Anti-Racist Books for Babies and Toddlers
Anti-Racist Books for Babies and Toddlers
September 20, 2021

Anti-Racist Books for Babies and Toddlers

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Anti-Racist Books for Babies and Toddlers.
Anti-Racist Books for Babies and Toddlers

Introducing your little one to people of different races and skin colors, whether in person or through books, pictures or TV/movies, is a good start for limiting their racial bias early on, but to raise a truly anti-racist child, you’ll need to be proactive about it. That means talking with your toddler about racial differences and prejudices, acknowledging and celebrating people’s racial differences and encouraging them to ask questions.

Racism is a complex topic, no doubt about it. And studies have actually shown that babies as young as six months old are capable of racial bias. So where do you even start? How is your little one supposed to understand social injustice when they barely know how to talk?

Luckily, there are a few books out there that break it down in a baby- and toddler-friendly way to help you talk with your eager-to-learn kiddo. Keep in mind: These books can help all parents have this discussion with their children, though perspectives will obviously be different for families of different races.

What to Look for When Choosing an Anti-Racist Baby Book

You’re sure to find a number of age-appropriate books that discuss skin color and racial diversity in some way, but some of them teach outdated and often harmful concepts. Given the research that young children aren’t actually “colorblind” (i.e. they do recognize racial differences), avoid books that gloss over acknowledging someone’s race or that promote the idea that “skin is just skin and the color doesn’t matter.” Skin color does matter in terms of someone’s racial or cultural identity as well as acknowledging any societal privileges or disadvantages.

Look for books that discuss skin tones using real color names (like shades of brown) or celebratory, natural, non-consumable comparisons (in Sulwe, for instance, her family’s skin colors are compared to midnight, dawn, dusk and high noon) rather than chocolate, honey, etc.

Will these books teach your toddler about racism all on their own? No—you’re going to have to lead the conversation. You can use these books as supplemental materials and visual aids (it’ll really help your child to see depictions of people of different races interacting with each other), and remember that, even if it’s an uncomfortable chat for you, you are your child’s greatest resource for learning about the world.

Ready to raise a supportive, inclusive, anti-racist kid? These are our favorite books to help you start the conversation.

Support Black Small Businesses

These books are linked to Black-owned indie bookstores where you can buy your favorite anti-racist titles (and lots of other books, too). But there are way more bookstores than just the ones we’ve linked to, so check out LitHub’s handy list of Black-owned indie bookstores to find one near you!

From Ibram X. Kendi—founder of the Antiracist Research and Policy Center at American University and author of the bestselling book How to Be an Antiracist—comes this board book about anti-racism specifically for toddlers. Kendi breaks down the heavy concepts of race, racism and justice into nine easily digestible steps, making it the perfect starter book for teaching your little one about social justice.

AntiRacist Baby

$8.99

We love the books at A Kids Book About for their ability to make complex topics understandable for babies, toddlers and young kids, and their brand new book about racism is no different. It makes a great companion to any of the other books on this list, so you have a handy reference for addressing the topic of racism directly (using words your little one probably knows). We also recommend A Little Book About Activism!

A Little Book About Racism

$14.95

Curly, straight, thick, fine, black, brown, red, blond—hair comes in a wonderfully wide variety. Some people have no hair at all, and that’s awesome too! Filled with simple language and photos of real people, this board book is a sweet celebration of some of the ways people can be different.

Little Feminist Celebrating Differences Book Set

$24.95

Follow Zuri as she shows off her beautifully natural hair and all the amazing things it can do. If your little one has thick, coiled hair like Zuri, she can help them feel proud and confident in their natural hair. If your toddler isn’t familiar with Black hair, Zuri’s styling (with her dad’s help!) is a great introduction. By the way, this story is also an Oscar-winning animated short (prepare to get teary eyed!).

Hair Love

$17.99

We all have different noses, mouths, eyes and skin, and while those differences are important to notice, we also have to remember that they all serve the same purpose. Your toddler’s favorite Sesame Street friends gather in this book to notice and appreciate all the ways their features are different and, at the same time, they’re the same.

We're Different, We're the Same

$5.99

Part of being anti-racist is knowing about colorism, or the prejudice against darker skin versus lighter skin. In this beautifully illustrated story, Sulwe is a little girl with skin that’s darker than anyone else in her family or at her school, and she’s often called mean names by other kids. Her struggle to feel beautiful in her midnight skin shows just how much colorism can hurt, and she eventually learns that beauty and light come in all colors.

Sulwe

$16.55

Often credited with kicking off the US civil rights movement in 1955, Rosa Parks is an important piece in teaching anti-racism. And now your little one can learn about her, too! This simplified story of Parks’ famous bus ride helps teach toddlers about bravery and standing strong for what you believe in and for who you are.

I am Strong: A Little Book About Rosa Parks

$7.99

Here’s a story that many curly-haired people, especially people of color, might relate to—and it’s a story that a lot of curious (even well-meaning) White people need to learn from. As Aria, a young Black girl with big, curly, natural hair, tries to just go about her day, she’s bombarded by people touching her hair…without her permission. Not only is this story a lesson in casual racism (Black hair isn’t a novelty for other people to play with), it’s also a good lesson in consent and owning one’s personal space.

Don't Touch My Hair!

$7.99

One of the most popular books for activist parents to include in their little one’s library, A is for Activist covers everything from protests and civil rights to environmentalism, all the things worthy of being an activist for. The alliteration and rhyme make it fun to read, and its powerful, unapologetic tone make it a great conversation starter for your older toddler or preschooler.

A is for Activist

$11.95

A lot of people have been marching in the past year and a half, just as they’ve done for decades. While this book depicts the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, it shares a lot of similarities with the more recent peaceful protests. Your little one may be curious why people gather in the streets all across the country and around the world, and this story uses simple language to explain why we march.

We March

$7.99

One of the simplest ways to teach anti-racism is to teach acceptance, inclusion and belonging for all. While simultaneously using the other books on this list to explain the importance of acknowledging our differences, we recommend including this sweet book to reinforce the idea that no matter your skin color, your clothes or your beliefs, all are welcome.

All Are Welcome

$17.99

Have suggestions for this guide? We’d love to hear your thoughts, recommendations or questions! Email editor@babylist.com to get in touch with our content team.

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