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Children’s Books About Race, Diversity and Activism

Many parents are looking for ways to (re)commit to teaching our young children about the importance and value of diversity, and acknowledge the reality of – and problems with – long-term discrimination. One way to start: read books — children’s books about race and racism and difference.

Books are a window into the world for all of us, and kids are no exception — they convey messages about the way things work, the way people are, the way we live.

According to social scientists, stories that celebrate diversity — that depict people of every color, that portray different ethnicities and cultures, that feature families of all shapes and sizes — can be a springboard for change in your home and an effective way to initiate conversations about race (and the adversity minorities face) for children of all ages, even the very young. 

“All kids benefit from being exposed to diverse books, because they reflect the world and people of the world, teach respect for all cultural groups, serve as a window and a mirror and as an example of how to interact in the world, show that despite differences, all people share common feelings and aspirations, can create a wider curiosity for the world, prepare children for the real world, and they enrich educational experiences.”

~We Need Diverse Books Campaign

Thankfully, numerous media outlets, pre-K and elementary teachers, children’s librarians, and parents themselves have shared some of their favorite racially- and culturally-diverse book picks. We’ve put together some of their shared recommendations.

Children’s books obviously cannot solve our nation’s problems — not by a longshot — but reading them and talking about them together with your children is a start.   

We encourage you to purchase these titles from a black-owned bookstore. Click here to find one in your area. Please note that due to high demand, many of these titles are currently back-ordered.

If you end up purchasing from Amazon.com, proceeds from those sales will be donated to the Movement for Black Lives, a grassroots organization that distributes funds to focus on Black-led organizing & building power in Black communities.

Board Books for Babies

Dream Big Little One, by Vashti Harrison 

Dream Big, Little One is the board book adaptation of a book called Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. These books tell the true stories of 18 black women who stood up for what was right and accomplished extraordinary things.” ~ Woman’s Day 

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A is for Activist, by Innosanto Nagara 

“Innosanto Nagara’s ABC board book infuses the alphabet with pictures and rhyming stories about fighting for social justice, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and what it means to be an ally.” ~ New York Magazine 

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Woke Baby, by Mahogany L. Browne, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III 

“This board book for babies and toddlers is a hopeful, lyrical tale that offers inspiration on how your baby can grow up to change the world.” ~ Woman’s Day 

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Antiracist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky

“From the author of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning comes this illustrated introduction to nine principals of anti-racism for children, including opening your eyes to all colors, celebrating differences and shouting about policies, not people.” ~ Today.com 

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Counting on Community, by Innosanto Nagara 

“In this powerful concept book follow-up to A Is for Activist, Nagara tackles counting. Typical urban neighborhood pastimes are depicted with verve and vibrant colors, including working in community gardens and drawing with sidewalk chalk. Young readers will have fun trying to locate an ever-present duck on each spread. Racial and ethnic diversity is celebrated on every page, and the lyrical text will inspire budding and longtime activists alike.” ~ School Library Journal

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No! My First Book of Protest, by Julie Merberg, illustrated by Molly Egan

No! My First Book of Protest makes for a wonderful primer for teaching kids about social action, showcasing some of the most famous and impactful protest movements in history…One of the most engaging elements of the book is the repeated refrain of ‘No!’ throughout the text. I’ve yet to meet a toddler (including my own, who loved the book) who didn’t enjoy screaming ‘No!’ whenever possible, and it is welcome and encouraged throughout…” ~ Michael Taylor, Smells Like Infinite Sadness

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Picture Books for Toddlers, Preschoolers and Kindergarteners 

Sulwe, by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison 

“Sulwe has darker skin than anyone she knows — her family, her classmates. She longs to be ‘bright,’ but one life-changing journey into the night sky proves how beautiful she is in her own skin.” ~ Time Out

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The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López 

“National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner Rafael López bring this inspiring story to life about finding the courage to connect. It’s about how sometimes you can feel like an outsider, but sharing our stories can bring us together.” ~ PBS

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Let’s Talk About Race, by Julius Lester, illustrated by Karen Barbour

“The perfect conversation starter for any discussion about race, this lively picture book celebrates what makes us different yet all the same.” ~ Motherly 

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Hair Love, by Matthew A. Cherry, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

“Written by a former N.F.L. wide receiver and now an Oscar-winning short film, Hair Love tells the story of a black father learning to do his daughter’s hair for the first time and the special bond they share.” ~ NYTimes

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Last Stop on Market Street, by Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

“The urban setting is truly reflective, showing people with different skin colors, body types, abilities, ages, and classes in a natural and authentic manner…” ~ School Library Journal 

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Let the Children March, by Monica Clark-Robinson, illustrated by Frank Morrison

“There are a handful of books written about the thousands of African American children that protested (and got assaulted…and arrested) in 1963 inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This one is our favorite.” ~ Pregnant Chicken 

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I Am Enough, by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo

Empire‘s Grace Byers teamed up with artist Keturah A. Bobo to create a lyrical ode for young girls — including those who are biracial like she is — about how to love who they are and respect others. This book for children is about knowing that they have a purpose in life and believing that they’re more than enough. These positive affirmations will carry your little one through life with confidence.” ~ SheKnows

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Happy in Our Skin, by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia

“As these babies grow, their amazing skin does too, enjoying hugs and tickles, protecting them inside and out, and making them special, whether they’re cocoa brown or cinnamon or peaches and cream. A breezy and irresistible picture of the human family, and how wonderful it is to be just who you are.” ~ recommended by pre-K teacher Brittany Smith, @wanderingbritt

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Many thanks to all the individuals and outlets who are sharing their favorites with all of us — we’d love to hear yours as well in the comments section below.

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