30 books to help you talk to your kids about racism

Talking to your kids about racism can be tough. Here are some books to help get them thinking about it.

30 books to help you talk to your kids about racism

Photo: BNC CataList

The Stone Thrower

Written by Jael Ealey Richardson and illustrated by Matt James, Groundwood Books (AGES 4-9) A children’s version of a book Richardson wrote about her dad, Chuck Ealey, The Stone Thrower tells the story of Chuck’s life growing up as black kid in a then-racially segregated Portsmouth, Ohio. Chuck loved football, and though he faced many challenges, including poverty and racial taunts, he had an unbeaten record as a quarterback in both high school and university due to his determination. Even with all of this talent, he wasn’t chosen to play that position in the NFL because of his race. Instead, he became a quarterback in the Canadian Football League, and in his first year, led his team (the Hamilton Tiger-Cats) to win the Grey Cup in 1972. $19,

Cover art for the book, The Stone ThrowerPhoto: BNC CataList

More, More, More, Said the Baby

Written and illustrated by Vera B. Williams, Greenwillow Books (AGES 0-2) Blogger Sachi Feris at Raising Race Conscious Children says that in order to have conversations about racism when your kids are a bit older, you have to raise kids who are aware of race as early as possible. Making it seem like race doesn’t exist only serves to hide the fact that racism is something people face. To that end, she recommends reading the adorable and multiracial More, More, More Said the Baby with toddlers, and using it as an opportunity to talk about the different races of the characters, and then expanding that conversation at the same time to talk about people of different ethnicities in your child’s life. $10,

Cover art for the book, More More More Said the BabyPhoto: Harper Collins


All the Colors We Are

Written by Katie Kissinger; photographs by Chris Bohnhoff, Redleaf Press (AGES 3+) All the Colors We Are takes a kid-appropriate, demystifying and scientific look at why people have different skin colours (spoiler alert, it’s because of who our ancestors are, the sun, and melanin), and introduces the idea that skin colour is just one part of who we are. This smart book also includes activities to help with further discussions about this topic. $25,

Cover art for the book, All the Colors We ArePhoto:

What’s the Difference? Being Different is Amazing

Written by Doyin Richards, Feiwel and Friends (AGES 2-10) Seeing and celebrating differences is another way to raise race-conscious kids, and this new book by parenting expert Doyin Richards helps families to learn just how to do that. $24,

Cover art for the book, What's the Difference? Being Different is AmazingPhoto:

A is for Activist

Written and illustrated by Innosanto Nagara, Seven Stories Press (AGES 0-3+) Raising kids who want to fight for civil rights can start with story time. A great one for toddlers and preschoolers is the alphabet board book A is for Activist, which teaches readers about ways to take action, ask questions and stand up for everyone in the community. If you’re looking for a call to action for your little kids, this book is the one for you. $24,

Cover art for the book, A is for ActivistPhoto: BNC CataList


Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged

Written by Jody Nyasha Warner and illustrated by Richard Rudnicki, Groundwood Books (AGES 5-9) In 1946, a Black Nova Scotian woman named Viola Desmond refused to leave her seat in what was then a whites’-only area of a movie theatre. This picture book tells her story with striking illustrations, and offers a fantastic example of standing up for your rights, even when there are strong consequences. (Desmond was taken to jail, charged and fined for her actions. She was later pardoned, though it was decades after her death.) Viola Desmond will be the first Canadian woman featured on Canadian currency when she’s added to the $10 bill in 2018. $19,

Cover art for the book, Viola Desmond Won't Be BudgedPhoto: Groundwood Books

Let’s Talk About Race

Written by Julius Lester and illustrated by Karen Barbour, HarperCollins (AGES 4-8) In Let’s Talk About Race, Lester gets right to the heart of the matter. He’s black, but there’s more to him than his race. While it’s important for kids to understand that people have many different skin tones, it’s also essential for kids in this age group to see the similarities between people of different races, religions and cultures to help them connect with them and push past biases and stereotypes they may encounter. As Lester says, “I am a story. So are you. So is everyone.” $10,

