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Children’s books that encourage conversations about race and racism

With recent events bringing much needed attention to the #blacklivesmatter movement, many authors have been doing their bit by sharing books you can read with your children that encourage and support discussions about race and racism. Books often have a way to present complex and important topics in an easy to follow, age appropriate manner, which helps parents and guardians to broach these subjects with children from a young age.

Children’s book My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera

If you’re looking to increase the diversity on your child’s book shelf, why not check out a few of the ones below. I will include a link to where you can buy the books, but try to support your local independent book shops if you can – you may find that they have even more fantastic books on this subject.

My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Ages 5-8. Blurb: ‘After a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie can’t take any more. On her way home from school, she seeks the guidance of her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in her backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. But most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural black hair is beautiful.’

Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard

Ages 4-8. Blurb: ‘Emma and Josh heard that something happened in their town. A Black man was shot by the police. “Why did the police shoot that man?” “Can police go to jail?” 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.’

Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renee Watson

Ages 3-7. Blurb: ‘Born to parents who were both former slaves, Florence Mills knew at an early age that she loved to sing, and that her sweet, bird-like voice, resonated with those who heard her. Performing catapulted her all the way to the stages of 1920s Broadway where she inspired everyone from songwriters to playwrights. Yet with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. As a result, Florence chose to support and promote works by her fellow black performers while heralding a call for their civil rights. Featuring a moving text and colorful illustrations, Harlem’s Little Blackbird is a timeless story about justice, equality, and the importance of following one's heart and dreams.

Children’s book Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Ages 8-11. Blurb: ‘Featuring forty trailblazing black women in American history, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of breaking boundaries and achieving beyond expectations. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash. Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come.’

There is also another version of Little Leaders called Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History.

A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee

Ages 10-12. Blurb: ‘Twelve-year-old Shayla is allergic to trouble. All she wants to do is to follow the rules. (Oh, and she’d also like to make it through seventh grade with her best friendships intact, learn to run track, and have a cute boy see past her giant forehead.) But in junior high, it’s like all the rules have changed. Now she’s suddenly questioning who her best friends are and some people at school are saying she’s not black enough. Wait, what? Shay’s sister, Hana, is involved in Black Lives Matter, but Shay doesn't think that's for her. After experiencing a powerful protest, though, Shay decides some rules are worth breaking. She starts wearing an armband to school in support of the Black Lives movement. Soon everyone is taking sides. And she is given an ultimatum. Shay is scared to do the wrong thing (and even more scared to do the right thing), but if she doesn't face her fear, she'll be forever tripping over the next hurdle. Now that’s trouble, for real.

There are so many books out there that can help you and your children learn and understand other people’s lives and experiences. Which book will you be adding to your list?

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