25+ Books White Kids Should Read About Racism

Posted on: September 22nd, 2020 by

It’s been said that hate is learned and love and kindness come natural to children. I believe that. But I also think it’s important that we make an effort to have our children learn about other children, their backgrounds, cultures and races. And while we aren’t responsible for the makeup of our community and our children’s classroom, we are responsible for the books in our home, the books our children read. Every child’s library should include children’s books on race, racism, and discrimination.

We’ve spent the last few months, working on this list about children’s books on race. It’s a compilation of over 25 books white kids should read, that we’ve been reading in our own home. We’ve broken it down by age, reading level, and chapter or no chapter book. Many of these books were sent to us to review from the authors, publicists, or publisher. If you have a book you’d like reviewed please contact us at jenniferauer@jerseyfamilyfun.com.

As we read and learn about more children’s books about race, we’ll add them to this list. We’ve included affiliate links below to help you quickly buy these books and add them to your child’s library.

One thing to point out is how these different children’s books approach racism and discrimination. For some books, it’s the main storyline that talks about a character’s experience with racism or racism in a particular moment of time. In other stories, there is a storyline with a character and his/her experience with racism and discrimination is just part of the story. In other children’s books we see examples of discrimination through children looking at animals or imaginary characters.

Don’t let the words children’s books mislead you either. We’ve include books about race, racism, and discrimination, that are suitable for your tweens and teens too.

father reads children a bedtime story

Children’s Books on Race: 25 Books White Kids Should Read

Why white kids? Isn’t that racist?

In Diangelo’s White Fragility she states the following

Prejudice is prejudgement about another person based on the social groups to which that person belongs.

Discrimination is action based on prejudice.

When a racial group’s collective prejudice is backed by the power of legal authority and institutional control, it is transformed into racism, a far-reaching system that functions independently from the intentions or self-images of individual actors.

Diangelo, White Fragility

Racism is a structure, not an event.

Kauanui, Professor of American Studies and Anthropology at Wesleyan University

So it goes that while some black people could be prejudiced and discriminate against white people, black people as a group could not and can not deny white people their civil rights. But white people as a group could and have denied black people their civil rights.

Black children don’t necessarily need to read books about racism because they experience it.

I feel like white kids need to read these books to understand other races, cultures, etc.

Jennifer Auer

While these children books cover racism, discrimination, and black history in America and could be useful to every kid, I wrote this with white children in mind. White children have not experienced the racism and discrimination black children have. White children have never been told they couldn’t be a scientist because of the color of their skin. White children have never been witness to their parents being denied access to a hotel because of the color of their skin. No white boy has ever been thrown out of a wrestling match because of his hairstyle. (Yes! It happened in New Jersey.) If we are going to improve race relations in America, it starts with us.

It starts with me, as a white mother, saying my white boys have not learned enough about what it’s like being black in America. I have NOT learned enough. That needs to change. For my family that means we’ve started to watch more movies about race. We’ve started reading children’s books on race. We’re having those conversations I wish we would have started years ago. Because it’s important for me that they truly understand what racism and discrimination mean. I will not stand for them treating someone else harshly or witnessing someone being treated harshly based on the color of their skin. Together we are working to be a part of the change we need in our country.

It’s not enough to hope that our children know we stand against racism and discrimination, we have to show them with our actions. Watch the movies. Read the books. Have the difficult conversations. If you agree these books can help your family start those conversations.

Children’s Books on Race – Picture Books for Preschoolers About Racism & Discrimination

The World Needs More Purple People

by Kristen Bell and Benjamin Hart

Buy it online at Amazon.

This book by actress Kristen Bell and co authored by political activist Benjamin Hart supports the idea that political division is bad and red and blue people need to meet in the middle. This comes at a time when identity politics is a hot button issue that affects us all and as such, our opinions on race outline how this country will move forward. Of course, all of this is done with preschoolers as the target audience, so there’s plenty of levity.

Are you a Giraffe

by Karen Gross

Buy it online at Amazon.

This is a story of Lucy looking for a giraffe and she meets all sorts of other animals. Then she sees one giraffe and then another and then another. While she sees lots of giraffes, each of them looks different. Indeed, this mirrors the wild where there are so many unique kinds of giraffes.

The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism

by Pat Thomas

Buy it online at Amazon.

This is the first look at diversity for young children. It’s about understanding differences and accepting them, as well as learning not to treat people differently just because of the color of their skin.

A is for Activist board book

by Innosanto Nagara

Buy it online at Amazon.

For the activists raising activists, this ABC’s board book is either political satire or an honest to goodness effort to bring up a politically conscious child before they learn to read. Either way, the book tackles all kinds of topics from racial inequality to caring for the environment and LGBTQ rights.

