Figuring out how to open up conversations about race with little ones can be hard, but it doesn’t have to be. By introducing children to a wide expanse of diverse stories and characters at a young age, an appreciation for our differences comes easy. Our editors have rounded up favorite children’s books with tales of culture, tolerance and self-love to add to your library.
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester
Everybody has a story and, as author Julius Lester points out in his book, there are many components that make up each tale. Some of these can include hobbies, who our parents are, our race, our place of birth, and more. But what is truly special is when meeting someone new, seeing how they can become a part of your story and you a part of theirs.
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson
Introduce your children to the youngest known person to be arrested during the civil rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama — Audrey Faye Hendricks. With many youth groups and young activists becoming central players today, The Youngest Marcher is another example of how anyone can make a difference, no matter how small they are.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry and Vashti Harrison
Zuri wants to try a new hairstyle for a very special occasion, but her dad is a little intimidated by all of the hair products and curls. Instead of admitting defeat, he tries everything to slick her edges down and create the most adorable puffballs. Hair Love celebates both daddy/daughter relationships and self-love when it comes to natural locks.
At the Mountain’s Base pays homage to Native Americans who fought in WWII while offering a personal look inside Native American culture. The story follows a family who awaits the return of their loved one, who is serving as a pilot. Their day-to-day is comprised of weaving, cooking, singing, and through this, children learn the importance of traditions that hold people up.
All the Colors We Are/Todos los Colores de Nuestra Piel by Katie Kissinger
To explain why people are different shades and colors, introduce your kids to All the Colors We Are. The bilingual book explains how ancestry, the sun, and melanin all come into play to create the colors of the world.
After moving from Korea to America, young Unhei is nervous about starting school and is afraid that the other students may not be able to pronounce her name — or worse, make fun of her for it. So, instead of telling them her name, she says she’ll pick one. Suggestions are added to a name jar throughout the week and, after considering who she would be if she adjusted to an Americanized name, Unhei decides to keep and appreciate her own.
Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock by Aslan Tudor
Simply put, water protectors help protect water from being polluted. Young Water Protectors follows the story of 8-year-old Aslan, a young activist who fought to keep a pipeline from being placed near Standing Rock. Through his tale, children learn about Native American life and what happened when young people took a stand against a big oil company.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
History-making figures like Ida B. Wells, Katherine Johnson, Rosa Parks, Shirley Chisholm, Oprah Winfrey and abolitionist Sojourner Truth have their stories told in bite-size pieces for your little ones. Start conversations about how some of the world’s bravest women changed history with their causes.
Take a look at the world through 7-year-old Lena’s eyes. Lena wants to use brown paint to create a portrait of herself but, after taking a walk through the neighborhood with her mom, she realizes there a lot more shades of brown than she originally thought. Throughout the walk, she takes notice of the beautiful similarities and differences among the people who live nearby.
Reach out to your kids with characters they already know and love — the faces of Sesame Street! In this classic, Elmo, Big Bird, Cookie Monster, and friends share how though we may all look different, we share many similarities too.