Anti-Racist Books for Babies and Toddlers

Anti-Racist Books for Babies and Toddlers

June 9, 2020

Anti-Racist Books for Babies and Toddlers

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find a number of age-appropriate books that discuss skin color and racial diversity in some way, but some of them teach outdated concepts.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

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. Note: This book isn’t linked to a Black-owned bookstore because you can only buy it through littlefeminist.com right now.

We Are Little Feminists: Hair

$8.00

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

Elephants aren’t allowed in the neighborhood club, and that makes elephants (and lots of other animals) really sad. Even though this story doesn’t directly address race or skin color, its central message about discrimination makes the analogy for racism simple for toddlers. The key lessons in this story: don’t exclude others just because they’re different from you, and make room for everyone.

Strictly No Elephants

$17.99

People are more than just their skin color and racial identity; they’re also their gender, ethnic, ability and religious identities, and that’s what intersectionality is all about. This group of friends celebrates each individual for their multitude of identities and teaches kids to respect and make room for all the parts that make someone who they are.

IntersectionAllies: We Make Room For All

$18.95

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 are marching right now, 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 protests. Your little one may be curious why so many people are gathered 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

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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