Anti-Racism Booklist for Children

October 06, 2020 | By Baltimore County Public Library

Race is never an easy topic to discuss. It can be confusing, uncomfortable and upsetting, especially considering what is happening in the world right now. Nevertheless, it is vital that we not only discuss race, but that we discuss it with the younger members of our society. We have a responsibility as adults to set the examples for children to follow. As Dr. Ibram X. Kendi notes in his picture book "Antiracist Baby," when we as caregivers are afraid to discuss race, children assume that it is a topic that they too are supposed to avoid discussing. Normalizing conversations about race is the only way to remove the stigmas around the topic and find common ground as members of society.

It is never too early to talk about race and diversity with your children, you just need to talk about it with them in ways that are easier for them to understand. Picture books are a great way to do this. Just as they can help children start thinking about concepts like kindness, manners and individuality, picture books are an effective way to introduce race and diversity.

Join Us for Anti-Racism Story Time

The purpose of our "Anti-Racism Story Time" series is to provide a space for parents and children to learn about racism, with the hope that they will then feel empowered enough to continue the conversation among themselves and with their peers.

Join us for our next virtual Anti-Racism Story Time on Saturday October 10 at 10 a.m. as we share more books, songs and lessons on what it means to be anti-racist. 

Anti-Racism Book List

The titles on this list cover many different aspects on the topic of racism: the history of racism and racial inequity, instilling pride and joy in Black children, and helping non-Black children understand their role in identifying and confronting racism. These books can help identify where your child is in their learning process, what they don’t know or what ideas they might already have about race and fill in any gaps as necessary.

The following is a list of annotated book titles and resources we have either used or we suggest using to help start those meaningful conversations with your children at home.

"All Are Welcome" by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
The classroom is a place where all are welcome. In a diverse city neighborhood, there are many obvious differences among the children and families that live there. At school these differences are used to make learning stronger and brighter.

"Antiracist Baby" by Ibram X. Kendi, illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky
Best-selling author Ibram X. Kendi has brought the conversation about racism to younger audiences before, as exemplified in "Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You" a work for teens adapted from his adult bestseller, "Stamped from the Beginning." In "Antiracist Baby," Kendi brings the message to a yet younger audience, collaborating with illustrator Ashley Lukashevsky, whose engaging illustrations perfectly fit the board book format. Parents and caregivers who seek to raise awareness about racism and how to be anti-racist in the very young will appreciate this chew-proof board book format with its rhyming verses. Readers should be aware that this is a work that would be good reintroduce at an older age as, while the pictures are well-suited to babies and toddlers, much of the content will be over the heads of actual babies.

"A Is for Activist" by Innosanto Nagara
"A is for Activist" is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives—families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. 

"Are Your Stars Like My Stars?" by Leslie Helakoski, illustrated by Heidi Woodward Sheffield
Do colors look the same all over the world? This rhyming story asks the question. The answers are in the illustrations of families from around the world showing off what makes their culture unique.

"Brown Sugar Babe" by Charlotte Watson Sherman, illustrated by Akem
A young girl declares to her mother that her skin is pink, not brown. What follows is her mother’s surefooted and loving tribute to the beauty, warmth, power and soul of her "Brown Sugar Babe." As tender as a love letter and as rhythmic as a poem, the cadence that author Charlotte Watson Sherman’s lyrical prose sets is underscored by the warmth of illustrator Akem’s luminous artwork. A multisensory affirmation of the beauty and wonder of the color brown, this is a must-read for any child, especially for any child who has ever felt an impulse to deny the beauty of their own brown skin.

"Counting on Community" by Innosanto Nagara
In "Counting on Community," a companion to his earlier concept book, "A Is for Activist," author-illustrator Innosanto Nagara draws the attention of very young readers and pre-readers to the beauty of community bonds around them. Promoting sharing, playing together, standing up together and making together, Nagara blends his message of strength through community into a useful concept book that likewise teaches children to count. Bold colors and interesting illustrative details will draw in pre-readers as the positive message is delivered from the caregiver reading aloud. As an added visual treat, there’s a duck to find on every page!

