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Books for teaching kids about race and racism

By Kobo • January 31, 2021Big Ideas

Race and racism are complex, difficult, and often uncomfortable topics to talk about. And trying to explain these concepts to kids is one of the toughest jobs a parent can take on.

Where do you start? How much do you tell? How do you protect kids from things they can’t handle, but also present facts without sugar-coating? In this list of popular and approachable eBooks you’ll find a mix of fiction and non-fiction, ranging from kid-friendly biographies of historical figures to page-turning novels featuring characters with relatable attitudes and experiences concerning race.

Dear Canada: These Are My Words by Ruby Slipperjack

In this novel, young readers glimpse into what residential schools were like for the Indigenous children forced to attend them, far from their parents and elders.

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Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Jerome is shot by a police officer who mistakes his toy gun for a real threat. As a ghost, he observes the devastation that's been unleashed on his family and community in the wake of what they see as an unjust and brutal killing. Jerome meets the ghost of Emmet Till, another Black boy brutally and senselessly murdered, and he begins to see his own death in a historical context.

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Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

Co-written by Ibram X. Kendi, author of How to be An Antiracist, this book for young readers provides a framework for understanding where racist ideas came from, how they persist, and how individuals can work against perpetuating them.

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Hidden Figures Young Readers' Edition by Margot Lee Shetterly

There’s plenty for young readers to learn from Margot Lee Shetterly’s adaptation of her bestselling book about the Black women math whizzes whose work was instrumental in putting men on the moon -- while they were made to feel unwelcome at work.

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Who Was Martin Luther King, Jr.? by Bonnie Bader

Young readers will learn who the Civil Rights icon was, the full spectrum of causes he fought for, and they’ll learn in terms kids can understand why he was assassinated.

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New Kid by Jerry Craft

In this graphic novel seventh-grader Jordan Banks switches to a predominantly white school, making him one of a very small number of students of colour. It’s a story about not fitting in and developing a sense of one’s self as a young person, in spite of the assumptions of others.

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Hana's Suitcase by Karen Levine

This is a true detective story of a museum curator tracking down the origins of a suitcase on display at her Holocaust education centre. Readers learn about Hana, the suitcase’s owner, and what she went through as a Czechoslovakian-Jewish girl whose village was invaded by Nazi Germany.

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Just Mercy (Adapted for Young Adults) by Bryan Stevenson

Adapted for young readers, this is an idealistic young lawyer’s first-hand account of fighting on behalf of the wrongly-convicted. Readers will learn the basics of criminal justice, including how the law can be used to unfairly punish some, but not others.

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Photo by jean wimmerlin on Unsplash

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