All Are Welcome

by Alexander Penfold

Buy it online at Amazon.

This book presents an idealized school community where everyone is welcome and diversity is celebrated in everybody regardless of your race and culture. The optimistic approach and positive attitude make this story’s utopian vision very attractive during a divisive time in American culture.

Follow a group of children through a day in their school where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side by side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year.

Inspired by Suzanne Kautfman’s viral poster, Suzanne and Alexandra have created a welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids. 

Watch this story read aloud in a Jersey Family Fun Story Time on Facebook.

We All Belong: A Children’s Book About Diversity, Race, and Empathy

by Nathalie Goss

Buy it online at Amazon.

We All Belong carries a central message that everybody is different and that we should welcome each other’s diversity, embracing and celebrating our differences while promoting empathy for one another.

The Colors of Us

by Karen Katz

Buy it online at Amazon.

Color is a wide and wonderful world of its own. Kids start with primary colors and branch out to about 7-10 different options when it comes to arts and crafts time. the nuance of shade is not always accessible to a young child. Since skin tone is such a defining factor in self-identification, the act of drawing one’s self-portrait becomes an existential dilemma. Such is the case of a 7-year-old girl named Lena as her mother takes her on an adventure that celebrates different shades of brown.

If Dominican Were a Color

by Sili Recio

Buy it online at Amazon.

The colors of Hispaniola burst into life in this striking, evocative debut picture book that celebrates the joy of being Dominican.

The palette of the Dominican Republic is exuberant and unlimited. Maiz comes up amarillo, the blue-black of dreams washes over sandy shores, and people’s skin can be the shade of cinnamon in cocoa or of mahogany. This exuberantly colorful, softly rhyming picture book is a gentle reminder that a nation’s hues are as wide as nature itself.

2 boys read a book about racism and discrimination together.
Brother to brother, a great moment to catch them reading.

Childrens Books About Racism for Beginning Readers

Chinese Eyes

by Marjorie Ann Waybill

Buy it online at Amazon.

An adopted Korean girl gets a lesson in how unimportant it is that some people think she is different.

Chinese Eyes is a book from the perspective of a girl who was adopted from South Korea and her first experience of racism in school. The story, supported by illustrations truly captures a young girl’s emotions, confusion, embarrassment, love, and pride. 

Misha Ulrich, Director of Communications Essense Partners

Shirley Chisholm is a Verb

by Veronica Chambers

Buy it online at Amazon.

A timely picture book biography about Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman in Congress, who sought the Democratic nomination to be the president of the United States.

Shirley Chisholm famously said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” This dynamic biography illuminates how Chisholm was a doer, an active and vocal participant in our nation’s democracy, and a force to be reckoned with. It really was impressive to read how much Shirley Chisholm accomplished and how much of her accomplishments still impact our children today.

Now young readers can learn about her early years, her time in Congress, her presidential bid and how her actions left a lasting legacy that continues to inspire, uplift, and instruct.

Starstruck, The Cosmic Journey of Neil DeGrasse Tyson

by Kathleen Krull

Buy it online at Amazon.

Young Neil deGrasse Tyson was starstruck when he first visited the sky theater at the Hayden Planetarium in New York City. He couldn’t believe the crowded, glittering night sky at the planetarium was real—until a visit to the country years later revealed the impossible. That discovery was like rocket fuel for Neil’s passion about space. His quest for knowledge took him from the roof of his apartment building to a science expedition in northwest Africa, to a summer astronomy camp beneath a desert sky, and finally back home to become the director of the Hayden Planetarium, where it all began. Before long, Neil became America’s favorite guide to
the cosmos.

This story of how one boy’s quest for knowledge about space leads him to become a star astrophysicist is perfect for young readers who are fascinated by the universe, aspiring scientists, and the dreamer in all of us. It will ignite your own sense of wonder.

What does Starstruck have to do with racism? In the story, we learn how Neil deGrasse Tyson had to overcome racism and stereotypes about who could and couldn’t become astrophysicist in order to achieve his dreams.

Shiloh & Dande the Lion

by Ciara L. Hill

Buy it online at Amazon.

Looking for an adventurous children’s book that highlights
anti-racism and inclusion?

Shiloh and Dande the Lion is an imaginative story that explores diversity, tolerance, and empowerment through the fantastic dream of a young boy. Shiloh, whose name means peace, is bullied at a new school for the color of his skin. After talking to his mom about it, Shiloh discovers a dandelion in his backyard. He makes a wish, goes to sleep, and Dande the Lion comes to life! Unexpected adventures await Shiloh, as he meets unlikely creatures that share their magical experiences, to help him gain courage, confidence and overcome adversity.

