When it comes to raising children who will fight against racial injustice across the world, it’s obvious that silence does not work. “Colourblindness” does not work. And putting off conversations about privilege and racism does not work.
Yet, talking to children about racism and police brutality is never easy. And many parents feel like they should head into those heavy conversations with a perfect script. Thankfully, as Dr Harold S Koplewicz, medical director and founding president of the Child Mind Institute, said in a Monday blog post on talking to kids about the current protests, questions are a good thing.
“Encourage questions — and don’t worry if you can’t answer them,” he wrote.
Then, seek out tools that can help you and your kiddo(s) grapple with systemic racism. Over the years, many children’s authors (and rappers!) have written books that can help spark conversations about racial justice, empathy and what it means to be actively anti-racist — and keep those necessary conversations happening again and again.
Here are 11 to consider.
1. “Our Home, Our Heartbeat”
Award-winning Indigenous Australian artist Briggs’ newly released children’s book is inspired by his celebrated 2015 song “The Children Came Back” featuring Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu and Deway. To tune was an homage-style follow up to Archie Roach’s 1990 song “They Took the Children Away”, written about Roach’s experience with one of the darkest periods in Australia’s history: the Stolen Generations. The government policies saw Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children forcibly removed from their families and institutionalised in order to assimilate Indigenous peoples to the “white community” in hopes First Nations would “die out” through a process of natural elimination.
Illustrated by Kate Moon & Rachael Sarra, the yarn highlights “past and present Indigenous legends, as well as emerging generations, and at its heart honours the oldest continuous culture on earth”. (Grab it here)
2. “A Is For Activist”
J is for justice! X is for Malcolm X! This super simple ABC board book is a perfect first step for families who want to start talking to their kiddos about activism and civil rights from a really early age. (Available here)
3. “Let The Children March”
This beautiful book (a Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner for illustration) tells the story of the 1960s Birmingham Children’s Crusade, when kids marched to protest Jim Crow laws. (Available here)
4. “Separate Is Never Equal”
This inspiring book tells the story of Sylvia Mendez, a child with Mexican and Puerto Rican roots, who helped bring about school segregation in California a decade before it was deemed unconstitutional at the national level. (Available here)
Academy-Award winning actor Lupita Nyong’o wrote this book about Sulwe, a girl with skin the color of midnight, which helps children grapple with colorism and question what society teaches them about beauty and value. (Available here)
6. “Malala’s Magic Pencil”
Malala Yousafzai’s first picture book tells the activist’s own story, inspiring young readers to push for change — without waiting for permission. (Available here)
7. “Kid Activists”
From Martin Luther King Jr. to Dolores Huerta, this book tells the stories of some of history’s great activists during their childhood and helps teach them that anyone can help stand up for justice. (Available here)
8. “Last Stop On Market Street”
There’s a reason why this beautiful, slice-of-life story has won so many accolades: Using a simple bus ride to drive the plot, it encourages kids (and parents) to both celebrate and talk openly about the diversity they see in the world around them. (Available here)
9. “Each Kindness”
This lovely book teaches children to value kindness and empathy. (Available here)
10. “Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness”
This book helps white families teach their children about racism, privilege and white supremacy so that kids understand what it means to be actively anti-racist. (Available here)
11. “The Hate U Give”
This heartbreaking bestseller for teenagers tells the story of a 16-year-old girl whose unarmed childhood best friend is shot and killed by a white police officer. It’s unflinching and necessary. (Available here)