25 Books to Help Children Learn About Race

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March 2021

As children learn and grow, they are exposed to all kinds of implicit messages about race in our society through the media, peers, and their parents. Though it can be difficult to know how to best approach conversations about race with young children, it is important to teach kids to recognize and acknowledge the experiences of marginalized groups and to celebrate diversity. Below are 25 children’s books about race written by a diverse group of authors that center culturally authentic narratives, celebrate difference, and can introduce your child to the ongoing conversation about race in our society.

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Let's Talk About Race Book Cover
Let's Talk About Race Pages

Let’s Talk About Race
Julius Lester
Book Type: Picture

Author of the Coretta Scott King and Newbery Prize winning books, Julius Lester says “I write because our lives are stories. If enough of those stories are told, then perhaps we will begin to see that our lives are the same story. The differences are merely in the details.” In this stunningly illustrated children’s book about race, Julius Lester asserts that while our stories can be different, we are all the same at our core. 

Let’s Talk About Race is a great book for teaching children about embracing diversity and overcoming prejudice. Its straightforward approach to the topic of race provides helpful parameters for having important conversations about race with your child.

Hair Love Book Cover
Hair Love Pages

Hair Love
Matthew A. Cherry 
Book Type: Picture

Zuri’s hair is curly and coils in every direction. It’s up to Daddy to style it for a special occasion, but he has a lot to learn when it comes to doing Zuri’s hair. He shows Zuri how much he loves her by teaching her to love her hair.

This is a touching narrative about loving yourself and your natural hair. It is an empowering story that urges young black girls to find joy in their natural beauty while exploring the special bond between a father and his daughter. 

We Are Grateful Ostaliheliga Cover
We Are Grateful Ostaliheliga Pages

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
Traci Sorell
Book Type: Picture

Ostaliheliga is the word used by members of the Cherokee nation to express their gratitude. Following a year in the life of members of the indigenous Cherokee Nation, this story celebrates the traditions and cultural experiences of this Native American group. 

Written by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, this story is a reflection of lived experiences and customs of the native community. It harbors an impactful message of giving thanks for the life and world around us and encourages children to learn more about Native Americans and the concept of community at large. 

Hey Black Child Book Cover
Hey Black Child Pages

Hey Black Child
Author: Useni Eugene Perkins
Book Type: Picture

Useni Eugene Perkins’ lovely poem is enhanced by gorgeous watercolor illustrations. This lyric text celebrates Black children, inspires them to achieve their goals, and instills a sense of joy that is moving for all readers. 

This book is a wonderful read that provides inspiration for young Black children. It is a call to action for young kids to recognize who they are, pursue their passions, and never forget how great they can be. The rich and impressive artwork complements the strong message of affirmation and self-love.

The Colors of Us Book Cover
The Colors of Us Pages

The Colors of Us
Karen Katz
Book Type: Picture 

Lena wants to paint a self portrait using brown paint. Later, she goes on a walk through her neighborhood with her mother, and she notices the different shades of skin tones that her neighbors have. She learns that there are many different colors in her community, and that the differences are what make each person unique and worth celebrating. 

This book is great for introducing your young child to the diversity of skin color and why it is important to acknowledge the beauty of difference. Its lovely illustrations and relatable descriptions are helpful for young readers. The Colors of Us provides a heartfelt message about loving the skin you’re in.

Dreamers Book Cover
Dreamers Pages

Dreamers
Yuyi Morales
Book Type: Picture

In 1994, Yuyi left her home in Mexico and crossed a bridge to the United States. Carrying her hopes, dreams, stories, and her infant song, she made the courageous move away from the home she had always known. This book teaches an important lesson about the gifts and stories migrant families bring with them and the home they can make in their relationships and passions along the way. 

An illustrated memoir of author Yuyi Morales, this story tackles the sacrifices and hope associated with immigrating to the United States. We love this title because it will not only help teach your child about immigration, but also encourages a passion for stories and books that will help them grow in their own journey with reading.

