13 Books to Help You Explain Racism to Kids

One step to teaching kids about race is to introduce other cultures into the media you present: books, movies and music. Another way is for kids to read and understand racism directly. These books are age appropriate for readers of all ages and levels to understand racism and tolerance. We’ve also recommended Chicago-area black-owned and independent stores to find the books.


The Colors of Us, by Karen Katz

Best for ages: Birth-4

This board book explains all the different colors of people describing those colors using food (French toast and honey, for example). While racism as a broad term isn’t discussed, it reminds kids that people can’t be painted using the same brush.

Order at Women & Children First Bookstore.

Antiracist Baby, by Ibram X. Kendi

Best for ages: Birth-4

With nine simple steps, parents can start their kids on a path toward being anti-racist. From seeing and accepting all colors to admitting when we do or say something that is racist, babies and parents can follow a list toward antiracism.

Order at Semicolon Bookstore.

Let’s Talk About Race, by Julius Lester

Best for ages: 2-5

Good for all ages, the book explains that every person has a story to his or her life (birthday, favorite color, favorite time of day, how many brothers and sisters) and explains that race is part of that story. It reminds kids that race isn’t all that we are, but only one part of the story.

Order at Semicolon Bookstore.

The Other Side, by Jacqueline Woodson

Best for ages: 4-8

A fence separates two homes in a town in the 1960s. Told from the perspective of a young black girl, she meets a young white girl her same age and is first told not to talk to her or stare at her in town. The two slowly become friends and learn about inclusion. This book allows parents a chance to discuss the imagery of the fence and what kids can learn about being on either side.

Order at Semicolon Bookstore.

Early Readers

A Kid’s Book About Racism, by Jelani Memory

Best for ages: 5-8

Using words and descriptions that kids will understand, the book teaches younger readers about what racism is and how it makes others feel. It’s a good reminder for kids to stand up when they see others being hurt by words or actions.

Preorder from Kido.

Something Happened in Our Town, A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice, by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins & Ann Hazzard

Best for ages: 5-10

Written in 2018, families of different color talk about a police shooting and white and black history in America. With kids in mind, the different discussions in each family explain fear and understanding. After talking with their families, kids work harder for inclusion and break bad patterns.

Order from Semicolon Bookstore

The Day You Begin, by Jacqueline Woodson

Best for ages: 5-8

Children return to school and listen to the stories of what each one did over the summer. Meeting new classmates means not only opening eyes to new experiences, but also remembering that her own experiences don’t diminish her is what the narrator teaches the reader.

Order from Women & Children First Bookstore.

Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness, by Anastasia Higginbotham

Best for ages: 6-10

Addressing a police shooting and written in 2018, the book supposes a real-time situation of protests, marchers and how families of different colors react. The children in the book can hear and see the TV news, and ask their families with different responses.

Order from Women & Children First Bookstore.

Teens & Tweens

This Book is Anti-Racist, by Tiffany Jewell

Best for ages: 10-18

Twenty chapters provide 20 lessons for teens and tweens to understand how to not only not be racist, but to identify and stand up for racism when they see it.

Order from The Book Stall.

Stamped, by Jason Reynolds and Ibrihim X. Kendi

Best for ages: 10-14

This “remix” of Stamped from the Beginning is written for tweens and teens to understand how the history of racist ideas shapes today’s culture.

Order from Semicolon Bookstore.

March, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell

Best for ages: 12-18

Congressman John Lewis lent his personal history to this graphic novel series that takes the reader through the Civil Rights Movement in three books.

Order from Women & Children First Bookstore.

A Few Red Drops: Chicago Race Riots of 1919, by Claire Hartfield

Best for ages: 10-15

The history of the Chicago Race Riots interweaves how and why the riots happened with examples that kids can understand.

Order from Semicolon Bookstore.

Black Enough, edited by Ibi Zoboi

Best for ages: 10-18

Seventeen contributors added stories from their lives to tell the story of being young and black in America.

Order from The Book Stall.

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