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6 Children's Books About Race to Start the Conversation

Consider swapping out your usual bedtime stories for children's books about race to help expand your child's mind and understanding of the world.

By Megan Sweeney
6 Children's Books About Race to Start the Conversation

When our daughter was born, we knew that race was always going to be an important conversation to have with her. My husband is half Sri-Lankan and half Philipino and I’m (a whole lot of) Irish, making her a perfect mix of the two of us. We’ve been looking for children's books about race to not only help us teach her about where she comes from but also what makes different cultures and backgrounds so unique and special.

Consider swapping out your usual bedtime stories a few of our personal favorite children's books about race to help expand your child's mind and understanding of the world. 

Why are children's books about race so important?

As a white mom to a mixed-race daughter, I know I can never fully understand what she will face throughout her life, nor will I understand how my husband feels every time he is met with racism. By starting these conversations with her early, we are normalizing the topic in our house. She knows that daddy's skin is darker than mommy's and that she falls somewhere in between. She knows that people come from different backgrounds and have different skin colors, hair colors and features.

Introducing fun children's books about race has been a great way to start these conversations with her. She asks questions, shares observations and is always wanting to learn more. As she gets older, we will continue to evolve our bookshelf and encourage her to talk about these topics outside the home.

Reading these books to our daughter will not protect her from facing racism but we hope it will equip her with the language and understanding to be proud of where she comes from. We want her to talk to her friends about what makes her different and influence their understanding of the world as early as possible.

The best children's books about race to read now

Best book about race for mixed-race families

Mixed Me by Taye Diggs

Book cover of Mixed Me Source: Amazon.com

This fun, colorful and beautifully illustrated book tells the story of ‘Mixed up Mike’ as he tries to figure out his place in the world as a mixed-race child. The kids at school are confused why he doesn't just 'choose who to cruise with', often asking him questions and giving him funny looks. His mom and dad's constant and beautiful reminder that he was 'mixed up perfectly and is JUST RIGHT!' has been a favorite line in our home since reading this book for the first time.

What we love about it

  • This book is pure fun on every page from the colorful illustrations to the confident and energetic words
  • Encourages curiosity and kindness, whether you are in a mixed-race family or not
  • Gives age-appropriate language to respond to racist remarks: "And if they care too much about my hair too much that it's not straight enough, I say 'It's MY HAIR, don't touch!"
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Best book about race for babies

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Book cover for Antiracist Baby Source: Amazon.com

It's never too early to teach antiracism to your baby and to learn alongside with them. This book from award-winning and five-time NYT #1 best-seller Dr. Ibram X. Kendi is the perfect place to start. Even in a short baby board book, it gives 9 practical and impactful ways to raise an antiracist baby: "Anti-racist baby is bred, not born. Antiracist baby is raised to make society transform."

What we love about it

  • This book can be read to all ages - the colorful pictures and fun rhymes are well suited for your youngest, while the poignant message and actions serve as great conversation starters for kids in preschool all the way to adulthood
  • Dr. Kendi calls out what needs to change in order for us to overcome racism and gives practical steps you personally can take
  • Encourages understanding and kindness by celebrating differences: "Antiracist Baby doesn't see certain groups as 'better' or 'worse.' Antiracist baby loves a world that truly diverse"
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Best book about race for preschoolers

The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler

Book cover for The skin you live in Source: Amazon.com

This is another fun, energetic, engaging book about all different skin tones and backgrounds. It focuses on all the wonderful things that make you YOU: "so whenever you look at your beautiful skin, from your wiggling toes to your giggling grin... Think how lucky you are that the skin you live in, so beautifully hold the 'You' who's within." Every child will find a piece of themselves on one or more of the pages of this book, encouraging pride in our differences and curiosity about others.

What we love about it

  • Every page has big, bold colorful pictures and fun-to-read rhymes
  • Does not shy away from all aspects of what makes people different, not better or worse than each other: "It's not dumb skin or smart skin, or keep us apart skin; or weak skin or strong skin, I'm right and you're wrong skin. Nor she skin or he skin, you're better than me skin; I'm lesser than you skin, it's me against you skin."
  • Gives preschoolers a lot to be proud of by speaking to a variety of racial backgrounds

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Best book about race for bedtime

Goodnight Racism by Ibram X. Kendi

book cover for Goodnight racism Source: Amazon.com

A natural next read for your child after Antiracist Baby from Dr. Kendi, #1 NYT bestseller. This story takes place while children are sleeping and dreaming, imagining a better and more just world. It shows a beautiful version where people are treated equally, are safe and have what they need to thrive regardless of their backgrounds or differences. Dr. Kendi inspires all children to be the difference: "Dream, my child; create, my child. A new world - a new future - awaits."

What we love about it

  • We love how this book takes what you learn in Antiracist Baby about how the world is unjust and what you can do about it, and shows a beautiful alternative when change is possible
  • The illustrations by Cbabi Bayoc are so inclusive and moving, they belong on billboards
  • This book does not put the onus on marginalized communities to do the work, but instead is an inspirational call to action for everyone

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Best book about race to celebrate Black Children

Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs

book cover for Chocolate Me Source: Amazon.com

Another favorite from Taye Diggs, this time telling the story of a young Black boy as he navigates what makes him different from his white friends. His hair, skin, nose and teeth are all targets for their teasing, making him want to hide. When he talks to his two moms about his feelings, they quickly turn the narrative into everything that makes him so special: 'You have skin like velvet fudge frosting mixed in a bowl (You can lick the spoon!). Cotton candy hair soft to the touch of my fingertips or braided like rows of corn with a twist." He quickly realizes how great being Chocolate Me really is.

What we love about it

  • This book is a celebration of what it means to be Black and encourages pride for young Black children
  • We love the inclusion of two moms, having LGBTQ+ parents is not common in many children's books
  • Similarly to Mixed Me, this book is fun to read with bright colorful illustrations and an endearing story

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Best book about race to celebrate Indigenous Culture

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence

book cover for Stolen Words Source: Amazon.com

Melanie Florence, an award-winning Cree/Scottish writer, authors a heartbreaking and inspiring story of a young girl asking her grandfather to teach her Cree. Since being sent to a residential school where he wasn't allowed to speak his language, he is unable to remember the words and share them with her. The little girl asks for help from her teacher to find a book of Cree in the school library and brings it to her grandfather. This book highlights the history of Indigenous People and the pain they still face today.

What we love about it

  • This book does not shy away from the difficult topics surrounding residential schools and the history of Indigenous People but does it in a way that is age-appropriate for children and encourages powerful conversations
  • The illustrations by Gabrielle Grimard evoke powerful emotions alongside Melanie's words
  • There is a page of translated Cree Words in the back of the book with pronunciation and definitions to continue your learning

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Every editorial product is independently selected, though we may be compensated or receive an affiliate commission if you buy something through our links. Ratings, images and prices are accurate and items are in stock at the time of publication.

This article was originally published on Feb 21, 2023

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