong-willed Olemaun wants to learn to read and persuades her father to let her go to residential school, despite his concerns. At the Catholic-run school, the Inuit girl is stripped of her Native identity, humiliated and treated harshly. Remaining undaunted, Olemaun draws the attention of one nun who tries to break her spirit. When I was Eight is a stunning picture book adaptation of the bestselling memoir Fatty Legs, a story about discrimination and the power of the human spirit.

    Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson

    Harlem’s Little Blackbird tells the story of Florence Mills, an African American singer born in 1896. In poetic text, complemented by stunning paper-cut illustrations, the story follows Mills from singing with her mother to breaking into the musical world despite facing racial discrimination. Mills declined the role of a lifetime and chose to support all-black musicals instead by only performing in shows with unknown black singers and actors.

    Nelson Mandela by Kadir Nelson

    The captivating portrait on the cover draws the young reader right into this award-winning picture book biography. In poignant free verse and with the most stunning, powerful paintings, Nelson Mandela tells the story of Mandela’s life, from his tribal childhood to the triumph of his election as President of South Africa.

    My Name Is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin MD M.D.

    After moving to a new place, Bilal and his sister Ayesha start at a new school where they are the only Muslims. When Bilal sees his sister bullied on their first day, he worries about being teased himself and decides not to let his classmates know that he is Muslim. My Name Is Bilal is a heartfelt story about a young boy struggling with his identity and a great starting point for discussions about prejudice and discrimination.

    Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer by Carole Boston Weatherford

    This striking picture book biography chronicles the life of Fannie Lou Hamer, one of the civil rights movement’s most inspiring leaders. With free-verse text, coupled with spirituals and quotes, and with stunning quilt-like collages, Voice of Freedom makes this amazing woman’s life story accessible to young readers.

    Middle School Books:

    We Troubled the Waters by Ntozake Shange

    With stirring poetry and striking illustrations We Troubled The Waters gives a voice to the everyday and extraordinary people who fought for racial justice during the civil rights movement. From the “Cleaning Gal” and the “Garbage Boys” to Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks, this heartfelt book captures the spirit of the civil rights movement beautifully.

    Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

    Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry tells of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. This classic masterpiece focuses on Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, and learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.

    Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

    Hidden Figures tells the amazing true story of four African American female mathematicians at NASA. Despite facing gender discrimination and racial prejudice, these “human computers” helped achieve some of the greatest moments in the US’s space program by calculating the numbers that would launch rockets into space.

    Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper

    One night 11-year-old Stella and her brother witness a Ku Klux Klan meeting in the North Carolina woods. For the African American siblings, living in the South is a dangerous, scary and often humiliating experience. Stella by Starlight is a gripping and realistic portrayal of life in the segregated South during the Great Depression.

    Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

    Brown Girl Dreaming is an intimate and moving account of the author’s childhood as an African American in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Growing up in South Carolina and New York, she becomes increasingly aware of the Civil Rights Movement. In poetic language full of imagery this award-winning book gives a glimpse into a child’s soul and her journey of self-discovery.

    The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

    Junior, an aspiring cartoonist, leaves his school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school. Based on the author’s own experiences, The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian is a heartbreaking, funny, and beautifully written novel about the contemporary adolescence of a Native American boy. Illustrated with poignant cartoon-style drawings.

    Nelson Mandela: The Authorized Comic Book by The Nelson Mandela Foundation

    Adapted from Nelson Mandela’s memoir Long Road to Freedom, this is his authorized graphic biography. Nelson Mandela tells his life story in dramatic pictures, from his childhood to his years as the first black president of South Africa. The comic book form together with new interviews, firsthand accounts, and archival material makes the story of Mandela’s life and work accessible for teenagers.

    A Wreath for Emmett Till by Marilyn Nelson

    In 1955, fourteen-year-old Emmett Till was lynched for supposedly whistling at a white woman in Mississippi. The brutality of his murder, the open-casket funeral and the acquittal of the men tried for the crime drew wide media attention. Award-winning A Wreath for Emmett Till is a moving and chilling poem about the boy whose fate helped spark the civil rights movement.

    High School Books:

    The Hate U Give by Angi Thomas

    16-year-old Starr is balancing life between her poor neighbourhood and her fancy suburban school. When her unarmed best friend Khalil is killed at the hands of a police officer, his death is making national headlines and protesters are taking to the streets. As the only person who knows what really happened that night, Starr is caught between threats from the police and the local drug lord, protecting her community and risking her own life. No.1 New York Times Bestseller The Hate You Give is a powerful and heart-wrenching novel about police brutality and systemic racism.

