15 Best Books About Racism for Kids and Toddlers

Father and son reading book together

Stories about different people with different races, ethnicities, and cultures, help to expose children to our diverse world and the many kinds of characters that exist within it.  You can use books to show stories and photos of people who look different than your kids.  And it’s equally important to read them stories about kids who do look like them in a way that is positive and affirming.

Teaching children to love themselves while also appreciating the differences in others is incredibly vital to our society.  With this in mind, we searched for some of the best books about racism, colorism and inclusion for babies, toddlers, grade school children and teenagers.  Here’s what we found:

1. Dream Big, Little One (by Vashti Harrison)

Grade: Preschool

Reading Level: Baby- 3 years

From the same author of Little Leaders, this stunning photo book teaches children to think big, dream boldly, and be inspired by incredible dreamers who came before them. It teaches children about inventors and game-changers.  You can use this book to inspire your little one to dream big and change the game themselves!

2. Antiracist Baby (by Ibram X. Kendi)

Grade: Preschool

Reading Level: Baby- 3 years

This book guides the parent and child through necessary steps involved in becoming anti-racist people. The illustrations are bright and engaging, and introduces important language early on, regarding race, injustice, and the reformation of a just and equitable society.  This book was written by Ibram X Kendi, a #1 New York Times bestseller and National Book Award-winner.  Kendi was included in Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People of 2020 and has written other non-fiction award-willing books about race as well.

3. We’re Different, We’re The Same, And We’re All Wonderful (by Sesame Street)

Grade: Preschool – 2

Reading Level: 3-4 years

With the help of Sesame Street’s Elmo, kids will take a journey to learn how the differences of those all around the world make them special. And how everyone is the same on the inside, despite differences in appearance on the outside.

This book is bright, colorful, and engaging. It creates an easy and enjoyable way to learn about diversity.

4. Sulwe (by Lupita Nyong’o)

Grade: Preschool-3

Reading Level:  4-8 years

The story follows Sulwe, a girl whose skin is dark as midnight and darker than everyone in her family. Sulwe just wants to feel as beautiful as everyone else around her, but she knows she looks different.

As she takes a magical journey through the night sky, her view of herself and her beauty changes. This book tackles colorism, how we, as a culture, define beauty and self-esteem. It is heartwarming and affirms all children’s uniqueness, both inner and outer beauty.

This book was written by Academy-award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o.  It received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award, the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Children’s Literary Work and is a New York Times bestseller.

5. The Story of Ruby Bridges (by Robert Coles)

Grade: Preschool-3

Reading Level: 4-8 years

This book retells the true story of Ruby Bridges, the first black child to integrate into a white school in New Orleans. She faced angry mobs but persevered with courage and hope.

Ruby is still alive today.  This book allows us to inform younger generations of her courageous story and how she became a civil rights legend and activist.

6. The Color of Us (by Karen Katz)

Grade: Preschool-2

Reading Level: 4-8 years

This beautiful story follows Lena, a seven-year-old artist who wants to paint a picture of herself. Her mother helps her understand how to best portray her skin when they take a stroll through their neighborhood and behold the many different shades of brown in the world.

It shows a positive way to look at skin color and celebrates the differences (and similarities) in all people. It was inspired by the artist’s daughter, Lena, who was adopted by her parents from Guatemala.

7. You Matter (by Christian Robinson)

Grade: Preschool- 3

Reading Level: 4-8 years

This book is about seeing the world from different points of view and realizing that you matter in the world.  It invites young readers to engage with the world and see how everyone is connected.  The book is bright and colorful, with beautiful pictures.  An insightful reviewer described this book as a “powerful affirmation of each reader’s worth.” 

8. Something Happened in our Town (by Marianne Celano, Ph.D. & Marietta Collins, PhD)

Grade: Preschool-3

Reading Level: 4-8 years

This National Parenting Product Award Winning book follows two families, one black, one white, as they try to understand the police shooting of a black man who lives in their community. In a world where such things happen too regularly, this important book tackles the questions children have about such horrible and disturbing events.