The Proudest Blue Book Cover
The Proudest Blue Pages

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family
Ibtihaj Muhammad
Book Type: Picture

It’s Faizah’s first day of school, and she is ready to go with a brand new backpack and light-up shoes. Even more special, it’s Faizah’s older sister Asiya’s very first day of hijab. Asiya’s hijab is a beautiful blue, like the deep ocean and the expansive sky. When Faizah gets to school and realizes not everyone can see the beauty in Asiya’s hijab, she learns an important lesson about strength and pride in her culture. 

Written by Olympic medalist and activist Ibtihaj Muhammad, this is a wonderful story about finding strength, perseverance, family love, and joy in diversity. It presents children with the concepts of new experience and of prejudice in school settings. Faizah’s character provides a great example of how to combat stereotypes and hurtful words with ideas of acceptance, originality, and pride and will empower young girls to love themselves just the way they are.

All Are Welcome Book Cover
All Are Welcome Pages

All Are Welcome
Alexandra Penfold
Book Type: Picture

All Are Welcome is a book following a diverse group of children at school. In this space, all are welcome, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or what you wear. The students celebrate the Lunar New Year and acknowledge the beauty of their differences. 

This book is a wonderful example of the kind of environment children can create to be inclusive, recognize diversity, and build a welcoming community. Its sweet illustrations and lyrical text encourage readers to find inspiration in safe spaces.

Saturday Book Cover
Saturday Pages

Saturday
Oge Mora
Book Type: Picture

Saturday is a special day for Ava and her mom. They have a very eventful schedule ahead of them, but when things start to go awry, Ava’s mom becomes disappointed. It’s up to Ava to remind her mom that it doesn’t matter if things don’t go exactly as planned, as long as they can spend precious time together. 

This is an uplifting story about a mother and daughter who spend the day together. It teaches a universal lesson about adapting as plans change and valuing the special bond parents and children share. A heartfelt representation of black women in a children’s story, this book is an optimistic story of familial love.

Fry Bread Book Cover
Fry Bread Pages

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Kevin Noble Maillard
Book Type: Picture

Fry Bread is food, time, nation, and community. This book is all about the different ways this special food represents Native American culture and values. Follow along to learn more about the depth of this traditional meal in the lives of indigenous communities.

Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story is a great story to introduce your child to the traditions of indigenous nations. We love this title for its vibrant depiction of a loving Native American family and its celebration of traditions old and new. This book will invite your young reader into a welcoming community and leave them craving this delicious meal.

A Map Into the World Book Cover
A Map Into the World Pages

A Map Into the World
Kao Kalia Yang
Book Type: Picture

A sweetly illustrated story about the circle of life, this book follows a young family who immigrate to the US and move in across the street from an elderly couple. As time goes by, the family’s young daughter Paj Ntaub experiences birth–as her parents bring home her twin siblings–and death–as her neighbor passes away. Paj Nataub wants to show her neighbor how much she cares, so she creates a map into the world. 

A wonderful story with an impactful message about intergenerational relationships and acts of kindness, A Map Into the World is a great book for young readers. It presents the hardships and high-points of life and adjustments into a new community and culture.

My Rainy Day Rocket Ship Book Cover
My Rainy Day Rocket Ship Pages

My Rainy Day Rocket Ship
Markette Sheppard
Book Type: Picture 

This little boy is stuck inside on the rainiest of days. As a thunderstorm rolls in and mom tells him he must stay inside, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Using a cardboard box, a rocking chair, an old rag, and— of course— his imagination, he builds a beautiful rocket and sets out on an intergalactic journey. 

This bestselling book is perfect for imaginative young readers. It teaches an impactful lesson about overcoming feelings of boredom and using our minds to make up fun stories. The protagonist in this rhythmic narrative encourages young Black boys to follow their dreams and reach for the stars!

