Books for Teaching Kids About Racism

After the horrific murder of George Floyd was broadcast for the world to see, no teacher, parent, or human can remain silent about on-going racism in America. But what do you say when you don’t know what or how to say it??? And how do you help kids process all of this? This post offers ideas and books for teaching kids about racism in a way that’s empathic and effective!


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What is Racism?

The question may seem obvious, but unfortunately it isn’t.

When confronted with the topic of racism, some white people will respond with comments like these:

  • “But I’ve never used the N-word towards people of color.”
  • “I don’t see color when I look at people, so I’m not racist.”
  • “There’s no racism in our church and community. In fact, we have a black family in our church and we think they’re so nice.”
  • “It’s not my fault I was born white. Why should I feel bad about the racist things that happened in America before I was even born?”
  • “America doesn’t have a race problem. We had a black president.”
  • “Black people need to just get over the whole race thing. Everything isn’t about race.”

“I’m Not Racist, So Why Should Anti-Racism Matter to Me?”

Since most dictionaries define racism as “prejudice and discrimination towards a group of people based on color, which includes the belief of your own race being superior,” it’s often difficult for white people to understand how they’ve participated in racist systems in America throughout their lives.

Which is why this post exists.

As a teacher, mom…human of color, I know first-hand the deep pain of being marginalized due to the color of my skin.

But as a follower of Jesus Christ, I also know that love can conquer hate and defeat evil.

Racism isn’t just a “black people’s problem” or an “American problem”, it’s a human problem.

A problem that we are able to solve and eradicate, but it’s going to take all of us.

I offer every part of this post on books for teaching kids about racism with firm love.

Whether you think you are racist or not, this post is for you.

Children’s Books About Racism

To begin teaching kids about racism, it’s important to call it what it is.

Saying that racist people are just “mean,” rather than racist, doesn’t fully help children understand the depth of hate involved in its evil actions.

The books in this section not only help kids of different ages better understand what racism is, but they also give accurate language to define the actions behind it.

The Children in Our World Series offers excellent books on various topics to help parents and teachers dig into tough conversations with kids.

Their Racism and Intolerance book gives relatable examples and helps kids understand things like “What does it mean to be racist?”, which opens the door to honest dialogue about race.

Jenny Devenny’s book Race Cars does a beautiful job helping kids of all colors and ages better understand white privilege.

Silently benefiting from systemic racism contributes to its growth and infects future generations with racist attitudes.

This truth is why white privilege must be understood and actively fought against in order to end racism.

Sonya Whittacker Gregg’s book “Momma, Did You Hear The News Today?goes right to heart of police brutality against black people–especially boys and men in America.

It is hard for me to read it without getting emotional.

I highly recommend this book to every white family so that you understand the measures black parents must endure to keep our kids safe from the very system in society that supposed to protect them.

What Does Racism Have to Do with Teachers?

Before I proceed to the next section of resources for you, I want to pause and address the issue of racism in education.

Racism isn’t just “out there on the streets with grown-ups.”

It happens every day in schools all over the country.

Implicit bias of white teachers cause black students–particularly boys– to be disciplined and mislabeled in school far beyond white students.

In the same way many black men are often viewed as being “thugs,” “gang members,” or “criminals,” even when there’s no evidence of it, black boys in school are often viewed in highly negative ways.

These beliefs lead to actions that also cause the white students who are watching to have negative thoughts toward black students.

Thoughts they will internalize and carry with them as adults, which will lead to actions that repeat the vicious cycle of racial sin.

Each book teaching kids about racism in this post also helps teachers see the subtle, but painful ways racism shows up in your classroom.

Yes, Dr. Seuss’ Books Are Racist!

As you continue to teach your kids about racism, you will inevitably see more signs of it laced in mainstream culture.

The most prominent example of this is Dr. Seuss literature.

Philip Nel’s Was the Cat in the Hat Black is so powerful and easy to understand that I am going to borrow his exact words to introduce this book:

“Racism is resilient, duplicitous, and endlessly adaptable, so it is no surprise that America is again in a period of civil rights activism.

A significant reason racism endures is because it is structural: it’s embedded in culture and in institutions. One of the places that racism hides-and thus perhaps the best place to oppose it-is books for young people.”

-Philip Nel

As the book’s subtitle suggests, many children’s books present racists undertones to kids, which is why there’s a huge need for more diverse books in classrooms and homeschooling libraries.

If you are a parent or school teacher who uses Dr. Seuss books, I urge you to give this book a read!

Social-Emotional Books to Help Kids Process Painful Emotions

As your students and kids grasp the pain of racism, they will have a mix of uncomfortable emotions to process.

This section offers resources that empower you to help kids deal with the painful reality and evil of racism.

In addition to these four read-alouds, I also have this longer list of socio-emotional books you can refer to when helping your kids and students.

Effective Ways to Help Kids Process Painful Events

Helping kids of any age process painful events and reality is challenging.

Please give yourself grace as you approach this topic. Don’t allow the fear of “doing it wrong” to silence you.

Use these practical tips as you forge ahead with teaching kids about racism:

  • Give kids space and time to step away from the conversation if they express that they don’t want to talk about it anymore.
  • Keep the door open for them to ask questions later.
  • Encourage kids to process and manage their emotions in other ways like journaling, drawing pictures, writing their feelings in a poem, etc.

  • Look for teachable moments in everyday life to help kids build empathy and understanding.
  • Be persistent, yet gentle, as you continue to approach this subject. It won’t be a one-time-and-we’re-done-conversation.
  • Refrain from asking kids to reenact racist situations and events. Reader’s theater should be saved for other lessons!
  • Protect your students and children of color by NOT asking them to share how black people feel. Respect their individual feelings; they cannot speak for their entire race.

Other Important Tips & Helpful Posts

First of all, take a deep breath.

If you feel overwhelmed by the prospect of digging into this topic with kids, then congratulations on being human!

Especially when you consider the fact that the world is still reeling from the devastating effects of a pandemic.

None of us want to have to face this pain right now, but we must or it will only get worse.

If you need more resources related to the topic of race and diversity, these posts and printables are for you:

Please share this post to help other teachers and families.

The Butterfly Teacher

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