Having grown up in the deep south, I've seen my fair share of systematic and social racism. It's disheartening to watch anyone face challenges based on there race or ethnicity, and it's just as disheartening to realize that people you used to look up to are a big of the problem. In more self-isolated communities like the one I grew up in, racism is often swept under the rug instead of faced head-on. Such a solution only perpetuates prejudices as well as passes down poor ideals to new generations. This cycle often causes children and young adults to inherit their parents and communities built-in prejudices.
In elementary school, when I witnessed students displaying prejudices toward one another, teachers and adults often addressed it in a vague way that didn't allow kids to think critically about there actions. This way of handling things seemed to carry on into high school, and by then many of my peers were already bias, and less willing to address their own arrogance. I firmly believe that I and my peers would have all benefited from a discussion on racism that went beyond just the civil rights period and into the modern-day.
It's important that racism is talked about with children in a blatant and honest way. So how can we start facing racism head-on instead of sweeping it under the rug? By educating one another and encouraging critical thinking as soon as possible. And fortunately, reading and storytelling is a familiar and powerful way to teach anyone valuable lessons about serious topics. Often times, some of life's most important lessons are passed down through reading and storytelling. Even though opening a book isn't going to end racism, it's a great place to start developing important discussions with children and youth. Here are 9 anti-racist children's books that will help get the conversation started.
An ABC of Equality
An ABC of Equality is an engaging book for young children that teaches them to celebrate their differences. It touches on a range of heavy topics like race and religion while also using something familiar like the alphabet. It stays straight forward and honest while still challenging children by introducing topics that may not be familiar to them. ABC of equality if a great way for parents and adults to start a developing conversation about social justice with kids.
The Youngest Marcher
The Youngest Marcher is an inspiring true story about young civil rights activist Audrey Faye Hendricks. At just nine years old, Hendricks was the youngest child to be arrested during the Birmingham civil rights movement. The story is an outstanding example of boldness and bravery, and it also helps to explain what African-American children and families were facing in the early 1960s.
New Kid is a Newberry award-winning graphic novel for older kids and tweens. It talks about what it's like to be a minority in a predominantly white middle school, and help kids understand some of the everyday struggles their peers may face. Its content is relatable and interesting enough to keep its readers engaged, but its themes and message are powerful enough to impact them too.
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family
The Proudest Blue is a powerful story about resilience and family. It's from the perspective of a little girl watching her older sister experience what it's like wearing her hijab to school for the first time. Their confidence in themselves and one another allows them to stay proud and prevail over the negative words and whispers coming from their peers. The story helps kids want to understand why others may be different, instead of letting them assume that different is inherently bad.
Sulwe is a beautiful story about self-love and acceptance. It talks about race and skin color in an understandable and meaningful way. The story follows a young girl who wants her skin tone to be lighter and ends with her ultimately realizing that her skin color is already beautiful. The story is a great way for kids to learn about acceptance of themselves and others.
Suki's Kimono is the story of a young girl who wears her kimono on the first day of school. Suki shares her experience of attending a Japanese street festival, and her peers are delighted by her stories and excitement. Suki's Kimono supports curiosity and helps teach kids the importance of listening and learning from one another.
Hidden Figures follows the real-life story of four black women who were a part of the space race. The story explains science to children while also explaining the personal sacrifices the women made to get America in space. It's an outstanding story about passionate and bright black women that will help children better understand science, sacrifice, and American history.
Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match
Marisol McDonald doesn't match is about a Peruvian Irish girl who "doesn't match". From her unusual hair and skin tone to her interesting taste in cuisine, Marisol proudly refuses to "match" and instead continues to do what makes her happy. This story teaches kids that there is no one way for them to exist, and they don't have to present themselves in a way that everyone expects them to.
Everybody Cooks Rice
Everybody Cooks Rice is a unique story of a girl searching her neighborhood for her little brother before dinner time. On her way, she notices that all her neighbors are cooking rice for dinner, despite all coming from different backgrounds. It's an interesting story that tells kids that we are all connected despite our obvious differences, and it's a great way to get kids to think about other cultures while teaching them to celebrate diversity.
Hopefully, these books will inspire you to share a wider variety of storytelling and authors with the youth in your life. Trusting children to handle important issues like racism will help them grow up to be critical thinkers who can discuss difficult topics instead of turning a blind eye to them. Creating a more accepting and united world starts with them.