Research from Harvard University suggests that children as young as three years old, when exposed to racism and prejudice, tend to embrace and accept it, even though they might not understand the feelings. By age 5, white children are strongly biased towards whiteness. To counter this bias, experts recommend acknowledging and naming race and racism with children as early and as often as possible. Children’s books are one of the most effective and practical tools for initiating these critical conversations; and they can also be used to model what it means to resist and dismantle oppression
Beyond addressing issues of race and racism, this children’s reading list focuses on taking action. It highlights resistance, resilience and activism; and seeks to empower youth to participate in the ongoing movement for racial justice. These books showcase the diverse ways people of all ages and races have engaged in anti-racist activism, and highlight how race intersects with other issues, such as capitalism, class and colonization. The majority of books center activists of color, whose lives and bodies have been on the front lines of racial justice work, yet whose stories often go untold. The essential work of white activists is also included — to underscore that anti-racist work is not the responsibility of people of color; and exemplify the ways white allies have stood up against racial injustice. This list was curated by The Conscious Kid Library and American Indians in Children’s Literature, in partnership with Raising Race Conscious Children.
Bok Chitto is a tribute to the Indians of every nation who aided the runaway people of bondage. Crossing Bok Chitto is an Indian book and documented the Indian way. We Indians need to know and embrace our past. Non-Indians should know the sweet and secret fire, as secret as the stones, that drives the Indian heart and keeps us so determined that our way, a way of respect for others and the land we live on, will prevail.” Ages 7–13.
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. Ages 6–10.
Committee; demonstrator on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama; and Georgia congressman, who is still an activist today. Ages 4–8.
barely enough money to survive. Cesar knew things had to change, and he thought that — maybe — he could help change them. So he took charge. He spoke up. And an entire country listened. Ages 4–7.
others were treated differently because of the color of their skin. Gordon wanted to take a stand against the racism he observed. With his camera in hand, he found a way. Told through lyrical verse and atmospheric art, this is the story of how, with a single photograph, a self-taught artist got America to take notice. Ages 4–8.
opportunities for herself and other Asian American actors and refused to play stereotypical roles. As the first Chinese American movie star, she took a stand against racial discrimination in the film industry and was a pioneer of the cinema. Ages 6–11.
This is the story of two icons for social justice, how they formed a remarkable friendship, and turned their personal experiences of oppression into a message of love and equality for all. Ages 6–9.
astute perception, caring, and personal action, Emma begins to get involved, and eventually, at the age of 21, leads 12,000 workers in the first significant historical action in the Mexican-American struggle for justice. Emma’s story serves as a model for young and old alike about courage, compassion, and the role everyone can play in making the world more fair. Ages 5–7.
about justice, equality, and the importance of following one’s heart and dreams. Ages 3–7.
Democrats. Voice of Freedom celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer’s life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength. Ages 9–12.
The Conscious Kid Library is an education, research, and policy organization dedicated to reducing bias, promoting positive identity development, and empowering youth to engage in social justice activism. They promote access to diverse children’s books that center and celebrate empowered images and narratives of underrepresented and oppressed groups. www.theconsciouskid.org
American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL) provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society. https://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/
Raising Race Conscious Children is an education organization that provides direct supports to parents and teachers who are trying to talk about race and diversity with children. They provide resources and trainings to support adults and are committed to preparing young people to work toward racial justice. www.raceconscious.org
EmbraceRace is a multiracial community of people supporting each other to help nurture kids who are thoughtful, informed, and brave about race.
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