Cover art for the book, Let's Talk About RacePhoto: HarperCollins

The Other Side

Written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E. B. Lewis, G.P Putnam’s Books for Young Readers (AGES 5-8) Written from the perspective of a young black girl named Clover who lives in a segregated town, this fictional book, illustrated with watercolours, tells the story of Clover and her neighbour, a white girl named Annie, who become friends despite the line that divides their worlds. If you’re looking for a way to introduce the concept of racism to your child, The Other Side, with its focus on the girls’ friendship, is a good tale to start with. $24,

Cover art for the book, The Other SidePhoto: BNC CataList


The Story of Ruby Bridges

Written by Robert Coles and illustrated by George Ford, Scholastic Press (AGES 3-10) This is the true story of six-year-old Ruby Bridges, who in 1960, bravely faced crowds of angry white people protesting her attendance at a previously all-white school in New Orleans. This book will hopefully teach kids about the injustice and hardships Ruby faced, as well as inspire them to stand up for what’s right like she did. $9,

Cover art for the book, The Story of Ruby BridgesPhoto: BNC CataList

I am Jackie Robinson

Written by Brad Meltzer and illustrated by Christopher Eliopoulos, Penguin Young Readers Group (AGES 4-7) Jackie Robinson was the first black person to play Major League Baseball. But getting to that point meant that he faced a lot of racism in his life, and had to work doubly hard to prove he was just as good as the white players. I am Jackie Robinson is a picture book that offers readers an inside look into his life growing up and playing ball, and all of the challenges he faced. $22,

Cover art for the book, I Am Jackie RobinsonPhoto: Penguin Random House

Baseball Saved Us

Written by Ken Mochizuki and illustrated by Dom Lee, Lee & Low Books (AGES 6-11) During the Second World War, the U.S. government wrongfully interned Japanese Americans in camps. (At the time, the Canadian government interned Japanese Canadians, too, but this story takes place in the U.S.). Baseball Saved Us is the story of a family who were interned, and the in-camp baseball league that the father and son set up. It offers an age-appropriate, yet realistic picture of the bleak conditions, and details the injustice of what interned Japanese Americans faced, but also the strength and self-preservation that many of them showed in the face of extreme discrimination. $15,

Cover art for the book, Baseball Saved UsPhoto: Lee & Low Books


Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story

Written by Ken Mochizuki and illustrated by Dom Lee, Lee & Low Books (AGES 6-11) One way to introduce young readers to the concepts of anti-semitism and the Holocaust is by teaching them about the helpers that saved lives during that time. Chihune Sugihara was the Japanese consul to Lithunia, when in 1940 Jewish refugees from Poland arrived at the consulate trying to get visas to Japan so they could escape the Nazis. This book is based on the words of Sugihara’s son Hiroki, who was five years old when his father rescued an estimated 10,000 Jewish people by granting them travel papers in spite of his home country’s orders not to do so. $11,

Cover art for the book, Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara StoryPhoto:

The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the Holocaust

Written by Karen Gray Ruelle and illustrated by Deborah Durland DeSaix, Holiday House (AGES 10+) This book details how Jewish people where sheltered in the Grand Mosque of Paris and given aid with safe passage when the city was occupied by Nazis. $12,

Cover art for the book, The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued Jews During the HolocaustPhoto:

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up

Written by Laura Atkins and Stan Yogi and illustrated by Yutaka Houlette, Heyday Books (AGES 8+) Part of the Fighting for Justice Series, this book is a tale of discrimination and resistance. Fred Korematsu was jailed because he refused to go to the prison camps the U.S. government set up for Japanese Americans during the Second World War. Korematsu took his case to the Supreme Court, where he lost, though, in 1983 a federal court overturned his conviction. Korematsu was a life-long civil rights activist who fought on behalf of many other people who were unjustly treated. $23,

Cover art for the book, Fred Korematsu Speaks UpPhoto:


Daddy, There’s A Noise Outside

Written by Kenneth Braswell and illustrated by Joe Dent and Julie Anderson, Fathers Incorporated (AGES 6+) There are many ways to make change, and various forms of protest are among those tactics. Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside is the story of two black kids who hear protests against police violence outside their home. Their parents take this as an opportunity to teach them in a kid-friendly way about different types of protest like boycotts, marches, silent sit-ins, petitions, letter writing and civil disobedience. They also include the idea that kids can protest, too. Though many titles about racism cover historical examples, this book helps make it clear that racism is a contemporary issue. $20,