Skin Again Book Cover
Skin Again Pages

Skin Again
bell hooks
Book Type: Picture

Skin Again teaches kids that their skin color does not dictate their story. Instead, bell hooks suggests that it is only by knowing someone’s heart that you can know who they truly are. It is only through opening up that we can cherish our own talents and treasures and learn to love ourselves for who we are and what we believe in. 

This idea is a great introduction to the concepts of race and differing skin color for young readers. It shares a valuable lesson about seeing people for who they truly are, not just what they look like, while also reinforcing that it is our differences and unique experiences that make us special.

Brown Boy Joy Book Cover

Brown Boy Joy 
Thomishia Booker
Book Type: Picture

Brown Boy Joy is a book to celebrate the things Little Brown Boys love. This sweet rhyming narrative follows one little boy who calls himself “Brown Boy Joy,” describing all of the things he enjoys, what he wants to achieve when he grows up, and what makes him wonderful. 

This is a positive and affirming book for Black boys that will teach them all about what makes them special. Its cheery rhythm and fun illustrations help impart the message that this boy can be whatever he wants to be. It establishes the integral notion that self-love and confidence are priceless.

A Big Bed for Little Snow Book Cover
A Big Bed for Little Snow Pages

A Big Bed for Little Snow
Grace Lin
Book Type: Picture

In this lovely book, Grace Lin creates her own original myth to explain why it snows. In the story, Mommy makes a big fluffy bed for Little Snow, but the child is tempted to jump instead of curl up to sleep in the comfy spot. What happens when little snow jumps? Find out in this fun imaginative read. 

A Big Bed for Little Snow, centered on a young Asian boy, is a great story for young readers with big imaginations. In this story and her Caldecott Honor book, A Big Mooncake for Little Star, Grace Lin gives voice to Asian-Americans through whimsical storytelling.

We Are Water Protectors Book Cover
We Are Water Protectors Pages

We Are Water Protectors
Carol Lindstrom 
Book Type: Picture

When a black snake threatens to destroy the earth and poison her water supply, one young protector must take action. This story follows a girl and her indigenous community, guided by their ancestors, on a mission to protect the earth. Guided by wisdom and tradition, the girl and her nation show their care for nature and the world around them. 

An impactful mesh of environmental action, Native American history and culture, and love of nature, this story presents many important messages to young readers. Reading this book will help children learn more about indigenous culture, land, and history and encourage them to do right by the earth.

Mango, Abuela, and Me Book Cover
Mango, Abuela, and Me Pages

Mango, Abuela, and Me
Meg Medina
Book Type: Picture

Mia’s abuela moves in with Mia’s family, leaving her sunny home with parrots and palm trees behind. As Abuela and Mia cook together in the kitchen, Mia teaches Abuela English and Abeula teaches Mia Spanish, but it’s still hard for Abuela to communicate all her priceless family stories. Luckily, with the help of a feathered friend named Mango, the pair learn how to communicate in a new way. 

This is a great book about intergenerational family bonds. As Mia learns more about her own heritage by spending time with her Abuela, readers will learn about how love and cultural connection transcend language barriers.

Sulwe Book Cover
Sulwe Pages

Sulwe
Lupita Nyong’o
Book Type: Picture

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than her family and all of her friends. She wants to be beautiful like her mother and her sister. Follow along on Sulwe’s journey through the magical night sky, where she discovers more about herself and her own beauty. 

This story provides a sweet message of self-acceptance and finding confidence in your own beauty. The narrative is powerful and inspirational for Black girls, encouraging them to love the skin they are in. It provides a great message to all about overcoming feelings of self-doubt. 

Malala's Magic Pencil Book Cover
Malala's Magic Pencil Pages

Malala’s Magic Pencil
Malala Yousafzai
Book Type: Picture

As a little girl in Pakistan, Malala wished for a magic pencil. She could use it to make the world around her a happier place. The older Malala got, the more she began to realize there were very big issues in the world that needed fixing, and she could make a difference. 

