You don’t get to be a parent without having “the talk” with your kids, but what they don’t tell you is that raising a kind, well-adjusted human means there are multiple “the talks” in your future. None of them are easy and all of them are important.
Having to broach a topic like racism can be especially difficult, but the fact that it’s in the news nearly every day means that it’s critical for kids to develop an informed awareness and an ability to protect themselves and others from it. So, where to start? That’s where these conversation-opening books come in.
10 books parents can use to help talk to kids about racism
It's Okay To Be Different, Todd Parr (ages 3+)Parr's book addresses ethnicity, gender and disability issues in an engaging way by introducing kids to a range of differences and reassuring them that their own unique traits are all okay. The main message of the book is that diversity and individuality are the only real “normal."Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
One Crazy Summer, Rita-Williams Garcia (ages 11+)Kids will fall in love with the three sisters at the centre of this book, who undertake an epic journey during the civil rights movement of late '60s-era Oakland, California. They'll also learn a lot about the struggle for racial equality.Amistad
Whoever You Are, Mem Fox (ages 5-7)Fox's book highlights cross-cultural similarities that all children share. While the life of a kid growing up in North America is different from a child born in Tibet, they have more in common than they know. The message is that differences and similarities are something to celebrate.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Amazing Grace, Mary Hoffman (ages 4-8)Grace won't accept that she can't win the role of her dreams in the upcoming school play just because she's black and a girl. She knows she'd be perfect as Peter Pan, despite what a few of her classmates tell her—Grace believes she can be anything she wants.Frances Lincoln Children's Books
The Sneetches, Dr. Seuss (ages 4-8)One way to address differences between people is to set the lesson firmly in the world of make-believe. The Sneetches looks at how superficial differences don't really matter, especially when you realize how easy they are to set aside.Random House
The Name Jar, Yangsook Choi (ages 5-7)No one can pronounce the name of a new student who's just immigrated from Korea, so Unhei decides she'll choose a new American name. Only none of them really fit. With help from some new friends, she learns how special her name is—and her classmates learn to say it.Penguin Random House
Chocolate Me!, Taye Diggs (ages 4-9)Learning to love yourself regardless (and because of) your differences is the main message of Digg's book, which talks about prejudice in a direct and honest way, confronting the types of discrimination that children with dark skin still face.Macmillan
The Underground Abductor, Nathan Hale (ages 12+)Hale's Hazardous Tales adventure series recounts historic events in the popular graphic novel format. This one tells the story of Araminta Ross, the 19th-century American hero who risked her life to free herself and other slaves. You know her as Harriet Tubman.Harry N. Abrams
Shi-shi-etko, Nicola Campbell (ages 4-8)For Canadian kids, this book is especially relevant to recent media coverage about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the tragic history of residential schools in Canada.Groundwood Books
The Other Side, Jacqueline Woodson (ages 6-10)A fence serves as a very literal representation of racial divide in The Other Side, providing kids with an easy to understand metaphor for segregation and the damage it does. But this is a hopeful story too, with characters who look ahead and see an end to inequality.G.P. Putnam's Sons