    X: A Novel by Ilyasah Shabazz

    Co-written by Malcolm X’s daughter, X follows the formative years of one of the most powerful leaders in African American history. From his father being murdered, his mother being taken away, and himself being placed in foster care, to his imprisonment for theft at age twenty, when he found the faith that would guide him onto a new path, X is an award-winning novel about a man who shook the world.

    Dear Martin by Nic Stone

    Due to be released in October, this stunning debut is another novel about racial prejudice and police brutality. Top of his class and set for the Ivy League, Justyce writes a journal to Martin Lurther King Jr in an attempt to make sense of a police encounter in which he was treated roughly and unfairly. When he is caught up in another police encounter in which shots are fired, Justyce finds himself under attack in the media. Dear Martin is a compelling must-read that tackles the myth that if you don’t do anything wrong you have nothing to fear from the police.

    Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger

    Indian American Samar’s mother has always kept her away from her old-fashioned family. But shortly after 9/11, her uncle shows up, wanting to reconcile and teach the teenager about her Sikh heritage. When some boys attack her uncle, shouting “Go home Osama!” Samar realizes how dangerous ignorance is. Shine, Coconut Moon is a poignant story about identity, prejudice, and difference.

    Monster by Walter Dean Myers

    “Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I’ll call it what the lady prosecutor called me … Monster.” Multi-award-winning Monster chronicles the unfair court proceedings for Steve Harmon, a teenager accused of murder and robbery. Written as a screenplay playing in Steve’s imagination, coupled with his journal entries, this heart-wrenching novel highlights the racism deeply ingrained in the American justice system.

    Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice by Phillip Hoose

    “When it comes to justice, there is no easy way to get it. You can’t sugarcoat it. You have to take a stand and say, ‘This is not right.’” On March 2, 1955, Claudette Colvin refused to give her seat to a white woman on a segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Instead of being celebrated as Rosa Parks would be nine months later, the teenager found herself shunned. Undaunted, a year later she became a key plaintiff in Browder v. Gayle, the landmark case that struck down the segregation laws of Montgomery. Based on extensive interviews with Claudette Colvin and many others, Twice towards Justice is an in-depth account of an important yet largely unknown civil rights figure.

    How It Went Down by Kekla Magoon

    When black teenager Tariq Johnson is fatally shot by a white man, his whole community is turned upside down. While the truth is obscured by new twists every day, Tariq’s family is trying to cope with their loss. How It Went Down is a compelling and timely novel about racial prejudice and its devastating consequences.

    The Lines We Cross by Randa Abdel-Fattah

    Set in Australia, this timely new release tells the story of Michael who attends anti-immigration protests with his parents, and Mina, a refugee from Afghanistan, who is on the other side of the protest lines. When Mina starts at Michael’s school, the two teenagers enter into an unlikely relationship. With increasing discrimination against immigrants, Michael and Mina have to face difficult decisions. The Lines We Cross is a poignant and thought-provoking Romeo-and-Juliet story about prejudice and discrimination against Muslim immigrants.

    All American Boys by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

    When 16-year-old Rashad goes to buy a packet of chips at the corner shop, he finds himself mistaken for a shoplifter and beaten up by the police. Soon the incident is all over the news and simmering racial tensions get to the point of explosion. Written by two award-winning authors and alternating between the perspectives of one black and one white teenager, All American Boys is a moving novel about privilege and racism that every teenager should read.

    March: Book Three by John Lewis

    March: Book Three is the stunning conclusion of the award-winning trilogy by congressman and civil rights key figure John Lewis. Starting in 1963, the book describes the continuing struggle for justice. With an unpredictable new president and fractures within the movement deepening, 25-year-old John Lewis risks everything in a historic showdown high above the Alabama river, in a town called Selma. With expressive black-and-white illustrations, this unique graphic novel makes the history of the civil rights movement accessible to teenagers.

    You can also see best selling Children’s Books on Prejudice and Racism here on amazon.  Tons of great resources and user feedback in ratings.

    If you have other helpful resources to educate us and our children on these issues, please let me know in the comments below. 

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      You are uncomfortable and that is good because sometimes the truth is uncomfortable. When things effect you you become uncomfortable. Now that the blinders are off wake up and stop lying to yourself. Be a part of the solution not a part of the problem.

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