When having discussions about race, racism and racial inequality with kids, it can be difficult for parents to find the proper words. But books can help point conversations in the right direction.
Advice From Our Experts

Books That Can Help Children Deal With Issues of Race and Equity

When having discussions about race, racism and racial inequality with kids, it can be difficult for parents to find the proper words. But books can help point conversations in the right direction.

“Books are a really great tool to be able to talk about issues, be it racial identity, how people interact with each other and how you can be kind, whether it’s someone new at school or someone who’s different because of their cultural, racial or ethnic background,” says CHLA Pediatrician and health services researcherAshaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP.

Literally Healing Program Manger Kyle Horne has curated a list of books to help parents start a conversation with children about race, racism, equality and more. Literally Healing is an innovative reading program that gifts families at CHLA more than 70,000 books annually. The program promotes literacy and helps children and families through therapeutic books and other literary resources.

“dhave used stories from the beginning of time to pass on values, morals and knowledge to the next generation,” says Horne. “When the topic is more difficult to know how to navigate, books provide a guide for instilling these important values for our children in ways that not only do so in child friendly language, but also provide an avenue for important conversations to naturally and safely develop,” says Horne. He notes that this is not a definitive list, but it is a great place to start.

Children’s Picture Books on Racism, Equity, Racial Injustice and Self-Love

(descriptions provided by publishers/Amazon)


  • A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara 
    “A is for Activist is an ABC board book 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.”
  • No! My First Book of Protest by Julie Merberg 
    “Little ones who love to say "No!" can chime in while they learn about iconic activists from Frederick Douglass and Alice Paul to Martin Luther King Jr. and Malala. Each spread introduces an iconic figure—such as Gloria Steinem or Cesar Chavez—along with a super simple summary of the actions they took to change the course of history.”
  • Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi 
    “Take your first steps with Antiracist Baby! Or rather, follow Antiracist Baby's nine easy steps for building a more equitable world. With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism.”
  • Get Up, Stand Up by Bob Marley and Cedella Marley 
    “A heartfelt and meaningful book that brings Bob Marley's music to life in a new way: As a young girl goes on with her day in school, she comes across several instances of teasing and intimidation. But with loving action and some help from her friends, she's able to make things right for herself and others.”

3-6 year olds

  • Happy hair by Mechal Renee Roe 
    “Happy Hair is a call and response picture book that promotes positive self-esteem and hair love to girls of all ages! Happy Hair covers different shades and hair types all while being fun and fashionable!”
  • Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe 
    “Boys and their cool, natural hair are celebrated in this bright, joyful read-together picture book that will have kids everywhere chanting the book's chorus: ‘I am born to be awesome!’”

School-age kids

  • The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander 
    “The Undefeated, a picture book poem, is a love letter to black life in the United States. 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.”
  • Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o 
    “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.”
  • I Am Enough by Grace Byers 
    “This is a gorgeous, 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.”
  • 130-1070119-1477321?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0525553363&pd_rd_r=3d9c24c7-1f74-4d9f-b5b2-075071da8902&pd_rd_w=fRY8e&pd_rd_wg=Fzhfm&pf_rd_p=d28ef93e-22cf-4527-b60a-90c984b5663d&pf_rd_r=JENAP8HM6G93HFKRNBHV&psc=1&refRID=JENAP8HM6G93HFKRNBHV" target="_blank">Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry 
    “Zuri's hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it's beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn in this ode to self-confidence and the love between fathers and daughters”
  • 130-1070119-1477321?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0525579648&pd_rd_r=57a669da-5923-428e-b1f6-5e32d6da8e57&pd_rd_w=A7mIy&pd_rd_wg=eMn40&pf_rd_p=4e3f7fc3-00c8-46a6-a4db-8457e6319578&pf_rd_r=0G69J12RA7ZTQBE2VNB3&psc=1&refRID=0G69J12RA7ZTQBE2VNB3" target="_blank">All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold 
    “A warm, welcoming picture book that celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms.”
  • 130-1070119-1477321?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0399246533&pd_rd_r=8e034ae6-16e7-4506-878c-faa4b5819b23&pd_rd_w=DEF4c&pd_rd_wg=baHwC&pf_rd_p=a07701e4-f565-442a-b97f-93ab23cbb7ef&pf_rd_r=6SZSVFT9CXBVC0Z6FXD3&psc=1&refRID=6SZSVFT9CXBVC0Z6FXD3" target="_blank">The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson 
    “There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.”
  • The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad 
    “With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It's the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it's her older sister Asiya's first day of hijab--a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.”
  • Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman 
    “Although a classmate says that she cannot play Peter Pan in the school play because she is black, Grace discovers that she can do anything she sets her mind to do.”
  • Ron’s Big Mission by Rose Blue 
    “Nine-year-old Ron loves going to the Lake City Public Library to look through all the books on airplanes and flight. Today, Ron is ready to take out books by himself. But in the segregated world of South Carolina in the 1950s, Ron's obtaining his own library card is not just a small rite of passage—it is a young man's first courageous mission. Here is an inspiring story, based on Ron McNair's life, of how a little boy, future scientist, and Challenger astronaut desegregated his library through peaceful resistance.”

