In light of recent events, I felt the need to shift some of my blog schedule around, instead sharing things I hope that other parents of young children might find useful in these challenging times. I’ll admit…in my naivete, I didn’t realize the importance of discussing the hard issues like racism and and protests with my young children. While I was aware that racism exists in today’s society, I don’t think I understood the enormity and importance of our role as parents to discuss the need for diversity and inclusion in our children. We simply assumed our children would follow our example and be inclusive because, truly, I love those of all colors. As the current climate continues to evolve though, I understand that’s not enough. I have to be proactive. So, I took the time yesterday to dive into exactly how I can help teach my children. We’ve found that books are a great way to teach them and instill these values without preaching. So, I decided to find books to help explain racism to young children.
We’ve learned over time that our kids absorb these messages well. They sink in deeply, and they lead to discussions. For example, Ryan bought the boys Mikey and the Dragon by Jocko Willink to teach them about resilience, which is something they so desperately need as military children. Each of these books I found has a great message. Some are picture books that prompt questions. Others are simple books that celebrate the diversity of those in our world. I ordered a few more for our own library to start these discussions as a family, and I’m excited to work with my children because they’re truly sponges.
8 Books to Help Explain Racism to Young Children
Hair Love by Matthew Cherry – I love the idea of reading this one to Mieke, especially, as it’s a story about a father of a black child, teaching love of her natural hair, how he can help her do her hair, and more. It’s a celebration of a father/daughter relationship, all while gently sharing a message of acceptance and the beauty of ethnic hair.
It’s Okay to Be Different by Todd Parr – While delivering a simple message for young children, the beautiful illustrations come alive. It shares that people come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and that’s a beautiful thing meant to be honored and celebrated.
Giant Steps to Change the World by Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee – This is a picture book that delivers a message that might otherwise be hard for kids to understand. Activism starts at home and in youth, and this book shares and empowers children to take personal leaps towards change and challenges them to think how they can contribute to growth.
The Stone Thrower by Jael Ealey Richardson – Written about Chuck Ealey, this book delivers the story of Chuck growing up as a young black child in racially-segregated Ohio. With themes of perseverance, determination, and talent, children can read and learn about how talented Chuck overcame diversity to lead his football team to victory in 1972.
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson – Written from the perspective a young black girl, Clover, we see her segregated town and life through her eyes as she befriends Allie, her white neighbor. Sharing their growing friendship despite the division in society, it’s a great way to start the concept of racism and how it divides us.
We March by Shane W. Evans – This award-winning book details the events of August 28, 1963, when 250,000 people gathered in Washington to march on the nation’s capital for jobs and freedom, culminating in Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream” speech. It’s a beautifully illustrated book that prompts questions, answers, and discussions, bringing alive one of the most powerful events in history.
I am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer – For those teaching their kids about sports legends, this is a must-read. Jackie Robinson was the first black person to ever play Major League Baseball, and this picture book shares his life growing up, the challenges he faced, and how he managed to triumph over adversity to become the legend and icon he was.
I Love the Skin I’m in by Mayma Raphael – Sharing the story of Ruby and her dialogue with her mother, young kids will learn a simplified way of learning tolerance, self-acceptance, and how to love oneself and others. Sharing that we’re more alike than different, it’s a simple book detailing a young girl’s journey to self-acceptance and, in turn, teaches children to turn these internal thoughts outward and share the sentiment with those around them.
My heart has been pretty heavy this week, and I know that others are seeking ways that they, too, can make a difference and become voices of change. I have a lot to learn, and I will work to grow and invite active change into our lives, but for now, I hope that these 8 books to help explain racism to young children serve as a resource to other parents who might be seeking ways to learn and grow, as well.
Tell me – have you read any of these books? Do you have any to recommend? I’d love to hear!