The best books for kids (and parents) on anti-racism

Sara Blanchard and Misasha Suzuki Graham Author Of Dear White Women: Let's Get (Un)Comfortable Talking about Racism
By Sara Blanchard and Misasha Suzuki Graham

Who am I?

We are two biracial (Japanese and White) mothers with very mixed-race children, who believe that when we learn about our nation’s history and look more deeply at our personal experiences with race and identity, we gain the power to effect personal and systemic change. Some of that starts with the books that we read to, and with, our kids. We discuss these topics and more on our weekly award-winning podcast, Dear White Women. We hope that you love the books on this list as much as we do!

I wrote...

Dear White Women: Let's Get (Un)Comfortable Talking about Racism

By Sara Blanchard, Misasha Suzuki Graham,

Book cover of Dear White Women: Let's Get (Un)Comfortable Talking about Racism

What is my book about?

From the creators of the award-winning podcast Dear White Women, this book breaks down the psychology and barriers to meaningful race discussions for White people, contextualizing racism throughout American history in short, targeted chapters. Sara Blanchard and Misasha Suzuki Graham bring their insights to the page with concrete tips for addressing discrimination and microaggressions at home, in social groups, and elsewhere.

A 2021 Edelweiss Bookfest Editors’ Pick, Dear White Women challenges readers to encounter the hard questions about race (and racism) in order to push the needle of change in a positive direction. Blanchard and Suzuki Graham present contemporary advice rooted in cultural and historical insight, outlining the answers to questions so many of us have trouble answering ourselves.

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The books we picked & why

So Much!

By Trish Cooke, Helen Oxenbury (illustrator),

Book cover of So Much!

Why did I love this book?

This is a book meant for young readers – but in our family, this is a book that we’ve read for years, even though the kids are now reading on their own. Fundamentally, this book is about a party that the extended family is throwing for the father – but the book, told in a repetitive, song-like style, pulls you into the family’s growing excitement as the family members arrive, each with their own special relationship to the baby of the family, and wait for Daddy to come home. This book was not only important to Misasha’s family to have her boys see kids, and families, that looked like their own, but also is important for kids of all color to see Black families and Black kids doing normal everyday things, and having human relationships where they play together, fight together, and most importantly, love together. Through this book we can see the ties of humanity that link us all – and that’s why this is a book for the whole family, regardless of age.

By Trish Cooke, Helen Oxenbury (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked So Much! as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A special 25th anniversary edition of a modern classic, this is a tender, exuberant celebration of modern family life.

Mum and baby are home alone when - DING DONG! - Auntie and then Uncle and Nannie and Gran-Gran and the cousins come to visit. And they all want to hug and kiss and squeeze and eat the baby right up ... because everybody loves the baby SO MUCH!

A special 25th anniversary edition of a multiple award-winning story, So Much is a celebration of family life. Helen Oxenbury's characteristically warm, funny illustrations, paired with Trish Cooke's rhythmic, cumulative story capture…

The Day You Begin

By Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (illustrator),

Book cover of The Day You Begin

Why did I love this book?

We’ve all been that kid at school – the one who doesn’t quite fit in, the one who didn’t have the same summer vacation as the rest of the class, the one who’s eating something that the kids say “smells funny.” But how do you react when kids are being made to feel different because of fundamental characteristics – race, ethnicity, immigration status, socioeconomic levels, and how do you teach your kids to react? This book is beautifully told and illustrated, and each page provides another opportunity to have open conversations about difference, being upstanders, and true diversity and inclusion. In workshops that we’ve done, both parents and kids have taken lessons away from this book – indeed, it’s truly “the day you begin” to think about others through a more informed, empathetic lens.

By Jacqueline Woodson, Rafael López (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

7 authors picked The Day You Begin as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.

There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical text and Rafael Lopez's dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when…

The Undefeated

By Kwame Alexander, Kadir Nelson (illustrator),

Book cover of The Undefeated

Why did I love this book?

It’s a poetry picture book, but it works for basically any school-aged child - even high school - because of how the author writes about Black life, struggles, and triumphs over time. Every time we read this book as a family, we learn something new - either about a point in time in history, about an important person, or about how we can think about our world and our communities differently. Plus, we love the author Kwame Alexander!

By Kwame Alexander, Kadir Nelson (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked The Undefeated as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Originally performed for ESPN's The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world's greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.

Book cover of Thinking Like a Lawyer: A Framework for Teaching Critical Thinking to All Students

Why did I love this book?

At first glance, you might not see why we think it’s a book for parents that addresses anti-racism. But digging deeper, you’ll see that one of the things we advocate for is developing the skills for introspection - to ask ourselves the tough questions, to challenge our own beliefs and assumptions, and think critically about the information that constantly surrounds us. Those skills are a fundamental part of our own anti-racism practices. Unfortunately, critical thinking is not a skill that’s been well taught, or evenly taught, throughout the schools in our country - so it’s important for each of us to help ourselves, and our children, learn this most foundational skill to succeed in the 21st century.

By Colin Seale,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Thinking Like a Lawyer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Critical thinking is the essential tool for ensuring that students fulfill their promise. But, in reality, critical thinking is still a luxury good, and students with the greatest potential are too often challenged the least. Thinking Like a Lawyer:

Introduces a powerful but practical framework to close the critical thinking gap. Gives teachers the tools and knowledge to teach critical thinking to all students. Helps students adopt the skills, habits, and mindsets of lawyers. Empowers students to tackle 21st-century problems. Teaches students how to compete in a rapidly changing global marketplace.

Colin Seale, a teacher-turned-attorney-turned-education-innovator and founder of thinkLaw, uses…

Book cover of The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together

Why did I love this book?

While this isn’t a light read, this is an excellent book for those who want to be better informed in order to have conversations with people who don’t quite get why racism is so bad for us as a country - including how it is bad for White people. The economist author opens with a really tangible example of community pools, which in some cities - in the face of integration to allow Black and White neighbors to swim together - were closed down and paved over so that no one could swim. This act of racism left entire communities without a central place for coming together and reduced the quality of life for everybody in town. This book is for those who are looking to more deeply understand how racism hurts not only those with Black or Brown skin, but has also hurt White people, and our entire country, as well.

By Heather McGhee,

Why should I read it?

6 authors picked The Sum of Us as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • LONGLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD • One of today’s most insightful and influential thinkers offers a powerful exploration of inequality and the lesson that generations of Americans have failed to learn: Racism has a cost for everyone—not just for people of color.

WINNER OF THE PORCHLIGHT BUSINESS BOOK AWARD • ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR: Time, The Washington Post, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ms. magazine, BookRiot, Library Journal

“This is the book I’ve been waiting for.”—Ibram X. Kendi, #1 New York Times bestselling author of How to Be an Antiracist

Look for…

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in immigrants, African Americans, and race relations?

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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Braiding Sweetgrass, I Am Peace, and Biased if you like this list.