As our country mourns, protests, and fights for reforms, I hope, pray, and advocate for real and lasting change to come to our communities, states, and nation. But I feel deeply in my heart that it needs to start in our homes. We must be more actively engaged at home to teach our children anti-racism. We must raise children who are willing to stand up against racism. We must be the examples and stand up against it ourselves. We must all take a stand if we are to see true and lasting change.
I want to share some picture books that have made an impact on our home and help even the littlest kids learn about anti-racism. Books that my girls love. I was hesitant to create this list because there are already so many great lists out there about picture books to teach anti racism. But I kept feeling the pull to get my own list out there. And I figure if only one of my friends sees this list who hasn't seen any of the other lists, it will be worth it. My list is specifically for the smallest kids. These are the books that have started great discussions with girls as young as 2 years old.
First, here are some much more comprehensive lists that you can enjoy.
And for older readers, some chapter and MG books: 10 Children's Books With Black Girl Protagonists
Now, to add my voice to the need to teach anti racism to our children, here is my list of 15 picture books to teach anti racism in the home, even to the youngest readers.
First, books that directly lend to conversations about race and racism:
This is a favorite book in our home. My girls love and ask for it. When Tameika wants to play Snow White in the school play, other students think she's "too tall, too chubby, and too brown." Tameika must learn that she is "just enough of all the right stuff" to truly shine. I love talking to my girls about how important it is to stand up for other kids when they see situations like this.
I literally cried the first time we read this book. A beautiful telling of the power of children in the civil rights movement, specifically the Birmingham children's crusade. I was able to talk to my kids about the difference they can make when they stand up for what is right. And all of the hard things that black children have to endure. And how to be a real ally.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o and Vashti Harrison
Sulwe is a beautifully written and illustrated story about learning to be comfortable and love yourself in your own skin. My girls were mesmerized by the illustrations and sad to learn that anyone might not want the skin they were born in. A great book to talk about helping others to always feel strong, confident, love, accepted, and important.
This book is wonderful to help kids recognize when others might be feeling uncomfortable or nervous in a new place. And that it's okay to feel that way too. That you can help each other and stand together, even through differences.
The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad with S.K. Ali and Hatem Aly
I loved this book so much. It's a beautiful story about being proud of who you are and standing strong, even when others don't understand. This book opens up a wonderful discussion with kids about loving and befriending people who are different. And seeking to understand, support, and respect each other's beliefs.
These books are really wonderful and have so many great stories about multiple men and women in black history. I love that we can read just one story or multiple stories at a time. I think it is so important that my kids know these stories.
Another great book about strong black women who made a huge difference in history. Unfortunately, these stories are not always told. A huge step towards change and equality is telling these stories and knowing the great history.
I love that this book embraces and accepts differences. It does a beautiful job of teaching kids that we aren't all the same. But we are all enough and we should all be equal.
Island Born by Junot Díaz and Leo Espinosa
In this book with vibrant and engaging illustrations, we follow Lola as she tries to remember life on The Island. She hears the stories of many in her community, some beautiful and fun, others difficult and trying. I think this book is wonderful to open up conversations with kids about the difficulties that many kids have endured and how we can understand each other's experiences.
And now for some books that we love that don't necessarily tackle racism head on, but do have amazing black protagonists. I feel it is so important to read and love books with Black protagonists. I hear too many people say they "don't see color" or "don't see race." I understand that the desire behind that is good and true and I commend you for wanting total equality. However, not seeing race/color can be detrimental to racial identity and pride. It's okay, even wonderful and good to be different. The key is to love and stand up for each other regardless of color. To create equality while loving and embracing our racial, cultural, and personal differences. So as I've read these books with my girls, they are seeing strong and wonderful Black children. It doesn't even take much of a lesson. We just read together and the truth of beauty in all the people around us sinks in. In fact, when my daughters color, they automatically--without any prodding from me--use multiple colors for skin tones in their projects. To them it is natural and wonderful to have the diversity.
My girls love this book. With very sparse text, most of the story is found in the beautiful illustrations. A protagonist who is vibrant and comfortable in her skin shows us how wonderful it is to be alive and find joy.
This book is such a touching look into a daddy-daughter relationship as Zuri tries to find the perfect hair style for a special day. But her beautiful hair has a mind of its own sometimes.
This book is so inspiring. First of all, I adore Michele Obama. This book tells the story of Parker Curry's experience seeing a portrait of Michele in a museum. In the moment that she sees such a strong, incredible black woman, Parker knows. that she can be anything she wants to be.
In this cute book, Ada has lots of questions. More than her parents know how to deal with. But they work together to find a way to support Ada in her quest for knowledge.
This book is a favorite in our house. I love the twist on the "when life gives you lemons" idea. Our protagonist wants the latest gadgets and gizmos for her birthday. But she comes to learn the beauty of planting, nurturing, and growing. In fact, the entire neighborhood is transformed by a lemon tree.
I adore anything and everything by Tammi Sauer. She is truly an amazing author. And Mary Had a Little Glam is no exception. It's such a cute book about a fancy little girl who brings the glam wherever she goes. But also knows when to turn off the glam.
I'd love to hear any of your favorite books to teach anti-racism in the home. I truly believe that this is where it must start. We have to do better and be better. I hope that we will and I hope that these books will become staples in your homes.
And to my black friends, I hear you. I love you. If you ever need to talk, I am here to listen. I know that I will never fully understand. But I will always stand by your side.