Cover art for the book, Daddy There's a Noise OutsidePhoto:

Shannen and the Dream for a School

Written by Janet Wilson, Second Story Press (AGES 9-13) 13-year-old Shannen Koostachin and her classmates, who lived in the Cree community of Attawapiskat, in northern Ontario, were being taught in smelly and cold portables because of the condition of their school. They felt they deserved better, and thought that the federal government needed to stop discriminating against them by underfunding their education. So the group, led by Shannen, fought back. This award-winning book, which is part of Second Story’s Kids’ Power series, documents Shannen’s story, and is a way to introduce the idea that many Indigenous people in Canada continue to be discriminated against on a systemic level. Sadly, Shannen died in a car accident in 2010 at age 15, but her dream lived on, and a new school was built in 2014. $15,

Cover art for the book, Shannen and the Dream for a SchoolPhoto: BNC CataList


Written by Nikki Giovanni and illustrated by Bryan Collier, Square Fish (AGES 8-10) Rosa Parks used civil disobedience to protest the fact that at the time, black people in Montgomery, Alabama, had to sit at the back of the bus. Celebrated poet Nikki Giovanni has written a picture book about what happened when Rosa was arrested for not giving up her seat for a white man, but also puts it into context of the civil rights movement at the time. It also shares the stories of the people who fought alongside her to show that this wasn’t a one-woman show, and the power of coming together to stand up against injustice. $13,

Cover art for the book, RosaPhoto: BNC CataList


Child of the Civil Rights Movement

Written by Paula Young Shelton and illustrated by Raul Colón, Dragonfly Books (AGES 4-8) Author Paula Young Shelton’s father was activist Andrew Young, who organized alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Child of the Civil Rights Movement tells the story of the beginning of the civil rights movement (and explains the racism of the Jim Crow laws) from the perspective of Young Shelton as a child, who participated in the march from Selma to Montgomery when she was just four years old. $9,

Cover art for the book, Child of the Civil Rights MovementPhoto: BNC CataList

We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s March

Written by Cynthia Levinson, Scholastic (AGES 11+) The Birmingham Children’s March, organized by Martin Luther King Jr., was planned as a way to draw attention to the injustice of segregation in the south. Some 4,000 children and youth participated, with at least 1,000 of them getting arrested, filling the jails to capacity. With the jails full, the police decide to use firehoses on the children to help disperse them. The world took notice of this horrific treatment, which put pressure on the city of Birmingham, and was the catalyst for its desegregation. This book teaches kids that children have a role to play in making change through interviews with four of the participants. $27,

Cover art for the book, We’ve Got a Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children’s MarchPhoto:

Ron’s Big Mission

Written by Rose Blue and Corinne J. Naden and illustrated by Don Tate, Scholastic (AGES 4-7) Another book about kids making change, Ron’s Big Mission is a picture book about how astronaut Ron McNair (who would, sadly, later die on the Challenger mission) successfully desegregated his town’s public library, when at nine years old, he stood up on the checkout counter and refused to leave until they issued him his own library card. This is a great book for younger kids, as its subject matter is less intense than some of the other stories about the civil rights movement. It also talks about how few books there were that showed any black children, which is still a problem today, which provides a way to open up a conversation about how people of colour are still discriminated against. $24,

Cover art for the book, Ron’s Big MissionPhoto: BNC CataList


I Am Not a Number

Written by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer and illustrated by Gillian Newland, Second Story Press (AGES 7-11) I Am Not a Number is the story of Dupuis’ then eight-year-old grandmother Irene, who is Ojibway. She was taken from her family to a residential school where she was made to use a number instead of her name, cut her hair and faced other abuses, all in the name of forcing her to forget her culture. Irene goes home on summer holiday, and her parents choose to keep her there, rather than send her back to the school. But there may be consequences for breaking the law. $20,

