Talking about Racism with Children: Four Good Books to Start the Discussion

June 24, 2020

Don't Touch My Hair by Sharee Miller

Just over a year ago, my partner at work and I realised that we needed to do some teaching about our differences, especially skin colour, and talk about how we don't treat people differently based on the fact that they look different from ourselves. 

I went crazy in the book store trying to find books that were age appropriate (for 4-5 year-olds) that mentioned differences and made them into a positive thing. We wanted the books to spark a conversation so we could talk about the colours of our skin and teach the children that it is not okay to exclude people simply because of their skin colour.

The books that I found were We're Different, We're The Same and Happy in Our Skin. In the year and a half that I first purchased them, I have revisited them many times as we've had to circle back to this discussion time and again (it will never go away). 

Since then, I have been able to find more books at the library, including Don't Touch My Hair (a fantastic book about respecting people's bodies) and She Persisted (while not about race specifically, there are African American women mentioned in the book that started a discussion about slavery and race with my son).

**Please do not think that children do not see colour, because colour is exactly what they see. Their minds have the need to categorize things at this age, and unless we teach them that the categories they have created are incorrrect, they will stay that way. 

These four books have created a discussion both with my preschoolers and with my son at home. I highly recommend them if you are looking for books to start the discussion with your own little ones. However, this is an incredibly small list, and could use some improvement. 

Social Justice Books is an incredible resource that provides more than 60 carefully curated lists of multicultural and social justice books for children, young adults and educators. I learned about them from Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D on the Sesame Street/CNN racism town hall.

We're Different, We're The Same by Bobbi Kates and Joe Mathieu

She Persisted by Chelsea Clinton and Alexandra Boiger

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia

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