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13 Books to Read to Your Kids About Race

Children are always learning, and it's important to have homes and libraries filled with books that talk about the world around them.

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13 Books to Read to Your Kids About Racevia bookshop.org (3), via amazon.com

Raising awareness

It’s important for children to start reading at a young age, and those stories must include perspectives from people of color and people from all walks of life. Staying up to date with current events and what’s happening in the world like these 21 powerful protest photos that show global solidarity against racial injustice is crucial, and having children’s books that focus on race is especially important. To add to your own adult nightstand, these are 15 essential books for understanding race relations in America.

A is for Activistvia afriwarebooks.com

A is for Activist

Children’s author, illustrator, and activist designer Innosanto Nagara wrote the bestselling ABC board book to help families raise children to grow up learning about civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and more. With glowing reviews and a progressive message, A is for Activist is definitely a book parents should read to their children. Here are 8 simple ways you can instill a love of reading in your children.

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The Snowy Dayvia aculturalexchange.org

The Snowy Day

This 1962 classic written by Ezra Jack Keats has beautiful illustrations and won the prestigious Caldecott Medal. This book showcased an important portrayal of multicultural urban life and also captured the innocence of a child looking at the first snowfall of winter. The Snowy Day is also one of the 25 best children’s books ever written.

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Whose Knees Are These?via bookshop.org

Whose Knees Are These?

Written by Jabari Asim, author and associate professor of writing, and illustrated by LeUyen Pham, Whose Knees Are These? highlights diversity with sweet stories and clever rhymes. Looking for other ways to talk to your kids about race? Here are 12 podcasts about race you need to hear.

Hair Lovevia bookshop.org

Hair Love

Hair Love is a children’s picture book by filmmaker and Academy Award-winning creator Matthew A. Cherry and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. The sweet story is about how a Black father, Stephen, has to step in and learn how to do the hair of his daughter, Zuri, right before a big event. With multiple award nominations and glowing reviews, Hair Love is a children’s book you’ll want to add to your children’s bookshelf. After reading, you can view the animated short film of the same name which won the 2020 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. Here are 10 thought-provoking films to watch on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and any day out of the year.

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Sulwevia bookshop.org

Sulwe

Sulwe is a children’s picture book by Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. The New York Times bestseller and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award recipient, Sulwe tells the story of a young girl who learns how to see her own beauty. This is why Black History Month shouldn’t be a single month.

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Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad?via amazon.com

Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad?

Written by Sandy Lynne Holman and beautifully illustrated by Lela Kometiani, Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad features a heartfelt conversation between a grandson and a grandfather about African heritage and the conversations adult family members have with their young ones about race. These are the 18 best books for grandparents to read to their grandchildren.

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No!: My First Book of Protestvia bookshop.org

No!: My First Book of Protest

Reading to your children about race is important, and incorporating activists and iconic figures into your reading material will help your young ones learn about history, too. No!: My First Book of Protest written by Julie Merberg and illustrated by Molly Egan includes important historical figures like Frederick Douglass and Malala through illustrated art and information on protest movements. This is how to support the Black Lives Matter Movement and become anti-racist.

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The Day You Beginvia bookshop.org

The Day You Begin

Written by National Book Award winner Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by Rafael López, two-time Pura Belpré Illustrator Award winner, The Day You Begin reflects on the power of sharing stories and finding companionship when you feel different and alone. The Day You Begin has been published in both English and Spanish. This is the special joy of reading children’s books through grown-up eyes.

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Little Leadersvia bookshop.org

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

With bold illustrations and rich text, Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History written by the New York Times bestselling author-illustrator Vashti Harrison tells the stories of forty inspirational black women in American history including chemist Alice Ball, poet Maya Angelou, and abolitionist Sojourner Truth. Here are some amazing African Americans you didn’t learn about in history class.

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This book is antiracistvia bookshop.org

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work

Written by activist an anti-racist educator Tiffany Jewell and illustrated by Aurelia Durand, This Book Is Anti-Racist uses gender-neutral words and vibrant illustrations to bring characters to life and help you have a better understanding of race, social identity, racism, among other topics with 20 chapters and activities. Here are 25 powerful quotes that speak volumes in the fight against racism.

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Skin Againvia bookshop.org

Skin Again

Written by the prominent Black author Bell Hooks and illustrated by Chris Raschka, Skin Again focuses on what’s important and what’s on the inside. This is exactly why you should stop saying, “I don’t see color.”

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Antiracist Babyvia amazon.com

Antiracist Baby

Antiracist Baby written by National Book Award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi with illustrations by Ashley Lukashevsky introduces anti-racism with bright illustrations and nine steps toward being anti-racist. Asking introspective questions based on the illustrations and cuddling your child in your arms when reading are just a few early reading habits that make young kids love books.

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New Kidvia bookshop.org

New Kid

New Kid is a graphic novel by author and illustrator Jerry Craft which won numerous awards including the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Author Award. With rich illustrations, New Kid is about seventh-grader Jordan Banks who moves to a new neighborhood and has to learn how to navigate a new school while remaining true to himself. Next, make sure you know these facts about black history you most likely didn’t learn in school.

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Madeline Wahl
Madeline Wahl is a Digital Associate Editor/Writer at RD.com. Previously, she worked for HuffPost and Golf Channel. Her writing has appeared on HuffPost, Red Magazine, McSweeney's, Pink Pangea, The Mighty, and Yahoo Lifestyle, among others. More of her work can be found on her website: www.madelinehwahl.com