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Books for kids to help spark conversations about race, justice

Quail Ridge Books recommends a slate of books that aim to help readers become antiracists -- people who not just oppose racism, but actively promote racial tolerance.

Posted Updated
Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
, Go Ask Mom editor

These are challenging times in the United States as we confront not just a pandemic, but also widespread protests sparked by longtime racial injustices and inequities.

I shared some information earlier this week with tips about how to talk about these difficult topics with kids. But I also wanted to share two thoughtful reading lists from Quail Ridge Books, whose staff recommended a slate of books that aim to help readers become antiracists — people who not just oppose racism, but actively promote racial tolerance.
Adults can find a link to a reading list for them on Quail Ridge's website.
If you're looking for great books for your kids that will help them understand the world around them, here are a few that Quail Ridge recommends. Many more books for kids with similar themes are on Quail Ridge's website. Descriptions come courtesy of Quail Ridge.

AntiRacist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky

With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Kendi is founding director of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University and author of "How to Be an Antiracist" for adults. Best for babies and toddlers.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History and Little Legends: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Harrison features ground-breaking men and women in her books, which are perfect for preschoolers to tweens.

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child's Story about Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard

Something Happened in Our Town follows two families -- one White, one Black -- as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives. Best for ages 4 to 8.

Ellen's Broom by Kelly Starling Lyons and Daniel Minter (illustrator)

The award-winning author, who is based in Raleigh, writes about a young girl who learns a new meaning for freedom during the time of Reconstruction. For ages 5 to 8.

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham

The picture book is about racism and racial justice, inviting white children and parents to become curious about racism, accept that it's real, and cultivate justice. Best for ages 8 to 12.

"Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship by Irene Latham, Charles Waters and Sean Qualls (illustrator)

Two poets, one white and one black, explore race and childhood in this must-have collection tailored to provoke thought and conversation. For ages 8 to 12.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

A heartbreaking and powerful story about a black boy killed by a police officer, drawing connections through history. Best for ages 8 to 12.

Blended by Sharon M. Draper

Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this “timely but genuine” (Publishers Weekly) story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper. Best for ages 8 to 12.

Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams

This deeply sensitive and powerful debut novel by Williams, who lives in Charlotte, tells the story of a thirteen-year-old who must overcome internalized racism and a verbally abusive family to finally learn to love herself. Best for ages 9 to 13.

This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand (illustrator)

Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation. Best for sixth graders to 10th graders.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Black Yale­bound graduating senior Justyce McAllister’s life takes on a new harsh reality when he’s roughed up by a policeman while innocently helping a friend. Justyce, feeling powerless to escape systemic racism, writes letters to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Are Dr. King’s teachings still relevant? Best for age 14 to 17.

We Are Not Yet Equal: Understanding Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson and Tonya Bolden

This YA is written in an approachable narrative style that provides teen readers with additional context to historic moments and includes photographs and additional backmatter and resources for teens. For ages 12 to 18.



Sarah Lindenfeld Hall, Web Editor

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