Teen and young-adult books

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 
    “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.”
  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely 
    “Two teens—one black, one white—grapple with the repercussions of a single violent act that leaves their school, their community, and, ultimately, the country bitterly divided by racial tension.”
  • Dear Martin by Nic Stone 
    “Justyce McAllister is a good kid, an honor student, and always there to help a friend—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. Despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can't escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.”
  • Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A Remix of the National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi 
    “The construct of race has always been used to gain and keep power, to create dynamics that separate and silence. This remarkable reimagining of Dr. Ibram X. Kendi's National Book Award-winning Stamped from the Beginning reveals the history of racist ideas in America, and inspires hope for an antiracist future. It takes you on a race journey from then to now, shows you why we feel how we feel, and why the poison of racism lingers. It also proves that while racist ideas have always been easy to fabricate and distribute, they can also be discredited.”
  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo 
    “Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.”

“In addition to books on the topics like race, equity and racism, it is incredibly important to include stories where black, indigenous and people of color [BIPOC] children are shown in normal, everyday stories,” says Horne. He’s provided a small sample of books featuring children of different racial identities.

Children’s picture books with protagonists of color

Baby / Toddler

  • Whose Knees Are These by Jabari Asim 
    “A vibrant, playful verse that celebrates a beautiful brown baby's sweet little knees, for fans of Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes.”
  • Girl of Mine by Jabari Asim 
    “As daddy cradles his baby girl, she is suddenly whisked away on a fantastical adventure, swinging above lush floral gardens under the golden moonlight. The sweet text, inspired by "Rock-A-Bye Baby," will whisk little ones off to peaceful slumber.”
  • 130-1070119-1477321?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=158089836X&pd_rd_r=d2846fb8-027c-4227-b7a2-93895c390046&pd_rd_w=S6GSv&pd_rd_wg=uiLTF&pf_rd_p=4e3f7fc3-00c8-46a6-a4db-8457e6319578&pf_rd_r=8TCGS7BFARAWKJA20YN3&psc=1&refRID=8TCGS7BFARAWKJA20YN3" target="_blank">Baby Loves Gravity by Ruth Spiro 
    “Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this clever board book explores the ups and downs of gravity. When baby drops food from a high chair, why does it fall?”
  • Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering Ruth Spiro 
    “Accurate enough to satisfy an expert, yet simple enough for baby, this book explores the basics of flight – from birds, to planes and rockets – and ties it all to baby’s world.”
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats 
    “It reveals a child's wonder at a new snowy world, and the hope of capturing and keeping that wonder forever. According to Horn Book magazine, The Snowy Day was ‘the very first full-color picture book to feature a small black hero.’”
  • Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang 
    “’Ten small toes all washed and warm,’ begins the story, and then young readers journey toward tuck-in time, counting down along with the story’s African-American father and daughter.”

School-Age Kids

  • Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty 
    “Ada has always been endlessly curious. Even when her fact-finding missions and elaborate scientific experiments don’t go as planned, Ada learns the value of thinking her way through problems and continuing to stay curious.”
  • Boxitects by Kim Smith 
    “Meg is a brilliant and creative boxitect. She loves impressing her teacher and classmates with what she makes out of boxes. But there’s a new kid at Maker School: Simone. Simone is good at everything, and worst of all, she’s a boxitect too. They must find a way to join creative forces, lift each other up, and work together.”
  • 130-1070119-1477321?_encoding=UTF8&pd_rd_i=0763678384&pd_rd_r=b30285cd-f333-427b-9d4b-1727e58b71cf&pd_rd_w=BQqIH&pd_rd_wg=7byjJ&pf_rd_p=a07701e4-f565-442a-b97f-93ab23cbb7ef&pf_rd_r=VCEGTMT4JTM4QTHXZPV5&psc=1&refRID=VCEGTMT4JTM4QTHXZPV5" target="_blank">Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall 
    “Jabari has finished his swimming lessons and passed his swim test, and he’s a great jumper, so he’s not scared at all… Working up the courage to take a big, important leap is hard, but Jabari is almost absolutely ready to make a giant splash.”
  • Whoosh: Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton 
    “A love for rockets, robots, inventions, and a mind for creativity began early in Lonnie Johnson’s life. Growing up in a house full of brothers and sisters, persistence and a passion for problem solving became the cornerstone for a career as an engineer and his work with NASA. But it is his invention of the Super Soaker water gun that has made his most memorable splash with kids and adults.”