25 Children’s Books for Kids About Race and Racism

Updated: August 28, 2020
Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure we supply our children with literature, whether fiction or nonfiction, that helps them understand and become more compassionate to diversity and combating racism. To help you navigate through such a difficult topic, we’ve put together a list of 25 children’s books to teach kids about race and racism.
25 children's books to teach about race and racism

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We can easily say that 2020 has been a year to remember for more reasons than we’d like to admit. But for people of color, it’s been an ongoing struggle to combat racism and racial stereotyping. Now more than ever, it’s important to make sure we supply our children with literature, whether fiction or nonfiction, that helps them understand and become more compassionate to diversity and combating racism.

More: How To Raise A Tolerant, Prejudice-Free Kid

To help you navigate through such a difficult topic, we’ve put together a list of 25 children’s books to teach kids about race and racism.

Our Top Picks

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

What to Consider When Looking for Books on Race and Racism for Kids

It’s easy to want to purchase tons of critically-acclaimed books about racial differences. But before you do, make sure the book is age-appropriate and includes positive reinforcement. This helps your child understand that he or she can make a difference by appreciating diversity and standing up against racism.

It’s also important to follow up with lots of feel-good books. Author Christine Taylor-Butler emphasizes that it’s important to provide joyful books in conjunction with books on racism. It’s also important to also read books that are not about racism but feature children of color, such as The Lost Tribes books and Saturday. This helps to blur the lines and for white children to see that children of color are kids, too.

In this list, we provide the youngest children with literature that instills an appreciation for and exposure to diversity. The older the age group, the more racism appears. Most books, but not all, are fiction and reflect historical and current contexts.

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Books By Age to Teach Kids About Race

Ages 3 and Up

Saturday by Oge Mora

Saturday features a mother and child of color who go about their Saturday plans with plenty of mishaps. It’s a great reminder to parents and children that when the going gets tough, being together is the most important thing to remember.

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My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera

This beautiful book exposes kids to the differences and challenges a little girl of color faces because of her hair. This book is for children of color to help feel more comfortable with themselves, and also for other children to accept physical differences.

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It’s OK to Be Different by Sharon Purtill

This book is for all children to learn, understand, and celebrate that although we are different, we are also the same.

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All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

A book that welcomes the fact that differences can be celebrated: kids can play, laugh, make music and art together, and have fun together.

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The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

Although it is based on the true events of Ruby Bridges in 1960, the book is child-friendly and approaches the subject of segregation in schools. It’s also good for the child to see how far we have come while leaving the subject open to how far we have to go.

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We’re Different, We’re the Same, and We’re All Wonderful by Bobbi Kates

A classic Sesame Street book about acceptance and diversity is what every child needs to see how although we’re different, we’re also all the same. This book is especially good for all ages especially toddlers.

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Ages 5 and Up

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

For a child to read a true story about another child getting arrested for marching is likely to make an impact. Not only for the injustice your child might feel but also because of the contagious confidence of Audrey, who was only nine years old!

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Something Happened In Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins and Ann Hazzard

This book will need more parent involvement and discussion because it’s a story about racism and a police shooting. It won the National Parenting Product Award and was written by two child psychologists with the intention of helping parents find ways to open the dialogue about negative racial stereotypes.

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Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

Boasting two awards and all five stars out of hundreds of reviews, this picture book exposes the 1947 public school desegregation in Orange County, CA. It teaches kids that children of different ethnicities and skin tone – not just African American – have had to stand up for equality.

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Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson

This beautifully illustrated book features the brave marching of thousands of children in Birmingham who were inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to stand up for their rights. Written poetically, this book will not only teach history but will instil a sense of courage and understanding in what they’re seeing today.

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Enough! 20 Protestors Who Changed America by Emily Easton

Courage is a way to describe protesters and their persistence knowing that they are shunned by so many people for their beliefs. This book is perfect for young activists who want to know more about past and present protesters who helped change America.

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Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper

Juneteenth marks our calendars more now than ever before. This book takes children through the day of Mazie who is celebrating the anniversary of the day her ancestors were no longer slaves.

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Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

This award-winning New York Times bestseller introduces children to a little girl who has extremely dark skin but doesn’t feel she is beautiful and bright. This is for children to see true beauty in differences and from within.

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Ages 9 and Up

Resist: 40 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice by Veronica Chambers

This book inspires kids to be leaders of tomorrow and to stand up for what is right. It will help them to understand why people have resisted and protested in the past and currently.

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

A collection of poems from an author of color who experienced the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s and 1970s. This is a great genre of literature that helps children to learn about a child’s feelings during this time, and also for others to navigate their own emotions of not feeling accepted.

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This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell

As a young mother, activist, and Montessori teacher, Jewell not only helps children to combat racism, but it’s also a workbook that donates 100% of its proceeds to Black Lives Matter and Color of Change.

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Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne

This collection of poems was created to inspire kids to stay aware and ‘woke’ while becoming a new generation of activists.

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We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices by Wade Hudson and Cheryl Willis Hudson

With stories from fifty of the most popular children’s authors and illustrators on diversity, children will gain inspiration and courage in times of fear and sadness.

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Hidden Figures: Young Readers’ Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

If you’re looking for a book for your little scientist, this book tells the story of how four women of color were considered “human computers” at NASA. It shows that, despite living in the Civil Rights era, they helped to change the face of NASA.

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Ages 12 and Up

All American Boys by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds

This award-winning book is a timely fiction piece about police brutality towards an innocent African American teenage boy. It will feel relevant towards young adults who are witnessing protests, racial stereotyping, and police brutality through the news and at school.

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Darius and Twig by Walter Dean Myers

Written by an award-winning author, this book follows two African American boys in Harlem and reveals insight into their daily challenges of being a person of color. It also includes sports, bullies, and the desire to remove obstacles.

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The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

A Nobel Prize winner, this book is an emotional rollercoaster following a young girl of color who wants blue eyes so she can fit in with everyone else. This book leaves the reader with open eyes and many questions about the limitations of society for POC. It will make the reader more compassionate and proactive for our current situation.

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The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas

This is a must-read for teenagers who want to experience, through the eyes of a character, more about “both worlds” of the rich and poor. It takes them through racism, police brutality, and protesting.

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I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones and Gilly Segal

This is a powerful novel that will leave a lasting impact on teenage girls from all diversities. It reveals the major differences between two 16-year-old girls, one white and one of color. The authors give the reader a compelling look at what another person of the same age, but different color and class are experiencing during these times.

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Dear Martin by Nic Stone

From a two-book series, this number one bestseller for teens and young adults is about a teenage African American honor student who experiences racial stereotyping and aggression from policemen on different occasions. This book gives insight into the injustices served to people of color.

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