It is incredibly important that we talk about race, racism, and anti-racism with our kiddos starting at a young age. As someone who has taught ethnic studies to students as young as Kindergarten, I can tell you firsthand the amazing benefits my classroom experienced because of ethnic studies. Students are able to process and enter the world with the ability to recognize racism, appreciate diversity, and stand up for anti-racism. These conversations and lessons help us have an inclusive environment that empowers every student that walks through my door – I STILL get emails from the first class I ever taught! 

With the calling for anti-racism in education, Colorful Pages and I have gotten countless (and I am talking countless) requests for an Anti-Racist Book List! It has taken me a long time to get this list together because, when talking about race, racism, and anti-racism, it has to be done right. I am splitting up this Anti-Racist Book List into two posts: one for elementary students and one for middle school and high school students. Every book on this list is written by an author of color because I feel we, as Black Indigenous, People of Color, need to be the ones to tell these stories since we are the ones that have experienced the racism discussed within them. I have listed 16 books altogether: 4 diverse books about race; 5 books about racism, prejudice, and anti-racism in a modern context; and 7 books about racism, prejudice, and anti-racism in a historical context.

Personally, as a teacher, when I first talk about race, racism, and anti-racism, I do it in this order: Race, Racism in a Modern Setting, and Racism in a Historical Setting. I choose to talk about racism in a modern setting first in order to help dismantle the myth that “racism was solved with the Civil Rights Movement”, which is what I was unfortunately taught within my schooling experiences (my teachers were great, but just needed resources on how to teach about racism, which is why Colorful Pages exists today). I feel that when we present racism as “prejudice + power” through a modern context, we are calling out the need for anti-racism now. Then, I always delve into racism in a historical setting to teach true history and add to the reasons why we need anti-racism in our modern world. There are definitely other ways to teach about race, racism, and anti-racism within the classroom and home that are just as great. The important thing is we teach it and do it the justice it deserves! Hopefully our Anti-Racist Book List for Elementary Students can help inspire you to bring these conversations to your classroom, home, and/or library! 

Diverse Books About Race

Let’s Talk About Race, by Julius Lester

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

Just as the title suggests, Julius Lester’s book is all about race. He breaks down what race is in an age-appropriate way. I always use this book to introduce the vocab term of “race” within Kindergarten and older classrooms!

Skin Again, by Bell Hooks

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 3-7 years old

This picture book is another great option to talk about race with little ones! Bell Hooks, a world-renowned professor and scholar, wrote this book to dive into race and identity. She writes about how race matters, but only a little bit, which sets up nicely to dive into racism and anti-racism.

The Skin You Live In, by Michael Tyler

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 2-8 years old

The Skin You Live In is a picture book that talks about race through the idea of skin color and social acceptance. Michael Tyler uses a nursery rhyme format to touch upon this important subject. This is perfect for the really little ones!

Skin Like Mine, by Latashia M. Perry

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Exploration

Age Range: 4-10 years old

Latashia M. Perry writes about skin color in this beautiful picture book. Skin Like Mine explores skin color using rhyme and metaphors. It talks about the beauty of each skin color and diversity! This is a great way to introduce race through beauty, acceptance, and diversity. Plus, the illustrations are so vivid and magnificent!

Diverse Books About Racism, Prejudice, & Anti-Racism in a Modern Context

Chocolate Me!, by Taye Diggs

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

My favorite author and illustrator combo come together for this picture book. In Chocolate Me!, the young Black protagonist tells us about his experiences being a Black child. He talks about how he is teased and othered for his skin color based on prejudice and power. His mother then helps him realize how beautiful he is! This would be a great book to introduce racism as “prejudice + power” to your students through the eyes of someone who either looks like them or has a different identity as them. 

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice, by Marianne Celano PhD, Marietta Collins PhD, & Ann Hazzard PhD

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

Something Happened in Our Town

We at Colorful Pages have built a lesson plan around Black Lives Matter using this book to talk about racial injustice and racism. These three authors collaborated on creating a story to talk about police brutality and racial injustice in an age-appropriate way. The picture book follows two families, one White family and one Black family, as they discuss an unjust shooting of a Black man. Students get to see different children process it, which helps give them the language to discuss racism and police brutality. 