Beautiful pictures and moving text enhance this insightful story about perseverance and positive change in the face of persecution. Education activist Malala’s strength and joy in the face of adversity will encourage young readers to work hard and hope for a bright future. 

Skin Like Mine Book Cover

Skin Like Mine 
Latashia M. Perry 
Book Type: Picture

Skin Like Mine is about a young girl celebrating what makes her skin and the skin of those around her unique. Comparing the skin tones of her friends and family to different yummy foods, this book imparts a message about how diverse skin tones are something to be proud of. 

We love this book for its fun, lighthearted,  and easy-to-read style. Its joyous celebration of diversity will teach kids that it’s okay to be proud of what they look like and be confident in their own bodies. 

Islandborn Book Cover
Islandborn Pages

The Islandborn
Junot Díaz
Book Type: Picture

Lola is a part of a classroom full of kids from somewhere else, so when the teacher asks all the students to share a picture of where they immigrated from, the class is excited. Lola, however, gets nervous because she can’t remember much about the Island where her family used to live. Her grandmother reminds her that home is not what you can remember, but what is inside of you. 

This is a touching narrative about the anxieties of deciphering your identity and the solace of community. This title brings an honest and heartfelt message of embracing your cultural heritage and identity, and it is a wonderful read for young book lovers.

The Name Jar Book Cover
The Name Jar Pages

The Name Jar
Yangsook Choi
Book Type: Picture

Unhei is the new girl in school, and everything that comes with this transition is hard enough, but she is most worried about her classmates being unable to pronounce her Korean name. She enters the school with the intention to adopt a new, more “pronounceable” name, allowing her peers to make suggestions in a name jar. Ultimately, with the help of her new friends, Unhei decides to help her classmates learn how to pronounce her Korean name instead of changing to fit in better. 

This story tells a great story about insecurity and identity in the wake of a big life change. Unhei’s character is true to herself and her Korean identity, which will teach young kids to embrace their cultural identities and remain true to themselves in the face of uncertainty and change.

Big Red Lollipop Book Cover
Big Red Lollipop Pages

Big Red Lollipop
Rukhsana Khan
Book Type: Picture

Rubina is invited to her very first birthday party, but her little sister, Sana, wants to come too. Rubina’s mom, Ami, insists that Rubina bring Sana along, but once they arrive, Sana seems to dominate the atmosphere and even takes Rubina’s party favor, her prized red lollipop. What is a big sister to do? 

This book presents a predicament familiar to plenty of five-year-olds with little siblings. It teaches a valuable lesson about feelings of frustration, navigating relationships with younger siblings, treating parents with respect, and sharing. The attention to detail in each illustration displays the emotions of the characters perfectly and allows the message of understanding that the text imparts to shine even brighter.

Malcolm Little Book Cover
Malcolm Little Pages

Malcolm Little 
Ilyasah Shabazz
Book Type: Picture

Before Malcolm X was an influential figure of the Civil Rights Movement, he was a young boy named Malcolm Little. Learn more about Malcolm’s childhood, his big and loving family, and his natural tendency for leadership in this touching story. 

This book, authored by Malcolm X’s daughter, gives unique insight into her father’s life and upbringing. It pays tribute to Malcolm X’s legacy of Black excellence and teaches young children an important lesson of individuality, strength, and perseverance.

Last Stop on Market Street Book Cover
Last Stop on Market Street Pages

Last Stop on Market Street
Matt de la Peña
Book Type: Picture

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma take the bus across town to get home. CJ wonders why he doesn’t have the same things as the other boys on the bus, and why he and his grandma always get off at a certain part of town. His grandma continually reminds him that there is beauty and meaning in the life they have and their differences from others. 

This heartfelt book tells a story of the meaningful relationship between a grandmother and her grandson, and conveys the bus ride home as a journey through a diverse town. CJ’s trip home teaches readers that it is okay to be different, appreciate the diversity in your town, and find meaning and beauty in what you have.

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