When is your young child ready to talk about race?
By Laurel Daly, Lower School Librarian
Are young children ready for conversations about race and racism? Research shows that by six months old, babies begin to notice differences in skin color, eye shape, and hair color/texture. By four years of age, children show signs of racial bias. Avoiding these topics can reinforce discomfort with talking about race and racism, while acknowledging the differences that children notice can help destigmatize these important conversations. Failing to talk to children about their observations means that influences from media, peers, and society will likely shape their ideas and biases.
Books that acknowledge and celebrate racial differences
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Illustrations and simple, rhyming text introduce a school where diversity is celebrated and songs, stories, and talents are shared.
Lovely by Jess Hong
Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores
Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin
A delightfully rhythmical read-aloud text is paired with bright, bustling art in this joyful exploration of the new skin of babyhood.
Be Who You Are by Todd Parr
Encourages kids to be proud of all that makes them unique, where they come from, and how they express themselves and see the world.
Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt
In a poetic, philosophical exchange, two children of different races ask themselves why they are who they are and speculate on how they could be different.
All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Got Our Skin Color by Katie Kissinger
Explains in simple terms the reasons for skin color, how it is determined by heredity, and how various environmental factors affect it.
Who We Are by Robie Harris
Teaches children about the many ways that people are the same as one another as well as the many ways that they are different, and why it is important to treat people right—regardless of whether they are different.
Books that address racism in an age-appropriate way
Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mendez
When a young girl is asked where she’s from—where she’s really from—she’s no longer as she was. She decides to turn to her dear “abuelo” for some help with this ever-persistent question. But he doesn’t quite give her the answer she expects.
A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory
Written to be an introduction for kids on the topic, this book provides a clear description of what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens.
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison
Research shows that talking about issues like race not only helps children understand what they see, but also increases self-awareness and self-esteem, and allows them to recognize and confront things that are unfair, such as discrimination and prejudice. This first book in a series begins the conversation on race by leveraging a supportive approach that considers both the child and the adult.
The Cycle Of a Dream: A Kid’s Introduction to Structural Racism in America by Kimberly Narain
Provides young children with a template to understand how racism functions on multiple levels to create advantages for some and disadvantages for others.
Where to find books that embrace diversity:
Talking to kids about race:
Children Notice Race Several Years Before Adults Want to Talk About It (The American Psychological Association)
Talking Race With Young Children (NPR’s Life Kit)
Talking to Very Young Children About Race (Challenging Behavior)