While images of protestors appear on home televisions and across social media, parents and caregivers are seeking ways to help them hold children through this wave of racialized violence that is exacerbated by the tensions and vulnerabilities exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Books about race and equality are great tools to help spark conversations about social justice. UMOJA Magazine has compiled a list of book recommendations for those who want to live in a world where everyone’s voice matters and everyone’s life matters. But, understand that this cannot be achieved until society fully recognizes that Black lives matter.
By no means is this a full comprehensive list, but here are a few to get one started:
Freedom on the Menu:
The Greensboro Sit-Ins
There were signs all throughout town telling 8-year-old Connie where she could and could not go. But when Connie sees four young men take a stand for equal rights at a Woolworth’s lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, she realizes that things may soon change. This event sparks a movement throughout her town and region. This book by Carole Boston Weatherford, is recommended reading for ages 4 to 8.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry,
by Mildred D. Taylor
Cassie Logan and her family live in a town rife with racism and prejudice in the 1930s. During one turbulent year, Cassie struggles to understand why discrimination and injustice are a constant part of Black Americans’ lives. Cassie’s parents and community aim to help her better understand the world and how she can change it, making this an excellent title for talking with children about injustice and racism. Recommended for ages 4 to 6.
I Am Enough,
by Grace Byers
This beautifully illustrated book is a lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another. We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it. Recommended reading for ages 4 to 8.
A is for Activist,
by Innosanto Nagara
One of NPR’s Top 100 Book for Young Readers, the book, by author Innosanto Nagara, is written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. Recommended reading for ages 3 to 7.
by Kwame Alexander and Kadir Nelson
Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to Black life in this country. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. Recommended reading for ages 6 to 9.
by Breanna J. McDaniel and Shane W. Evans
When race conscious adults hear the phrase “hands up,” we likely also think of the words “don’t shoot,” chanted at so many Black Lives Matter rallies. Author Breanna McDaniel thinks of how “hands up” signals activism, but also many daily activities in a young Black girl’s life. The final scene of the book shows her declaring “hands up!” at a rally, where marchers hold their signs high, covered in slogans that remind us to raise our hands and voices for justice. Recommended for ages 4 to 7.
I, Too, Am America 2012,
by Langston Hughes
A celebration of Pullman porters is the focus of this picture-book edition of Langston Hughes’ classic poem. The collage spreads, blending oil paintings and cut paper, begin with an image of a speeding train before moving on to large portraits of African American porters serving white passengers aboard a luxury train. When the passengers leave, the porters gather left-behind items—newspapers, blues and jazz albums—and toss them from the train. Carried by the wind, the words and music fall into the hands of African Americans across the country. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.
Something Happened In Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice,
by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard
This engaging book was written by three child psychologists. It’s an excellent resource that helps caregivers talk to children about police shootings. The story follows two children, one white and one Black, who are in the same class at school. All the adults in town have been talking about a police shooting of a Black man. Kids have overheard their conversations, and have questions. Recommended for ages 6 to 10.
My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich,
by Ibi Zoboi
National Book Award-finalist Ibi Zoboi makes her middle-grade debut with a moving story of a girl finding her place in a world that’s changing at warp speed. Twelve-year-old Ebony-Grace Norfleet has lived with her beloved grandfather Jeremiah in Huntsville, Alabama ever since she was little. As one of the first Black engineers to integrate NASA, Jeremiah has nurtured Ebony-Grace’s love for all things outer space and science fiction. But in the summer of 1984, when trouble arises with Jeremiah, it’s decided she’ll spend a few weeks with her father in Harlem. Recommended reading for ages 10 to 13.
Daddy, There’s a Noise Outside
by Kenneth Braswell, Joe Dent, and Julie Anderson
This short graphic novel explores what protests are, and why people use them. When two children ask their father what the sounds they heard the night before were, he explains the community was protesting. Drawing on examples from Martin Luther King to the Million Man March, their parents explain that people in the neighborhood are protesting how their community is treated by the police. This is a good first book for talking about why and how groups like Black Lives Matter protest. Recommended for ages 5 – 9.
A Good Kind of Trouble
by Lisa Moore Ramée
Twelve-year-old Shayla is so different from her older sister Hana. Shay can’t stand to get in trouble (even thinking about it makes her hands itch), while Hana takes part in bold Black Lives Matter protests. As a new middle schooler, Shay has to deal with changing friendships and her first big crush. On top of that, she wrestles with how to respond to other kids who say she’s not “Black enough” and a teacher who expects her to speak for her entire race. Recommended for ages 10 to 14.
by Lupita Nyong’o and Vashti Harrison
Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything. Recommended for ages 4 to 8.