It is never too early to talk to your children about race. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies can start detecting race-based differences at 6 months old, and children can begin to internalize racial bias by the age of 2. Talking to children about race is a vital step in laying the groundwork for them to recognize and understand equality, discrimination, and privilege, and the earlier parents are able to open that conversation, the better. Check out our list of anti-racist children’s books that feature Black characters and experiences to help inspire a conversation with children on race.
1. Kamala & Maya’s Big Idea by Meena Harris
Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea centers on two little girls in their quest to transform their apartment’s courtyard into a playground. Meena Harris (niece of Senator Kamala Harris, CA) tells “a story of children’s ability to make a difference and of a community coming together to transform their neighborhood”, and “an inspiring tale,” according to Stacey Abrams, Former Minority Leader of Georgia’s House of Representatives.
2. Grandpa, Is Everything Black Bad? by Sandy Lynne Holman
“Black cats are bad luck, witches wear black, and the bad characters are in black on television.” Growing up in a society that associates blackness with immorality causes a young African-American boy to ask his grandpa, “Is everything black bad?” Through rich storytelling on African culture and heritage and a special relationship between grandson and grandfather, Sandy Lynne Holman’s book dismantles stereotypes and preaches the beauty of blackness.
3, Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
In Antiracist Baby, Ibram X Kendi proposes nine steps for young children to take in building an inclusive and equitable world. Meant to be an introduction to the idea of anti-racism, Antiracist Baby provides “the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age”, but its powerful message is even guaranteed to make an impact on adults as well.
4. Hair Love by Mathew A. Cherry
Based on the Oscar-winning short film of the same name, Hair Love highlights the dedication of a father to his daughter, as he does whatever it takes to give his daughter a special hairstyle. Teen Vogue reviews, “Seeing such a positive representation of black men and their daughters is such a breath of fresh air.” Hair Love broadens the scope of representation for Black families while also providing a charming and uplifting tale that celebrates the beauty of natural hair.
5. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano (PhD), Marietta Collins (PhD), and Ann Hazzard (PhD)
Written by three psychologists, Something Happened in Our Town is a useful tool in educating children on police brutality. The book follows a white family and a Black family as they discuss the shooting of a Black man by police in their city. Its purpose is “to answer children’s questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.”
Take Action! The earlier parents start talking to their children about race, the better. After reading children’s books on equity and racism, there are many resources parents can turn to for how-to tips on continuing the conversation. UNICEF offers a parenting guide for keeping an open dialogue on race with children of different ages.