Talking to kids about race and racism
The systemic injustices and inequalities in our country are in high relief right now, impossible to ignore. We’ve been asking ourselves how we can be more empathetic and proactive both as a company and as individuals.
At the same time, we’ve been thinking about how to engage kids carefully and meaningfully in these conversations. No child is born hating others and children don’t see themselves as privileged or living within a system that is often unjust; bias and intolerance are learned over time but privilege is often invisible—especially to children. We believe that the key to creating a kind, inclusive, passionate society starts with empathy. Our question is how might we give children the tools and skills that they need to create and participate in a world that is kind and just.
This begins with open communication. Although conversations about race — with anyone, and perhaps especially with children — can be difficult, they are incredibly important in raising thoughtful children who will themselves fight for a better world. Below, we’ve put together a list of books that we hope will help encourage these kinds of conversations and speak to a variety of childhood experiences.
Something Happened in Our Town by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard
- Ages 4 - 8
- A story that follows two families (one black, one white) as they react to the police shooting of a black man in their community.
Not My Idea: A Book about Whiteness by Anastasia Higginbotham
- Ages 8 - 12
- A picture book about racism that invites white families to explore their privilege and to work to cultivate justice.
The Skin I’m in: A First Look at Racism by Pat Thomas
- Ages 4 - 7
- Written by a psychotherapist and counselor, this book encourages children to accept and be comfortable with differences in skin color between other children and themselves.
Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship by Charles Waters and Irene Latham
- Ages 8 - 12
- In this picture book, a white and black poet approach the topic of race through the exploration of different topics such as hair, family dinners, and hobbies.
The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage by Selina Alko
- Ages 4 - 8
- This picture book tells the story of the Lovings, an interracial couple fighting for their right to be together in the state of Virginia.
These books can serve as springboards to larger discussions that might at first feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable. Know that there are many resources out there to help you navigate these conversations including strategies for parents to work with children of different ages, tips on fielding tricky questions, and additional advice from experts.
You might also want to check out these websites that are dedicated to maintaining an ongoing family-friendly dialogue on race and racism, including The Conscious Kid, Raising Race Conscious Children, and Raising World Children. Another useful site, Little Justice Leaders, offers a monthly subscription service with a variety of conversation starters and activities to help make talking about social justice issues a bit easier.
We hope you find these resources helpful in getting these important conversations started. Like you, we at Tinybop are constantly learning and thinking about how to best support our children. If you have any resources to recommend, please let us know! You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.