Talking to kids about race

Talking to kids about race can be a hard for some families.  Here are some resources and tips to guide and support you.  Reading books with your child is a great way to start the conversation about race, injustice, tolerance and diversity.  Building our own self-awareness, knowledge, understanding the perspective of Blacks in the US, being curious and open to learning is crucial reducing our own biases, prejudices and racist behavior. Ignoring racism and injustice in the US and avoiding conversations with children about race will not solve the problems that our country is facing.

Kids have the capacity to notice race from a very early age—infants will stare longer at faces of people from races they are unfamiliar with, which tells us they notice difference. Yet difference is a long shot from racism. An awareness of stereotypes and racism doesn't begin to happen until about age 6 (McKown and Weinstein, 2003).

Reading and Media Resources by age group

Elementary level

Books on racism, police violence, fight for civil rights and protests

  • Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside by Kenneth Braswell (Ages 6+)
  • Something Happened in our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano Phd (Ages 4-8). This book contains a resource guide for both black families, white families, and teachers conversation starters and ideas on how to talk to kids about race.

YouTube videos

  • The Stone Thrower by Joel Ealey Richardson (Ages 4-9)
  • The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles (Ages 3+)
  • Rosa by Nikki Giovanni (Age 8-10)
  • Child of the Civil Rights Movement by Paula Young Shelton (Ages 4-8)

Introducing the Concept of Racism with young children

These books can lead to conversations with children on the topic of race and injustice:

  • Separate is never equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh (Ages 6-9)
  • Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner (Ages 5-9)
  • Lets’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester (Ages 4-8)
  • The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson (Ages 5-8)
  • I am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer (Ages 4-7)

Bullying, grief, and diversity

Suggested reading book with diverse characters:

  • The Courageous Adventures of the Konscious Kidz by John Casselberry and Madeline Connor (Ages 6-11)
  • All the Colors We Are by Katie Kissinger (Ages 3+)
  • What’s the Difference? Being Different is Amazing by Doyin Ridchards, Feiwel and Friends (Ages 2-10)

Videos and read-a-loud books for elementary students

Social Justice Through Craft and Conversations (Ages 3-10)

Secondary Level

Book recommendations for young adults (Grades 5-12)

  • The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds
  • Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
  • Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
  • On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Table Talk: Conversation Starters for Families on George Floyd, Racism and Law Enforcement (Ages 11+)

High School Students and Adults

Books to read to learn about racism in the United States

  • How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi
  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide by Carol Anderson, Ph.D.
  • White Fragility: Why It's So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
  • Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America by Michael Eric Dyson
  • Black Stats: African Americans by the Numbers in the Twenty-first Century by Monique W. Morris
  • The Invention of the White Race by Theodore W. Allen
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Parents or Caregivers

Documentaries, TV series or Movies to broaden the viewer’s perspective of race in the United States

Please note the rating of the videos, as some can be graphic.

  • Just Mercy – Free to rent from Warner Bros
  • 13th – Netflix
  • Fruitvale Station
  • When They See Us: A story of the Exonerated Five (formerly known as the Central Park Five)
  • Dear White People
  • Malcolm X
  • 12 Years a Slave
  • Do the Right Thing

Podcasts

Additional reading materials

Tips for Parents on Talking to Kids about Race

Resources from Teaching Tolerance

Websites that address race and privilege at all age levels