Books for kids to celebrate diversity and inspire change

Seira Wilson on June 01, 2020

Books for kids to celebrate diversity and inspire change

The global call for action following the death of George Floyd has turned our collective attention to the tragedy of institutionalized racism and the need for real and lasting change. For our children, this is a time to educate and give guidance on inclusion, equality, and how every one of us can make a difference.

There are many wonderful books for kids and young adults that celebrate diversity or invite conversation about race. Below are some of the titles we recommend on this extremely important topic.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and Suzanne Kaufman

Beautifully illustrated, All Are Welcome is about school as a safe place, where everyone is welcomed, and diversity is something to celebrate. Kids of different races and cultures are shown playing together and helping one another; all are equal and everyone has something positive to contribute. A thoughtful and powerful message of inclusivity perfect for this age group. 

Ages 4-8

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work by Tiffany Jewell and illustrated by Aurélia Durand

Author Tiffany Jewell is an anti-bias, anti-racist educator and activist, and she brings her experience and knowledge to a book that empowers readers. The chapters invite introspection as Jewell presents the history of racism and anti-racist movements, teaches about social identities, and shares stories of strength and hope. Jewell offers real world solutions to situations young people face in today's society such as what to say to a racist adult and how to speak up for yourself or others. A book that inspires not only thought, but action.

Ages 10-17

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Kids can make a difference, as they will discover in this remarkable picture book biography of Audrey Faye Hendricks and the Civil Rights movement. The 1963 Children's March in Birmingham, Alabama, has not been widely written about, and 9-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks' role in it is eye-opening for young readers. Hendricks wanted to help the adults stand up to segregation, and she was one of the many young marchers to be not only arrested for but also jailed for their participation. The Youngest Marcher is an excellent book to spark conversation.

Ages 5-10

AntiRacist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi and Ashley Lukashevsky

Releasing on June 16, AntiRacist Baby couldn't be more timely. The National Book Award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist, Ibram X. Kendi, has teamed up with illustrator Ashley Lukashevsky to create a bright, bold board book of nine steps that are key to a future in which everyone is equal. Kendi strikes just the right tone to help parents give the youngest among us the words, the vision, and the education to make an anti-racist society a reality.

Ages 0-3

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson and E. B. Lewis

A classic of children's literature by the 2018-2019 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jacqueline Woodson, The Other Side is a timeless message of a friendship more powerful than racial division. Two young girls, one black, one white, are forbidden from crossing the fence that divides them, a physical barrier representing the larger one at hand. But the girls don't buy into the racism of their world, using the fence as a place to meet and form a friendship that later includes other kids from both sides. Understated, gorgeously written, and profound.

Ages 5-8

Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Award-winning author and the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Jason Reynolds, presents teens with a version of Ibram X. Kendi's book Stamped from the Beginning that speaks directly to them. Reynolds engages readers with a conversational tone, identifying the through line of racism that exists today and showing just how deeply embedded it remains in our society. An important and necessary book that will give readers the knowledge and encouragement to recognize racist ideas and thoughts and to do away with them.

Ages 12 and up

Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes

This is a timely novel by award-winner Jewell Parker Rhodes about two biracial brothers, Trey and Donte, whose prep school experience is vastly different because of the color of their skin. At their nearly all-white school, Donte is the victim of racist behavior not only by fellow students, but even from authority figures. Donte has a strong family who stands up for him, and in this coming-of-age story, he finds his own inner strength. Black Brother, Black Brother is a thought-provoking read about the effects of racism and the bonds of friendship and family, which invites kids of middle school age to consider how they define themselves.

Ages 8-12

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