Cover art for the book, I Am Not a NumberPhoto: BNC CataList

Secret of the Dance

Written by Andrea Spalding and Alfred Scow and illustrated by Darlene Gait, Orca Book Publishers (AGES 5+) Another way the Canadian government oppressed Indigenous peoples was by banning their ceremonies, like the potlatch. Picture book Secret of the Dance teaches kids about this element of Canada’s history through the story of nine-year-old Watl’kina, whose family holds a banned potlatch in defiance of the government. $11,

Cover art for the book, Secret of the DancePhoto: BNC CataList

Black All Around

Written by Patricia Hubbell and illustrated by Don Tate, Lee & Low Books (AGES 4-8) We all get messages that contribute to implicit biases. In the case of the colour black, we are told that black cats are bad luck, that light is heavenly, and darkness is evil. Black All Around helps push back against these messages by celebrating all of the wonderful things in our world that are black through energetic rhyming text. $23,

Cover art for the book, Black All AroundPhoto: Lee & Low Books


Momma, Did You Hear the News?

Written by Sanya Whittaker Gragg and illustrated by Kim Holt, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform While it’s written for the parents and caregivers of black kids as a guide on how to talk about police violence and staying safe, this fictional book can also introduce to a wider audience the idea that police do sometimes act in ways that are unjust. $13,

Cover art for the book, Momma, Did You Hear the News?Photo:

Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker

Written by Patricia Hruby Powell and illustrated by Christian Robinson, Chronicle Books (AGES 10-13) Josephine Baker was known as a dancer, but she was also a determined civil rights activist who challenged the colour line. This award-winning picture book, full of compelling illustrations, tells Baker’s story.  $26,

Cover art for the book, JosephinePhoto: BNC CataList

The Kids Book of Black Canadian History

Written by Rosemary Sadlier and illustrated by Wang Qijun, Kids Can Press (AGES 8-12)  This award-winning book is a fantastic resource for helping kids get a better picture of what black Canadians have experienced and how they have helped shape this country. $16,

Cover art for the book, The Kids Book of Black Canadian HistoryPhoto: BNC CataList


Hana’s Suitcase

Written by Karen Levine, Second Story Press (AGES 9-13) Hana Brady was a young girl who lived in Czechoslovakia when the Nazis invaded her town. Life as she knew it was over. Based on a CBC documentary, the book follows along as Levine tracks Fumiko Ishioka, a curator at a Tokyo-based Holocaust education centre who received the suitcase as part of an exchange from the Auschwitz museum, on a hunt to learn more about who Hana was, what life was like for under Nazi occupation, and Hana’s fate. $17,

Cover art for the book, Hana's SuitcasePhoto: BNC CataList

Meet Viola Desmond

Written by Elizabeth MacLeod and illustrated by Mike Deas, Scholastic Canada (AGES 6-10). Viola Desmond appears on Canada's ten-dollar bill, but how many people know her story? This book tells of how Viola, a Black woman from Nova Scotia, got arrested for refusing to leave the whites-only section of a movie theatre back in 1946. After spending a night in jail, she took her case all the way to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, serving as an inspiration for Canada's civil rights movement. $17,

30 books to help you talk to your kids about racism

Elijah of Buxton

Written by Christopher Paul Curtis, Scholastic. (AGES 9-12) Elijah may be the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Ontario, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit, but he's best known in his hometown as the baby who threw up on Frederick Douglass—he couldn't help it! Elijah's friend Mr. Leroy has been saving up money to buy his family out of captivity in the South, but when someone steals that money, Elijah joins him on a dangerous journey south of the border that will change his life. Can he find the courage to get back home? $10,

30 books to help you talk to your kids about racism


A Kids Book About Racism

Written by Jelani Memory (AGES 5+) This kids book is about racism. With clear descriptions of what racism is and how it makes victims feel, this book can help parents start the conversation early with their kids. $20,

30 books to help you talk to your kids about racism
This article was originally published on Jun 01, 2020

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Alex is a Toronto-based writer and editor. She currently works as a managing editor for Mind Over Matter magazine. Her work can also be found in publications like The Globe and Mail, Chatelaine, and The Walrus.