Author Ciara L. Hill has also made free downloadable lessons plans available on ciaralhillbooks.com.

My Life with Rosie, a Bond Between Cousins

by Angela Sadler

Buy it online at Amazon.

It’s not a bad thing for kids to learn about Rosa Parks and her story is a really nice way to begin a conversation with children about when it’s appropriate to follow the rules and when the right thing to do is to break them. This down to earth profile of the historical heroine goes beyond the story she’s known for to bring a different perspective to the legend we think we know.

Nathaniel English in Leaders of the Revolution

by Michelle Person

Buy it online at Amazon.

Rubbery chicken…macaroni soup…burnt tuna casserole…What’s a kid got to do around here to get a decent lunch in the school cafeteria? Nathaniel and his friends aren’t sure but they are willing to try anything!

The third book in the Nathaniel English series, Leaders of the Revolution, follows 5th grade Nathaniel as he searches for solutions to his present day problems by learning about important historical figures of the past. Thanks to his mother’s extensive at home library, Nathaniel is exposed to information that his teachers don’t share, helping him to develop a strong sense of self and determine his place in this world. Inspired by the actions of Toussaint L’Ouverture, Nathaniel and his friends fight to make their voices heard on the timeless and ever important issue of school lunch. 

Leaders of the Revolution tells the story of the Haitian Revolution and the importance of standing up for what you believe in! Readers looking to laugh, learn, and diversify their libraries will find a lot to love here. 

A Girl Named Rosa, an American Girl book

by Denise Lewis Patrick

Buy it online at Amazon.

This book is part of a series about how ordinary American girls became extraordinary women. The Rosa in this book is none other than Rosa Parks, the woman of color who famously did not give up her bus seat for a white passenger when such was the rule. The book includes a timeline and glossary, too.

Letters from Minty…

by fourth and fifth-grade students of Gateway Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Buy it online at Amazon.

The complete title: Letters from Minty, An Imaginative Look into the Life and Thoughts of a Young Harriet Tubman says it all. If you want a fourth grade perspective on history, this is it! Each letter is a student picturing themselves as a young Harriet Tubman and what she might say about her situation and life.

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness

by Anastasia Higginbotham

Buy it online at Amazon.

This controversial book gets very mixed reactions on Amazon.com. But that’s to be expected with such an aggressive approach to a hot button issue like systemic racism. Unlike your typical children’s book designed to unite and inspire young minds, this one attempts to tackle a complex adult issue and make it into a conversation with grade-schoolers.

Not My Idea is an honest look at racism and the continuing impacts of White Supremacy in America. There are real-life examples of how kids can “be white without signing on to whiteness.

Majid Fareed, Angel Jackets

This book helps families open up the dialogue about the history of white Americans taking away freedom and treating African Americans as second class citizens. The child in the story questions what they see on TV (African American being shot by police) and then gets dismissed when asking their parent about it. The book brings up vulnerable emotions but opens the door for understanding the need for change at great depths.

Shani Thornton, MS, CCLS, RWWP Child Life Mommy

The Day You Begin

by Jaqueline Woodson

Buy it online at Amazon.

Jaqueline Woodson provides a black author’s perspective on what it feels like to be new somewhere and different from everybody else. The universal theme takes on a new meaning among the diverse group of children and the prose brings brightness to the subject which results in friendship and inclusion.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

by Vashti Harrison

Buy it online at Amazon.

Little Leaders is part of the Little series of books that inspire youth and highlight notable historical figures for their accomplishments. In this book, we find women who have shaped black history through their various accomplishments. The book shows how each person can make a difference and how leadership takes many forms.

Hair Love

by Matthew A. Cherry

Buy it online at Amazon.

This story predominantly highlights a father and daughter relationship through a unique cultural lens. Because of that, it is a touching and very special book because it authentically fleshes out Zuri’s struggle in a lighthearted way, with a strong undercurrent of love and empowerment.

Last Stop on Market Street

by Matt de la Pena

Buy it online at Amazon.

This Newberry Medal winner says a lot in one small book. Thanks in part to the illustrations by Christian Robinson. The story focuses on how we treat and judge others, particularly those who are impoverished. The cultural setting of this book lends authenticity and arouses a more charitable and empathetic spirit.

I Am Enough

by Grace Byers

Buy it online at Amazon.

This book is a great source of inspiration for children learning to respect one another and feel their own self-worth. The message is that we all have a purpose and we have everything we need to live that out.

When God Made You

by Matthew Paul Turner

Buy it online at Amazon.

This book is all about self-assurance and inspiration for young children who are looking for affirmation about their pace in the world. It’s about how each individual has special gifts that are all their own to help them find their place.

