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Anti-racist Read Alouds

As a parent of two white children (both under two) living in a predominantly white community, I am committed to helping my kids understand their unearned power and privilege and helping them address and attack racism. I am also committed to helping my kids develop anti-racist values and tools as well asknowledge to move through the world as anti-racists. These commitments were initially overwhelming, and I felt paralyzed with where to start.

I realized that one way I could help my kids address racism in their lives was through exposure to literature and conversation that celebrates diversity and addresses race. I’m constantly searching for age-appropriate picture books that promote diversity, value equity, celebrate Black and brown children, and discuss power systems and oppression. I’ve also done my best to not shy away from conversations around race by incorporating open-ended discussion questions as we are reading together. Here are just a few of the books I’ve found through conversations with other parents, recommendations from my colleagues, and research.

Picture Books for Children Ages 4-9

Cover of the book All Because You Matter by Tami Charles

Title: All Because You Matter

Author: Tami Charles

Illustrator by: Bryan Collier

Themes: Validates identities of Black and brown children

Cover for the book I Am Enough by Grace Byers

Title: I Am Enough

Author: Grace Byers

Illustrator: Keturah A. Bobo

Themes: Validates identities of Black and brown children and kindness

Cover for the book Beautiful Beautiful Me by Ashley Sirah Hinton

Title: Beautiful Beautiful Me

Author: Ashley Sirah Hinton

Illustrator: Vanessa Brantley

Themes: Individuality and diversity

Cover for the book Princess Truly in I Am Truly by Kelly Greenawalt

Title: Princess Truly in I Am Truly

Author: Kelly Greenawalt

Illustrator: Amariah Rauscher

Themes: Individuality and diversity

Cover for the book Not My Idea by Anastasia Higginbotham

Title: Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness

Author & Illustrator: Anastasia Higginbotham

Themes: Power and privilege

Cover for the book If Kids Ran the World by Leo and Diane Dillon

Title: If Kids Ran the World

Authors & Illustrators: Leo & Diane Dillon

Themes: Kindness and diversity

Cover for the book For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World by Michael W. Waters

Title: For Beautiful Black Boys Who Believe in a Better World

Author: Michael W. Waters

Illustrator: Keisha Morris

Themes: Racism and responding to racism

Picture Books for Infants and Toddlers

Cover for the book Antiracist Baby by Ibram Kendi

Title: Antiracist Baby

Author: Ibram Kendi

Illustrator: Ashley Lukashevsky

Themes: Anti-racism

Cover for the book The Family Book by Todd Parr

Title: The Family Book

Author & Illustrator: Todd Parr

Themes: Kindness and diversity

Cover for the book A is For Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Title: A is for Activist

Author & Illustrator: Innosanto Nagara

Themes: Activism

Exposure by reading is the first step. The books listed above (and the School Library Journal has even more recs if you need them) can be effective at exposing children to important themes and diverse perspectives. But the crucial second step is facilitating discussion around what you are reading. Here are a few sample questions to get you started.

  1. What do you notice about the illustrations? How are they different from those in some of the other books that we look at?
  2. Why is understanding others important?
  3. Why might the world be unfair?
  4. Why do race and color matter?
  5. How would you make things better?
  6. What are ways you would help make the world more equitable?
  7. What are ways that you can make others feel and know that they belong and are valued and important?
  8. How do you and your family define racism?
  9. Do you feel brave enough to address racism if you see it in public?

I know that I’m not perfect, that I have a lot to learn when it comes to my growth as being an anti-racist parent. I also know that read alouds and discussion don’t solve racism, but they are a few steps parents can add to their anti-racist parenting tool kit to tackle racism.

Do you have any go-to read alouds and books that you use to read at home or in your class? Let us know.

This post was written by Heidi Towne, Associate and Operations Specialist at CT3 as part of CT3 CARES Month 2021. To learn more about the Community Against Racist Education in Schools (CARES), please contact us or join the CARES LinkedIn group.

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