Toys & Books

18 Kids’ Books to Help Start a Discussion About Race


It’s no secret that many people, and many parents, largely avoid talking about race—especially with their kids. They think that they can lead by example, showing kindness in the ways they know how but politely keeping their mouths shut and their hands clean. Unfortunately, that’s not a privilege all of us have.

Conversations surrounding race and discrimination are vital for all parents to partake in—especially if you benefit from the privilege of not being a racial minority.

But how can you go about that? Or where do you even start?

Well, books can help. What’s important to note, though, is that reading a book with your child doesn’t excuse you from having to have the actual conversation. Books are a starting point, a window to another world—what comes next is still on you.

Take the opportunity to ask questions to understand your child’s thinking around certain subjects, and keep the lines of communication open so that they feel comfortable asking freely and without judgment. Guide the conversations so you’re helping them form a strong sense, as well as compassion, empathy, and respect for differences. Point out similarities to show that our commonalities are what unite us.

And remember, when it comes to keeping your library diverse, the type of diversity is also important. Having only books that present marginalized groups with a hero narrative or as constantly oppressed doesn’t help. We are all different in some way—choosing books that show diversity in race and abilities of the characters while still living a regular life is just as important as learning about the heroes. So while these books will help you start conversations of the race with your kids and in your family, be mindful of all the content they consume to ensure that it’s diverse and representative of the world we actually live in.

Karen Katz
The Colors of Us

Lena is going to paint a picture of herself and wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades.

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Duncan Tonatiuh
Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation

10 years before Brown vs. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California.

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Bell Hooks
Skin Again

Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, "Skin Again" offers new ways to talk about race and identity.

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George Shannon
One Family

This is a playful, interactive book that shows how a family can be big or small and comprised of people of a range of genders and races.

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Jacqueline Woodson
The Other Side

Clover's mom says it isn't safe to cross the fence that segregates their African-American side of town from the white side where Anna lives. But the two girls strike up a friendship and get around the grown-ups' rules by sitting on top of the fence together.

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Cynthia Levinson
The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.

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Matt de la Peña
Last Stop on Market Street

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.

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Jess Hong

Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. "Lovely" explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely.

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Christian Robinson
You Matter

Readers will be drawn into the gorgeous illustrations and learn how to see the world in a new way where everyone is connected and that everyone matters.

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Maria Dismondy
Chocolate Milk, Por Favor!: Celebrating Diversity with Empathy

It's Gabe's first day of school in America, and he doesn't speak English. This story shows how kindness is a universal language.

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Angela Joy
Black Is a Rainbow Color

A child reflects on the meaning of being Black in this moving and powerful anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that lives on.

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Oge Mora

In this warm and universal story, a mother and daughter look forward to their special Saturday routine together every single week. But this Saturday, one thing after another goes wrong. All parents will be able to relate.

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Matthew A. Cherry
Hair Love

Zuri's hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it's beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn.

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Lupita Nyong'o

Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then, a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

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Yangsook Choi
The Name Jar

Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week. Her new classmates are fascinated by this no-name girl and decide to help out by filling a glass jar with names for her to pick from.

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Ibtihaj Muhammad
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family

Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It's the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it's her older sister Asiya's first day of hijab. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah finds new ways to be strong.

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Juana Martinez-Neal
Alma and How She Got Her Name

Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all.

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Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Same, Same But Different

Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India. By exchanging letters and pictures, they learn that they though their worlds might look different, they are actually similar.

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Read More: 33 Books Featuring Black Heroes and Characters That Every Kid Should Read