We live in an amazing time. We have the lowest levels of hunger, poverty, and illiteracy in history; and these is just some of the advancements we enjoy. We are more connected than ever before. But just because we have these advancements does not mean everything is perfect.
Racial inequality still exists in this country and around the world. Whenever an event brings to light this inequality, many parents find themselves asking how to handle it when it comes to their kids. Should we be honest about the events? How do we talk about it?
How do we ensure our children are part of the solution and not the problem as they grow?
If you are confused and yearning to do something in light of what is going on in our country, you are not alone. We have collected a list of books to read with and to your kids to encourage discussion. We also have some tips for talking to your kids about racial inequality.
Why Use Books With Children?
Using books to teach children about social issues is a fantastic starting point. No matter their upbringing, books are a way to introduce new topics and allow children to explore them safely.
If your child has never been exposed to racial inequality, they have no idea it exists. Young children are only able to comprehend what is happening in their immediate world. They are not selfish; they are incapable of understanding others’ perspectives.
When children turn three, they start to understand that other people think differently than them. However, they are not able to empathize with the struggles they have never experienced.
If you read your child a book about racial inequality or diversity, you allow them a safe environment to learn about a new topic. They will be able to ask questions and explore something unknown without being scared.
After you read a book, you can start a discussion with your kids about what they just heard. Your kids might have questions for you, as well. Here is a list of questions to start a conversation after reading a new book.
- What happened in the book we just read?
- Did anything happen that you have never seen or heard of?
- What would you do if you were friends with (name a character)?
- Did something happen that made you sad or scared?
- Why do you think (an event from the book) happened?
- How might things have gone differently if (an event from the book) didn’t happen?
Obviously, the questions you ask will vary based on the age of your kids. Asking open-ended questions will encourage them to think about what they read or heard.
The older your child is, the more in-depth the questions can get. Ask them to personalize what happened and really think about what they would do if presented with similar situations.
Books to Start the Conversation
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller, ages 3-6
This is a fantastic and beautifully illustrated book about kindness. It follows a child who spills juice on herself. It explores ways to be kind but acknowledges it is not always an easy task.
We’re Different, We’re the Same by Bobby Kates, ages 3-7
Using beloved characters from Sesame Street, this book teaches kids that while we all look different on the outside, we are all very similar deep down on the inside. We have similar feelings, thoughts, and wants. Furthermore, it’s our differences that make our world a beautiful place.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, ages 4-8
Morales came to America with her infant son in the 1990s. She uses this beautiful book to teach children that you can make your home with things you always have: resilience, dreams, hopes, and heritage. This book will help you find your way in a new place while finding good parts of it.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, ages 5-8
This beautifully written and illustrated book teaches us that there are many ways to feel different, and it is hard to go to a new or different place. However, we need to be brave, reach out, and share what makes up special. Hopefully, others will meet us in the middle.
Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds, ages 3-5
Say Something reminds us that the world needs to hear your voice and that we should speak up, whether we have a good idea or see injustice. The author teaches us that a single voice can make a difference, and we all have chances to use our voice to say something.
We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song by Debbie Levy, ages 6-10
This book, based on the meaningful song “We Shall Overcome,” is a tribute to the fighting and heroic spirit of the civil rights movement. Words can create change, and it can start with a few people singing a song.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers, ages 4-8
From actor and activist Grace Byers, this lyrical book teaches children to love themselves, respect others, and always be kind. With the motto, “We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it,” how can you not dive right in?
The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler, ages 2-5
Using nursery rhyme-esque language, this book teaches young readers about social acceptance. Readers will learn about friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity in a simple and approachable way.
When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, ages 3-7
This beautiful book teaches children from a young age that they are deeply loved and created uniquely. They are encouraged to spread their wings and fly. The language is charming and lyrical, and the illustrations are vivid.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, ages 4-8
This is a must-read for young children to learn and celebrate diversity. The book follows a group of schoolchildren throughout their day and shows how everyone is welcomed, no matter what they look like, wear, or talk like. The students learn and grow from learning about the traditions of others. Teach children that, no matter what, each child should have a place and be welcomed.
These books are just a starting point. There are countless books available to your family. Ask your friends what books they liked. Ask your librarian. Borrow books, share books, give them away. Our community needs a way to come together. Teaching our kids with books is a start.
The important thing is to have these conversations with our children. It is our job as parents to prepare the next generation. Let’s prepare them right and teach them to stand up for the lonely and downcast, build our communities up, and love everyone.
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