7 Children’s Books that Talk About Race

It can be difficult to talk to children about tough topics. From bullying and prejudice, to discrimination and racism, children’s books have helped to facilitate these difficult conversations in an accessible and meaningful way. Below we’ve compiled  seven of our many books that will help children come away with a better understanding of these complex issues and the world around them.

Don’t forget to round out your collection with our list of 10 diverse picture books that are not about oppression!

Shining Star

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story
By Paula Yoo, illus. by Lin Wang

The true story of Chinese American film star Anna May Wong, whose trail-blazing career in Hollywood in the 1930s and 1940s broke new ground for future generations of Asian American actors.

Tiny Stitches

Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Vivien Thomas
By Gwendolyn Hudson Hooks, illus. by Colin Bootman

The life story of Vivien Thomas, an African American surgical technician who developed the first procedure used to perform open-heart surgery on children. Overcoming racism and resistance from his colleagues, Vivien ushered in a new era of medicine—children’s heart surgery.

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone
By Kathryn Russell-Brown, illus. by Frank Morrison

A biography of African American jazz virtuoso Melba Doretta Liston, a pioneering twentieth-century trombone player, composer, and music arranger at a time when few women, of any race, played brass instruments and were part of the jazz scene.

Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina
By Monica Brown, illus. by Sara Palacios

Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. To Marisol, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.

Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol—can’t she just choose one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her.

Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!

Take a Picture of Me, James VanDerZee!
By Andrea Loney, illus. by Keith Mallett

James VanDerZee was just a young boy when he saved enough money to buy his first camera. He took photos of his family, classmates, and anyone who would sit still for a portrait.

Eventually he outgrew his small town and moved to the exciting, fast-paced world of New York City. After being told by his boss that no one would want his or her photo taken “by a black man,” James opened his own portrait studio in Harlem. He took photographs of legendary figures of the Harlem Renaissance—politicians such as Marcus Garvey, performers including Florence Mills, Bill “Bojangles” Robinson, and Mamie Smith—and ordinary folks in the neighborhood too. Everyone wanted fancy portraits by James VanDerZee.

Jim Thorpe's Bright Path

Jim Thorpe’s Bright Path
By Joseph Bruchac, illus. by S. D. Nelson

A biography of the legendary Native American Jim Thorpe (1888-1953), voted the Greatest Football Player and Greatest Athlete of the Half-Century by two AP polls, focusing on his early childhood and how school and sports shaped his future.

The East-West House

The East-West House: Noguchi’s Childhood in Japan
Written and illustrated by Christy Hale

Born in the United States to a Japanese father and Scotch-Irish American mother, Isamu Noguchi grew up in Japan. From his earliest years he felt the tug of his biracial heritage, never quite fitting in or thinking he belonged. Pleasure came, however, from the natural world. Color, light, and shadow. Earth, wood, and stone. Working with these forms of nature, Isamu found a way to blend his cultural divide.

Looking for more titles that address prejudice, discrimination, and race? Check out these collections:

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