Today I wanted to provide some resources to help you read and talk with young children
about the impassioned dialogue, massive protests, and frightening scenes spreading across the United States and around the world
due to the egregious death of George Floyd
and far, far too many others before him.
I’m guessing that many of you, in addition to the immediate need to explain and soothe,
are also becoming more aware of the lack of racial diversity and awareness in the stories you share with your kids,
just as we all recognize the dearth in our own understanding.
You’d like to do better, and don’t know where to begin.
I am not in the least any sort of expert,
but the books I’m recommending are written by those who are in a position to teach us.
One thing I would note:
The emotions we adults are experiencing as we grapple with the immensity of the injustice, rage, violence to Black bodies and to our communities, deep pain, and monumental changes needed, are acid strong right now.
That does not mean you need to immediately flood your young children with an intensive education in racial issues and Black history.
Children need real answers to what is happening now commensurate with their age, capacity, experience.
They need reassurance that love, truth, peace, and justice are the good solutions to this pain.
But they need you to shoulder the bulk of the burden
while continuing to provide them with joy, safety, hope, and love.
Your reading in these days should include copious stories that are happy, silly, comforting. This is not inappropriate.
Along with that, you can make a commitment to steadily introduce diversity and deeper understanding going forward. The only way these powerful protests are going to lead to lasting change
is if we continue learning, listening, growing, advocating, voting, and showing up in the days, weeks, months, years ahead, so take a deep breath and be judicious about the inputs your children are receiving.
One beautiful component of the protests here in Minneapolis
has been the coming alongside the Black community by other communities of color. Hmong, Latinx, Somali, Ojibwe people, each with their own painful stories of racism, have turned out in force, in support, in love.
It has been a rich gift to be in their presence and witness this. The struggle for racial equality is a broad and deep one impacting all of these groups and more.
However, today I have chosen to limit my selections to focus on Black identity.
You can find books about many other cultures, ethnicities, races, various faiths, refugee populations, on my lists via the Subject tab at the top of the blog.
I’m also focusing mostly today on ages 10 and under.
I’ll be working towards a book list for middle grade through adult in the weeks to come.
Picture books specifically addressing racial injustice:
Something Happened In Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice
written by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard,
illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
published in 2018 by Magination Press
This book is backordered on both bookshop.org and Amazon right now. It may be available through your libraries. Otherwise, get in line! It is an excellent resource. The story follows two families’ responses to a police shooting. For children ages approximately 5-8.
Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness
written and illustrated by Anastasia Higginbotham
published in 2018 by Dottir Press
A straight-talking picture book referencing a police shooting and one young girl’s determination to find out what has happened, particularly the foundational issues of racial injustice, while her mother tries to shield her from the facts. Excellent for ages 9 and up. Dottir Press is offering pdf files of this book during this time of protest, which is a great gift to us all.
In Your Hands,
written by Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Brian Pinkney
published in 2017 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster
This poignant poem is gut-wrenchingly appropriate for this moment when we honor the memory of George Floyd, a man who called out “Mama!” with his dying breaths.
It reveals the tender heart of a black mother as she reflects on her newborn son, the love, dreams, and prayers she harbors in her heart for him.
In the beginning, her sentiments are common to every mother. But as she traces his steady growth, Weatherford’s gentle words take on a much fuller and tragic undertone. With grace and understatement, this mother reckons with the prejudice, suspicions, injustices, and unique dangers her grown son will face, praying for courage, for God’s protection, for society’s fair judgement. Incredibly moving, accompanied by Pinkney’s gorgeous artwork, each cameo embraced in a caressing swirl, enfolded in God’s hands.
This picture book is a brilliant choice for adults.
Picture books lifting up racial diversity:
(click on any title to read my original review)
Picture books celebrating Black American identity:
Over a hundred titles for all ages about Black History and Civil Rights shared on my blog through the years are listed here.
A sampling of picture books shining a light on good will, compassion, community, and care for those who are hurting:
Alfie Gives a Hand
All of Us
All the World
Alma and the Beast
Because Amelia Smiled
Boxes for Katje
Can We Help?
A Chair for My Mother
Ernestine’s Milky Way
A Hat for Mrs. Goldman
It Takes a Village
Last Stop on Market Street
Love the World
My Heart Will Not Sit Down
Pie is for Sharing
The Thanksgiving Door
Wolf in the Snow
A Year of Borrowed Men
You Hold Me Up
A helpful book about trauma for children:
Picture books featuring Black American children in ordinary stories.
These titles are prime ways to infuse diversity into your reading.
Note that many stories featuring Black children, set in Caribbean or African nations, are available on lists via my Subject tab.
The Airport Book
Alfie: The Turtle that Disappeared
The Baby on the Way
Billy and Belle
Cherries and Cherry Pits
The Day You Begin
Eat Up Gemma
Emma and Julia Love Ballet
The Girl with the Parrot on Her Head
Happy Christmas, Gemma
Happy Like Soccer
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Home is a Window
The Honest-to-Goodness Truth
How to Two
Last Stop on Market Street
Lola Reads to Leo
Lullaby for a Black Mother
More, More, More, said the Baby
The New Small Person
One Word from Sophia
Oscar’s Half Birthday
Peeny Butter Fudge
The Snowy Day
Finally, here are links to a few websites specializing in diverse children’s books:
The Brown Bookshelf — “designed to push awareness of the myriad Black voices writing for young readers.”
Reading While White — “working for racial diversity and inclusion in books for children and teens”
1000 Black Girl Books — a resource guide from the Grassroots Community Foundation
Books and Bros — “empowering boys, promoting literacy, and bringing awareness to African American literature”
Diverse Book Finder — a tool to identify and explore multicultural picture books
Everyday Diversity — a tool for finding books not about race, but featuring racially diverse main characters
We Need Diverse Books — buckets of links to more sites offering diverse reading suggestions
“I Don’t Think of You as Black” — an excellent article revealing the impact of this language
“What White Children Need to Know About Race” — an article from the National Association of Independent Schools