Updated: June 14, 2023
By Ocean Noah, contributing writer
Juneteenth commemorates the end of slavery in the United States after the Civil War. And as we celebrate this day every year on June 19th, this marks a great time to teach your children about racism and diversity, too.
With so much history surrounding the topic of racism and diversity, your first instinct may be to get some history books. Yet, these can be boring for kids. Plus, there are so many cultures in this country and so much discrimination….where do you even start?
Luckily, Pretzel Kids yoga is here to help. We’ve compiled a well-rounded list of books for kids and teens on racism and diversity. Here are our top 10 books on racism and diversity for kids and teens.
Books (for ages four to 12)
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
This board book is great for progressive parents to introduce their little ones to the values and beliefs activists fight for with rhythmic rhymes, engaging pictures, and alliteration.
I am Enough by Grace Byers
This is an empowering illustrated book about how we are all more than enough – we just need to believe it. It’s great for self-esteem and learning to be kind to others.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
A young boy in the city experiences a snowy day with curiosity, joy, and wonder. According to Horn Book magazine, The Snowy Day was “the very first full-color picture book to feature a small black hero.”
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
You might have seen the short film which inspired this book in theaters, or heard that it won an Oscar! The story follows a father learning how to style his daughter’s hair that makes her feel confident and happy. It’s all about self-acceptance and love between a father and his daughter.
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester
This book is perfect for sharing living room discussions with your kids. The author of the Newbery Honor Book To Be a Slave shares his own experiences and guides young readers in exploring what makes every person special.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
It’s tough to be the new kid in school, and even worse for little Unhei (Yoon-hey), as no one can pronounce her name. Instead of telling her classmates her Korean name, she tells them she will have a new name in a week. They provide her with a jar full of new names like Susan. Unhei learns the beauty and significance of her given name and helps everyone pronounce it with pride!
The lesson here is the importance of honoring heritages other than our own. We shouldn’t want other people to change who they are to become what we are familiar with. Unfortunately, this is still something many refuse to learn. Let’s help our kids change that with books like this one!
Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqui
It’s Lailah’s first Ramadan where she’s old enough to fast, but she’s thousands of miles from her old home. Will her classmates understand why she’s not joining them in the lunchroom for the month?
This book helps to expose children to heritages that may differ from their own. Plus, it’s great to have a basic understanding of this major holiday for Muslims at such a young age.
Little Leaders: Bold Black Women in History by Vashti Harrison
Readers of all ages can learn about famous and not so famous Black female trailblazers. You’ll see informational bios and beautiful illustrations of women who changed the world with their actions and beliefs. This book will expose your child to intersectional feminism at a young age. If you already have books about women in your library, but it doesn’t include Black women, this would be a perfect addition!
Books for Kids 12+
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
This YA novel is about a young girl who balances her life between the preppy suburban school she attends and the poor neighborhood she lives in. Those worlds collide when she witnesses the shooting of her childhood best friend. What she says or doesn’t say about it will change her life and affect her community greatly. This is a great novel for understanding the Black Lives Movement on a deeper level.
Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix by Jason Reynolds
This is a YA non-fiction book to educate young readers about racism – not in the context of history – but in the context of what is happening right now. This will encourage early critical thinking and analytical skills.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi (board book and picture book editions)
This new book for the youngest children was a #1 New York Times Bestseller.
Author Ibram Kendi is the award-winning author of Stamped from the Beginning and How to Be an Antiracist. This new book is designed to empower parents and children to uproot racism in our society and in themselves. It also comes with added discussion prompts to help readers recognize and reflect on bias in their daily lives.
Take your first steps with Antiracist Baby! Or rather, follow Antiracist Baby‘s nine easy steps for building a more equitable world.
Books for Kids and Teens on Racism
Education is Liberation
The books you curate for your child can make a big difference in what they learn and how they view the world around them. We hope you’ll refer to this list to pick books that will help inform your kids about racism and diversity, all while celebrating Juneteenth. Remember: Books like these help teach kids about tolerance and acceptance, while helping them develop critical thinking skills. And, while you’re considering these new books, check out these black-owned bookstores. Happy reading!
Originally from Los Angeles, Ocean Noah moved to San Francisco to study creative writing at San Francisco State University. She writes fiction, blog posts, and op-eds. Ocean is thrilled to write for Pretzel Kids, as her mother is a yogi too!