Skin Like Mine

by Latashia M. Perry

Buy it online at Amazon.

Skin Like Mine is part of a three-part series of children’s books on race called Kids Like Mine. This book focuses specifically on skin color and celebrates a diverse palette of skin tones. It teaches kids that all colors of skin are beautiful.

female child reading children's books on race

Children’s Books on Race – Chapter Books

Clean Getaway

by Nic Stone

Buy it online at Bookshop, Amazon

With his spring break trip cancelled, and facing house arrest for some recent school wrongdoings, eleven-year-old Scoob is set to have the most boring vacation of all time. But that changes when his grandmother pulls up in a brand-new Winnebago and offers to take him on an unforgettable road trip. Guided by the Green Book – his grandmother’s most treasured possession – the pair embark on a journey to important historical landmarks through the South. Landmarks that his grandmother had hoped to visit with his grandfather l, but unable to because of their interracial marriage, segregation, and racial prejudice. Scoob is happy to be along for the ride, but he soon discovers that his grandmother is acting a little strangely. Is it normal to change the license plates on your vehicle and avoid all calls? Will this road trip truly be a clean getaway?

Random House Children’s Books sent us this book to review. I finished it in 3 days. Once I knew something was ‘up’ in the story the suspense was killing me and I had to find out how it ended.

I have very mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand I find value in a story of a white grandmother taking her black grandson on a multi-state road trip to visit historical places in the civil rights movement. I got a glimpse of what it must have been like to be in an interracial marriage and how you really couldn’t travel while black. In the other hand, I really do wish parts of the grandmother’s back story were different.

Rich in history, Stone’s middle-grade debut entertains and informs young readers….A road trip to remember.

Kirkus

Sauerkraut

by Kelly Jones

Buy it online at Amazon.

A new quirky-funny book about a boy whose plans for the summer go sideways when the ghost of his great-great-grandmother demands his attention.

HD Schenk has his whole summer planned out. He is a maker— an inventor, someone who builds cool stuff— and this summer he wants to build his own computer and enter it in the county fair. He needs money for the parts, so to earn enough, he promises to clear out his uncle’s overflowing basement. That’s where he discovers the ghost of his great-great-grandmother haunting an old pickling crock. She wants his help making her famous sauerkraut recipe and enter that in the county fair.

The book was sent to us to review from Random House Children’s Books. I am so thankful they did. My 11 year old son and I spent a few weeks reading it together.

We loved it! This is not your typical story and HD is not your typical middle schooler. There are so many wonderful messages written into this storyline. I can’t recommend this book enough.

Get get get this book for your big kid, young middle schooler! There are messages worked into the background of the story that teach about acceptance of all. But more importantly the main character, HD, is a character we don’t see often enough in stories. He is intelligent, resourceful, creative, and caring.

Olympic Pride, American Prejudice

by Blair Underwood

Buy it online at Amazon.

Set against the turbulent backdrop of a segregated United States, sixteen black men and two black women are torn between boycotting the Olympic Games in Nazi Germany or participating. If they go, they would represent a country that considered them second-class citizens and would compete amid a strong undercurrent of Aryan superiority that considered them inferior.

Yet, if they stayed, would they ever have a chance to prove them wrong on a global stage? To be better than anyone ever expected?

girl reading children's books on race while laying in the grass.

Do you have any recommendations for children’s books on race that we should add to this list? Leave them in the comments below.

More Lists of Great Books for Kids to Read

Better with Books: 500 Diverse Books to Ignite Empathy and Encourage Self-Acceptance in Tweens and Teens (Penguin/Random House, 2019), by Melissa Hart, includes descriptions of 500 diverse contemporary middle-grade and young adult titles, and chapters organized by topics. One of the chapters focuses on race and ethnicity, with 75 novels and memoirs for tweens and teens that explore racism and prejudice. It’s another great option for finding children’s books on race especially older children.

Posted in: All, The Jersey Classroom

Jennifer Auer is the hyperlocal mom blogger who runs Jersey Family Fun. From New Jersey, this mom of 3 boys just can’t sit still! Her husband likes to say she’s a work-at-home mom who never stays home. Jennifer started traveling as a child and hasn’t stopped since. Instead of letting her husband and boys slow her down, she brings them along! As her boys transition from tweens to teens there’s still so many places she wants to discover with them both across the U.S. and internationally. She has been a Jersey Girl for 35+ years, and a Jersey Mom for 15+ years and a New Jersey mom blogger for 10 years, although she'd much rather be referred to as an influencer or just by name. She has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with a focus on Entrepreneurship from Bryant University in Rhode Island.

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