This has been such a heavy week in our world surrounding the death of George Floyd and the divide of humanity. Words fail me sometimes when trying to start a blog post, but even more so today. What I can say is that as a Preschool/Pre-K teacher (my students range in age from 3-5), I have a social responsibility to be a culturally-racially-diverse teacher. I am an essential worker in the fight against racism.
I’ll be honest, I teach in a predominantly white suburb. I can only count on one hand the number of African American students I’ve had come through my preschool. I have always been consciously aware that I need to diversify my books, my toys, my posters, etc. to represent all shades of skin tones. I place a Scholastic book order monthly and always order a diverse book.
This time in our world, especially this week, has really forced me to do the inner work and reflection not only as an individual, but also as an early childhood educator. It doesn’t matter how many post graduate classes and professional development I take, I have to continuously grow in this area. I know that my classroom bookshelf has the most impact in my classroom as far as something the children see and interact with daily. I don’t claim to be an expert in racially diverse books, but I’ll be sharing a few anti-racism picture books for kids that have been on my list to buy, or recommended to me throughout this week. I hope this list will help you at home as a parent to grow your child’s home library, and in your classroom if you’re a teacher.
We need to keep this conversation going in our homes, especially for nonblack families. And it’s important for white and black kids to see black characters of books as heroes in their own stories.
This post contains affiliate links. I make a very small amount of money on any purchase you make from my recommendations.
Anti-Racism Picture Books for Kids
*A lot of the following books are currently sold out–what a great thing! That means the conversations and learning are happening. I encourage you to still order the book and they will ship it as soon as more arrive.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold; Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman. *I read this book to my students on the very first day of school. It’s a warm, welcoming book that celebrates diversity and repeats the theme throughout the book that “all are welcome here”. By the end, the children are reciting that line as it appears on every page. This book lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.
Something Happened In Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard; Illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin. *This book 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. This book comes highly recommended to me and was the winner of the National Parenting Product Award.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson; Illustrated by Rafael Lopez. *This book talks about the many reasons we may feel different: how we look, talk, where we’re from, what we like to eat. The theme is about having the bravery to go forth anyway, even if we go where’s there is no one else like us.
My Hair Is A Garden written & illustrated by Cozbi A. Cabrera. *After a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie cant take any more and she seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. Most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural black hair is beautiful.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers; Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo. *This book is gorgeous! It’s about loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another. Highly recommended!
Harlem’s Little Blackbird by Renée Watson; Illustrated by Christian Robinson. *This is the story of Florence Mills. She was born to parents who were both former slaves, and Florence knew at an early age that she loved to sing. She made her way to the stages of 1920s Broadway, but with all her success, she knew firsthand how prejudice shaped her world and the world of those around her. The themes of this book include justice, equality, and the importance of following one’s heart and dreams.
A is for activist written & illustrated by Innosanto Nagara. *The alliteration, rhyming, and vibrant illustrations make the book exciting for children, while the issues it brings up resonate with their parents’ values of community, equality, and justice. *I will definitely be purchasing this book for my classroom.
All the Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger; Photography by Chris Bohnhoff. *Preschool age children are often curious about where skin color comes from. This is a bilingual English/Spanish picture book that unpacks how our skin tones are influenced by melanin, where our ancestors are from, and the sun. The photographs capture a variety of families and children with many different skin tones. This book doesn’t specifically talk about race, but it’s a great one to get the conversation started.
Hands Up by Breanna J. McDaniel; Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. *This book explores all of the daily activities in a young Black girl’s life where she would raise her hands. When she plays peek-a-boo, when she stretches up to the kitchen sink, and when she begs her siblings to choose her for a game, her hands go up. The final scene of the book shows her declaring “hands up!” at a rally, where marchers hold their signs high, covered in slogans that remind us to raise our hands and voices for justice.
Skin Again by Bell Hooks; Illustrated by Chris Raschka. *This book features two children, one black and one white. It Celebrates all that makes us unique and different, and explores race and identity. Race matters, but only so much–what’s most important is who we are on the inside.
Don’t Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller. *There are several good children’s books about race and hair. This one has an important message for non-black children who need to learn to not objectify their classmates. Aria is the main character and she loves her hair. Other people love her hair too, but in a way that doesn’t always make her feel good. They keep trying to touch her hair without permission. Finally, Aria decides to stand up for herself, and tell people how she really feels when they touch her hair without permission.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi; Illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky. *This book is a pre-order and will be released on June 16 and couldn’t possibly be more timely. “Bright, bold board book of nine steps that are key to a future in which everyone is equal. Kendi strikes just the right tone to help parents give the youngest among us the words, the vision, and the education to make an anti-racist society a reality.” -Amazon
I truly hope this book list helps and please leave a comment below for any other great books you’ve found to talk about race with your kids. I’ll continue to add books to this time and time again.