"The Day You Begin" by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
Walking into a room full of new faces can be scary. At the beginning, it can feel like you will have nothing in common and that your differences will stand out. On the first day of school, Angelina learns that her differences are what help her connect to others.

"Get Up, Stand Up" by Bob Marley, illustrated by John Jay Cabuay
Bob Marley’s daughter, Cedella, has adapted her father’s song into a lively picture book. The illustrations are as bright and upbeat as the original song. They connect the lyrics to the everyday lives of children and empower them to stand up for what is right.

"Hey Black Child" by Useni Eugene Perkins, illustrated by Bryan Collier
A collaboration between celebrated poet and activist Useni Eugene Perkins and Maryland-born, multi-award-winning illustrator Bryan Collier, "Hey Black Child" is the perfect marriage of word and image. The poem, originally written in 1975, offers an empowering and uplifting message today as it did when it was first spoken aloud over 40 years ago. Now, paired with Collier’s beguiling art, children and caregivers alike will be swept into the beauty of Perkins’ stirring prose, as poignant and profound today as ever.

"Let the Children March" by Monica Clark-Robinson, illustrated by Frank Morrison
The Black children in Birmingham, Alabama, knew their lives were unfair. They were not allowed to go to the same schools, play on the same playgrounds or even drink from the same water fountains as whites. When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. came to speak, the children listened. They decided it was their turn to march for their freedom. This book shares their courage and determination to make a difference.

"M Is for Melanin" by Tiffany Rose
Teachers and homeschooling caregivers may already be familiar with the highly effective practice of integrating multidisciplinary subjects into a child’s learning activities. Author-illustrator Tiffany Rose incorporates such practices in her uplifting concept title "M Is for Melanin." Pairing positive messages about the beauty and wonder of the Black child with the functional concept of learning the alphabet, Rose enchants and educates her young prereaders in more ways than one. Featuring lyrical prose, snippets of history and lush illustrations, "M Is for Melanin" is a title parents and caregivers will share with their young children again and again.

"Peaceful Fights for Equal Rights" by Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jared Andrew Schorr
This alphabet book explains the A to Z of peaceful protests. The simple text and collage illustrations show readers more than 26 ways to bring positive change to the world.

"Say Something!" by Peter Reynolds
Everyone has a voice and their thoughts are important. Peter Reynolds reminds us to share those opinions through art, music, protest or signs. It does not matter how you say it, just make sure you say something!

"Sing a Song" by Kelly Starling Lyons, illustrated by Keith Mallett
On February 12, 1900, a young girl proudly sings the hymn “Lift Every Voice and Sing” for President Lincoln’s birthday. Her heart is open as she dreams of her future. The song is part of her and becomes part of her family. Generations sing the song through both hard times and times of joy.

"Something Happened in Our Town" by Marianne Celano and Marietta Collins, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
Having a conversation with children about police brutality is hard. "Something Happened in Our Town" tells the story of a Black and white family discussing this hard topic with their children. These conversations inspire the children to become allies with others in their community.

"Vote for Our Future!" by Margaret McNamara, illustrated by Micah Player
Do you know what it means to vote? Do you know when Election Day is or what a person needs to do in order to vote? Do you know how you can make a difference—even if you aren’t old enough to vote yet? In Margaret McNamara’s "Vote for Our Future," the kids of Stanton Elementary find out and explain it all. Replete with Micah Player’s bright, eye-catching illustrations, this excellent, engaging picture book is the perfect tool to explain to young children how the voting process works and why it is important to exercise the right to vote.

"We All Sing with the Same Voice" by Philip Miller, illustrated by Paul Meisel
Depending on where you live, your house, food, school and language might be different. The important thing to remember is that our joy, pain and hearts are the same.

"We March" by Shane W. Evans
Before the sun rises on August 28, 1963, a family is preparing for the March on Washington. The minimal text and warm illustrations describe the strength in numbers and the hope for the future.

"We Shall Overcome" by Debbie Levy, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
This song brings strong emotions for many people throughout history. Versions have been sung by American slaves, civil rights protesters and people fighting injustice all over the world. Debbie Levy describes the long and rich history of this song. Back pages show a timeline and give even more historical context.

More Resources

Resources for this blog post include "Talking to Young Children About Race and Racism."

Category: Collection and Materials