It is never too early to discuss racial bias and injustice with young children, as children as young as three-years-old point out differences in skin color. Address these issues early on and help your young children understand what injustice is so that they can grow up to be part of the solution.

9.  Saturday (by Oge Mora)

Grade: Preschool-3

Reading Level: 4-8 years

A relatable and charming mother and daughter tale that reminds us of what’s important in life: spending time with those we love. In this story, a mother and daughter eagerly await Saturday and all the wonderful plans they’ve made. When everything seems to go wrong to wreck these plans, mother and daughter are reminded that time together is all that matters.

While this book may not discuss racism, the illustrations feature a Black mother and daughter and help show young toddlers and children that we’re alike, that our families may look different, but we all want the same things in this life.

Mother and daughter reading book together

10. I Am Enough (by Grace Byers)

Grade: Preschool-3

Reading Level: 4-8 years

This is a photo book that encourages all children to love exactly who they are. It teaches how children should both respect themselves and others.  And it reminds us all that kindness is the best gift we can give ourselves, others, and the world.  This book is a #1 New York Times bestseller and Goodreads Choice Award.

11. Hair Like Me (by Heather Burris)

Grade: Preschool – 3

Reading Level 4- 8 years

This adorably illustrated book tackles an important topic about personal appearance, differences, and loving oneself exactly as we are. It’s written by a mother who was inspired by her own daughter’s concerns that she didn’t have hair like a princess.  This book explores a black mother and her daughter’s journey to discover what makes hair ‘princess hair.’

12. Let’s Talk About Race (by Julius Lester)

Grade: 1-3

Reading Level: 4-8 years

This is an excellent book for elementary school-aged children, as children of this age begin grouping themselves and forming their identity.  It explores what makes every person special, and encourages discussions about our differences.

Start a conversation with your child or classroom with this beautifully illustrated book that helps envision a future that embraces differences, as opposed to trying to stamp them out.

13. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History (by Vashti Harrison)

Grade: 3-7

Reading Level: 8-12 years

Teach the young children in your life about the trailblazing black women in American history (that they may not learn about in school). The 18 different women featured in this book are heroes and role models that your children can look up to. From writers to pilots, to social activists and visionaries, these women will inspire you and your children.

14. This Book is Anti-racist (by Tiffany Jewell)

Grade: 6-10

Reading Level: 11-15 years

This book is for older children and teenagers, and offers excellent guidance on how to stop racism in one’s own heart and mind.  It encourages new ways to think that are thoughtful, inclusive, and anti-racist.

Written by Tiffany Jewell, an anti-racist educator and activist, this book discusses such complex topics as social identity, race, ethnicity, racism, and oppression.  It informs without weighing your pre-teen down, but instead uplifts them, so they feel hope and see a better way to be.

15. The Hate U Give (by Angie Thomas)

Grade: 9-12

Reading Level: 14- 17 years

This book, intended for teenagers, explores the challenges faced by sixteen-year-old Starr Carter. She lives in a poor neighborhood but attends a fancy suburban prep school. She struggles with finding a balance between these two worlds.  Starr’s life changes drastically when she witnesses the fatal police shooting of her best friend, Khalil.  She feels pressure from the different perspectives of her friends and family as she decides whether to speak up about what she saw.  She weighs the risks of endangering her life to stand up for what’s right.

This book explores the social injustices involving police shootings of unarmed black men in America from the perspective of a teenager trying to process and react to a tragedy that hits close to home.

Little girl reading a book.

The Key Take Away

Reading books about racism, injustice, breaking biases, and diversity are crucial to every child’s development. We live in a diverse world, and Western culture displays beauty in a very limiting way. You can teach your child early on that they are beautiful exactly as they are, and that although people look different from them and have different cultures, everyone should be valued equally. 

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  • Shenetta Webster

    Writing allows me to provide useful information in a way that is easy to grasp. I hope people are able to use my articles as a springboard for learning, advocating and advancing the causes they believe in.

Shenetta Webster

Writing allows me to provide useful information in a way that is easy to grasp. I hope people are able to use my articles as a springboard for learning, advocating and advancing the causes they believe in.

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