Not Quite Snow White, by Ashely Franklin

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

I used to read Amazing Grace to teach about racism in my classroom, but I always found it problematic because it was a book about racism written by a white author who never experienced it personally and also I had some qualms with how the ending was presented. Recently Not Quite Snow White was published and I found it to be a great replacement! Ashley Franklin wrote this picture book about Tameika, who wanted to try out to play Snow White, but was told she is “too tall”, “too chubby”, and “too brown”. Tameika really struggles with the insults, especially the “too brown” racist comment. However, her parents help her see that she is not “too much” of anything. This is a great book to talk about racism by using it to show examples and non-examples of racism through the different comments. I am hoping to publish a lesson about how to use this book to talk about racism soon!

Where Are You From?, by Yamile Saied Méndez

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

Where Are You From? is a picture book I wish was in my own elementary classroom growing up because of how much I got asked this question and how hurt it left me feeling about my racial identity! This picture book is all about a little girl struggling with the othering and hurtful question she gets from her classmates: “Where are you from?”. In the book, she goes to her abuelo to ask him how to deal with this question and he helps her see the beauty in her heritage and identity. This is a great book to talk about the prejudice (and sometimes racism) that stems from this question and othering of communities of color. 

AntiRacist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 2+ years old

Oh my goodness! Another book I WISH I had growing up (or at the very least in my early years teaching ethnic studies)! Ibram X. Kendi (the author of How to Be an Anti-Racist and Stamped From the Beginning) reimagined his previous books geared towards older crowds about anti-racism in this new book, AntiRacist Baby. His board book talks about anti-racism and gives nine easy steps for children to take to be anti-racist. Ooooh, I love it and cannot wait to use it next year!

Diverse Books About Racism, Prejudice, & Anti-Racism in a Historical Context

Through My Eyes, by Ruby Bridges

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 8-12 years old

Ruby Bridges tells her own story of her experience fighting racism and school segregation as a child. I am sure you know her story already, but Ruby Bridges was the first African-American student to desegregate an all-white school in Louisiana. This is a great story to continue conversations about racism and talk about racism in the education system and its unfortunate roots we need to dismantle. 

The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 5-8 years old

Talk about a must-have author! Jacqueline Woodson always writes such beautiful books and The Other Side is no exception. Woodson tackles racism in segregation by telling the story of Clover and Anna. Clover’s parents tell her not to cross the fence to Anna’s side because it isn’t safe to go into the white part of town. However, Clover and Anna want to become friends and try to go around that rule by sitting on top of the fence. 

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6+ years old

Sit-In is a picture book that tells the story of four college students participating in a Sit-In protest during the Civil Rights Era. This picture book is not only beautifully illustrated, but is a great launching point to talk about ways to be anti-racist. 

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, by Duncan Tonatiuh

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 6-9 years old

Separate Is Never Equal is a wonderful way to teach deeper into racism for little ones because they are able to connect with it since the protagonists are the same age as them. Duncan Tonatiuh wrote this picture book to tell the true story of Sylvia Mendez and her family as they fought against racism through school segregation in California in 1947. 

The Bracelet, by Yoshiko Uchida

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-8 years old

The Bracelet is a picture book about Emi, a seven-year-old, and her family’s experiences being forced to go into a concentration camp, where all Japanese-Americans were ordered to go in the 1940s. Author Yoshiko Uchida uses her own childhood experiences to write this important story. I have used this book to introduce the Internment of Japanese Americans and address the racism that harmed the Japanese-American community during World War II.

I Am Not a Number, by Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer; illustrated by Gillian Newland

The Spectrum for Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 7-11 years

Dr. Jenny Kay Dupuis, a proud member of the Nipissing Nation, and Kathy Kacer wrote I Am Not a Number. This picture book follows Irene Couchie as she is stolen from her First Nation and forced into a residential school (the Canadian term for “Indian Boarding Schools”). Irene’s story is a devastating one that will bring up strong emotions in any reader. However, no matter how hard it is to face this part of history, we MUST teach it to our students in order to redress it and make sure it never happens again.

Child of the Civil Rights Movement, by Paula Young Shelton and Raul Colón

The Spectrum of Multicultural Lit.: Conversation

Age Range: 4-9 years old

Paula Young Shelton, the daughter of Civil Rights Movement activist Andrew Young, authors this book about her experiences as a child within the Civil Rights Movement. It brings a new perspective to the Civil Rights Movement that children can easily connect with because of the age of the protagonist. We have used this book in my classroom to launch our discussions about the Civil Rights Movement. It is also perfect to break into sections and read over many days. 

“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” — Angela Davis

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