As allies in the fight to stamp out racism, white people have the clear responsibility to teach others what we can about respecting and uplifting black lives. And white parents have that responsibility twice over, as we must pass that message to our young children, teaching them to be allies and advocates in their own right. To get you started, here are few suggestions for finding effective anti-racist children’s books and other texts.
The 1619 Project
Begin at the beginning with the 1619 Project, portions of which are free (with a log-in) on nytimes.com. The essays themselves, contributed by important voices such as Nikole Hannah-Jones, Linda Villarosa, and Khalil Gibran Muhammad, are advanced journalism. But even if you can’t get your 5-year-old to sit through a reading, you can use the headlines as talking points. Or start with an extraordinary photo essay by photojournalist Dannielle Bowman documenting physical sites—some marked, some hidden in plain sight—where enslaved people were bought and sold.
Go where the librarians go. This online resource, created by a team of academics, is a collection of diverse picture books featuring Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC). And not only that, but it is created and updated with an intentional focus on nine key categories to ensure that the books included are accurate, respectful, and textured:
Any Child: “Books featuring BIPOC in which race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, culture, im/migration, and/or religious, sacred, or origin stories are not central to the story.”
Beautiful Life: A Focus on Identity: “Books featuring BIPOC in which race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, culture, im/migration, and/or religious, sacred, or origin stories are central to the story.”
Biography: “Narrative nonfiction books about the life of a particular person or group of people from a historical or contemporary perspective.”
Cross-Group: Relationships Across Difference: “Books portraying relationships between named characters across racial or cultural difference, including but not limited to those depicting peer group and cross-generational friendships.”
Folklore: “Books featuring tales, proverbs, songs, or legends/myths that transmit the values, knowledge, traditions, practices/rituals of a people.”
Incidental: Ensemble or Background Characters: “Books featuring a racially diverse cast of non-primary characters; or books featuring a white or animal main character(s) with BIPOC as secondary or background characters.”
Informational: Factual Content: “Narrative books, with or without a storyline, presenting factual information; may be encyclopedic. BIPOC are depicted but race/culture is not always central to the content.”
Oppression and Resilience: “Books about group-based injustice and struggles for justice.”
Race/Culture Concepts: Examining Difference and Commonalities: “Books that explore and/or compare specific aspects of human difference, inviting readers to consider varying perspectives related to race, ethnicity, culture, or tribal affiliation.”
Says Diverse Bookfinder: “Since our collection is comprehensive, as well as searchable, and accessible to anyone with a library card, you can use the Diverse BookFinder to build an intentional collection of picture books with a wide and balanced range of messages about BIPOC.”
Coretta Scott King Book Awards
Introduce your family to diverse voices by following the annual selections of this 51-year-old program, which recognizes outstanding African American authors and illustrators of children’s books “that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values.” The list of recipients from 1970 to 2020 is a handy place to start.