By Sumini Siyambalapitiya

“Anti-racist education for kids is not an one-sided presentation, campaign or lecture—it is an ongoing dialogue. Listen to how children perceive the events and issues of the world around them”

This guide includes:

  • Diverse, inclusive, and intersectional book recommendations by age group
  • Tips for parents and educators to talk to children about race/anti-racism
  • Resources for further reading on specific topics
  • Key terms to build children’s (and adults) Racial Literacy
  • Recommended reading on the Criminal Justice System
  • Diverse, inclusive, and intersectional book recommendations by age group

As stated in the title, these recommendations are meant to be diverse, in- inclusive, and intersectional. Many of them center around the experiences and stories of Black and Brown individuals. It is so important for non-white children to see themselves represented and portrayed positively to see their lived reality normalized. It is equally important for white children to see people who don’t look like them as central characters in narratives. These books have been carefully selected to provide much-needed representation to BIPOC authors and readers and deal with a wide range of topics about race, social justice, and identity. Below is an extensive, although not a comprehensive, list of themes that the book recommendations cover:

  • Activism
  • Adoption
  • Black history
  • Colorism
  • Culture & music
  • Dialects and Black Vernacular En- glish
  • Gang culture
  • Gender roles & stereotyping
  • Historical and modern day successful Black figures
  • Immigration
  • Jim Crow laws and segregation
  • Mental health
  • Parental incarceration
  • Police Brutality
  • Prison industrial complex
  • Racial and Class privilege
  • Sexuality, the LGBT+ community and Black queer culture
  • Systemic racism in the US 18
  • The Black experience at predomi- nantly White institutions (PWIs)
  • The Great Migration
  • The Harlem Renaissance
  • Trauma and dealing with trauma

Key points to remember when talking to children about race

1. It is never too early.

Regardless of if the adults in their lives are speaking about race and racism around them, children as young as 3-6 months notice and respond differently to people based on race (Kelly et al., 2007) Once children are able to talk, these perceptions and ideas continue to develop based on the world around them. Remember, actions speak louder than words — children notice who their parents have as friends, who lives in their neighborhood, in the tv shows they watch, and what roles they play. Therefore it is im- important for adults, parents, and educators to not just talk to their children about diversity – but also seek out and support non-white authors, creators, educators, neighbors, etc.

2. Use the words white/ white privilege/ white supremacy/white power

It is important for white people to claim & identify as ‘white’ — by avoiding the word you inadvertently (or not) mask the privilege, power, and history associated with it. When you teach white kids about their whiteness, they are better able to understand systematic racism and identify racial inequity in the world around them. Tatum (2017) highlights that when white children learn about racism, they see their whiteness as a source of guilt, but a key aspect of this teaching is also to help white children understand the power and privilege they have to take action and speak up

3. Listen. And always respond

Anti-racist education for kids is not a one-sided presentation, campaign or lecture – it is an ongoing dialogue. Listen to how children perceive the events and issues of the world around them. In instances where they might be misinformed or make a racist comment – don’t shut them down or shame them – it doesn’t solve anything. Understand the basis of where their opinions might come from and provide them with accurate information. It is ok for parents/educators to not always have the answers to questions and communicate that to children as well.

4. Find balance

White parents/educators, never put the responsibility of teaching race, sharing personal experiences, etc. on BIPOC. But when you do seek it, always value and compensate their work. While for many communities of color, race conversations are critical for survival and persistence, it is equally important for everybody else to mobilize it as a tool of resistance.

5. Specifically, talk about colorism and anti-Blackness

The value of white skin as superior to black skin and the white=good, black=bad myth is deeply ingrained globally across white and non-white communities. Colorism (prejudice against individuals with darker skin tone, typically within the same racial/ethnic group) intersects with racism to place Blackness at the bot-
tom of the hierarchy. These ideas are so ingrained in media and popular culture that it is easy for children to internalize them – especially within communities of color. Doing so ultimately perpetuates white supremacy and in society, we see tangible discrimination against darker-skinned folks in terms of economic and social outcomes (Reece, 2020). Positively speak of Blackness, facets of Black identity (especially things like hair, dialect) with young children – also help them identify examples of anti-Blackness and colorism in their own communities.

6. Talk about Structural Racism

“Systemic racism is not that there are zero racists in the system, but that even if there were zero racist individuals the system would still disadvantage Black and Poc individuals” (anon.). This is an important message to get across to all children – it helps see the big picture and change the conversation to understand each of our place as influenced within a system of racial stratification. We can- not talk about structural racism without teaching accurate and comprehensive history — not just the white narrative. This video, Unequal Opportunity Race by Kimberle Crenshaw is quite an easy starting point to help kids understand the concept.

7. Positive Affirmation

It is important for BIPOC kids to receive positive affirmation as it affects children’s (both white and non-white) racial attitudes and also can replace feelings of isolation and self-blame for their experiences, and increase academic engagement and achievement (El-Amin and Seider, et al., 2017) .

8. Children have the power to take action

Important for parents and educators to provide models and examples of individuals of all races and ages taking action towards racial equity that they can emulate. Schools are a great space in which children can consider how resources, curriculum, policies, etc. are not inclusive. Engage in discussion with children on what needs to change and how they can change it. For example lack of books by BIPOC authors and characters in the school library, school rules regarding hairstyles, outdated curriculums that do not adequately represent the histories of non-white communities.

9. Actions speak louder than words

As mentioned earlier, actions speak louder than words. As a parent or educator, the actions you take on a daily basis are critical in enforcing/dismantling racist systems.

Booklists by Topic

Social Justice Books (https://so- is a comprehensive resource that includes recommendations for children, young adults, and educators in the United States, carefully curated by topic. There are over 60 different lists, some of them are:

  • Activism
  • Identity: eg. Afro-Latinx, Muslims – Economic class
  • Families
  • Immigration
  • Rethinking Schools
  • Bilingual titles

Key terms to build racial literacy Language is a powerful tool. Words have historical and context-specific meaning, and therefore no word is politically neutral. Intentional use of language and better racial literacy is critical to anti-racist efforts. It is equally so important to build this literacy starting at a young age.

Below are a few resources that list and define key terms — although they cover an extensive range of vocabulary, this should not be treated as exhaustive.

  • racial-literacy-key-terms
  • glossary#racism
  • http://www.racialequityresource-

A few terms included in the resources above are:

  • Ally
  • Anti-Black
  • Anti-Racism
  • Colorism
  • Cultural Appropriation – Discrimination
  • Dysconscious Racism
  • Ethnicity
  • Implicit Bias
  • Intersectionality
  • Microaggressions
  • Prejudice
  • Privilege
  • Racism
  • Racial Equity
  • Reparations
  • Restorative Justice
  • White Privilege

(See resource section for complete list of suggested sources)

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