The Madison Reading Project’s best children’s books about racism for every age

MADISON, Wis.– Conversations about race and equality need to start early to be most effective. If you’re a parent looking for resources to help raise and teach your kids to be anti-racist, you might not know where to start. Books are a good place to begin.

As Atticus Finch says in To Kill A Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” The following books are recommended by the Madison Reading Project and can help kids of all ages gain a new perspective.

“The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz
This board book, best for kids between the ages of 1 and 4, is about a girl who is going to paint a picture of herself and wants to use brown paint for her skin. She quickly learns brown comes in so many different shades. This book explains that— using food, like French toast and honey, as well as things found in nature. The author never directly uses words like “racism” or “white privilege,” but her message is clear—people can’t be painted with the same brush.

“The Other Side” by Jacqueline Woodson
This picture book is great for kids 4 to 8. It’s told from the perspective of Clover, a young black girl, who lives by a fence that segregates her town. Her mom tells her to never cross it. But one day, she notices a girl on the other side who looks lonely. They start talking and since they can’t cross over the fence, they sit on it… together. This book allows parents a chance to talk about the imaginary fences still up in our world today and what kids can learn about being on either side.

“March” by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
This is a different kind of book because it’s part of a graphic novel trilogy, fit for kids 8 and up. Graphic novels are like  informative cartoons, so these books are ideal for kids who might not be big readers or want something a little different. The book is told through the perspective of civil rights leader-turned-US representative John Lewis and is based on real-life events.

Tips for all families: When you’re helping your son or daughter pick out a book, the Madison Reading Project encourages you to look for diversity and representation. That goes not only for the books kids are reading, but for the shows they’re watching and the toys they’re playing with.

The good news is that a lot of parents are already following this advice— ordering books about fighting racism. The bad news is that major online retailers are selling out as a result. But there are other options: Audible, Apple, Amazon, Google Play, Nook and Libby have digital copies of these books.