Talking to Children about Race & Racism

Posted on July 24, 2020

by Kristi Chadderdon


Your child may have recently heard or seen some of the very sad and upsetting media coverage of stories involving conflicts with race and racism. It is natural for children to have questions and these can be extremely difficult topics to discuss with children. However, in spite of how uncomfortable we may feel, we must not avoid talking about race with our children. It is our job to educate our children and to help them appreciate the great diversity that makes up our beautiful world. 

How should we approach the topics of race and racism with our children? “Children are never too young to learn about diversity,” says PBS. “As young as 3 months old, they may look differently at people who look like or don’t look like their primary caregivers.” Parents and caregivers have a responsibility to ensure that their children learn to respect these differences, while also understanding that some groups of people have faced significant challenges. PBS stresses the importance of this responsibility. “As parents and caregivers,” the website reads, “we must have confidence in ourselves and in our children – that we, and they, can handle tough topics and tough situations. We must understand that our role is, to be honest, specific, and trustworthy as we raise the next generation to confront racial injustice.”

Many resources exist to help introduce these topics to children. For example, many books have been published that talk about cultural identity and diversity. Diverse Book Finder is a book search engine website devoted to celebrating diversity, as well as similarities, amongst cultures. Users of this website can narrow their search to learn about a particular culture or religion. The PBS website is full of helpful resources, including book recommendations, videos, and other articles. One of the many features of note on this website is the “Talking to Children Authentically About Race and Racism” Virtual Event. “PBS KIDS for Parents hosted this important conversation – featuring fellow parents, educators and child development and trauma experts – about how you can talk with young children about racial injustice and violence against Black people.” This video is a must-see for all parents and caregivers because of the wide range of resources and suggestions offered.

Here are a few book recommendations to get you started talking about race and racism with your child:

Latham, who is white, and Waters, who is black, use this fictional setup to delve into different experiences of race in a relatable way, exploring such topics as hair, hobbies, and family dinners. This remarkable collaboration invites readers to join the dialogue by putting their own words to their experiences.

Can I Touch Your Hair? By Irene Latham and Charles Waters

The skin I’m in is just a covering. It cannot tell my story. The skin I’m in is just a covering. If you want to know who I am you have got to come inside and open your heart way wide. Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers new ways to talk about race and identity.

Skin Again by bell hooks

This warm, welcoming picture book celebrates diversity and gives encouragement and support to all kids. Readers can follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms and learn from each other’s traditions. Includes a poster. Full color. Consumable.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

This enduring, colorful, and charmingly illustrated book offers an easy, enjoyable way for kids to learn about differences between themselves and others and what truly matters.

We’re Different, We’re The Same by Bobbi Jane Kates

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 Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Kristi Chadderdon

Kristi Chadderdon

Kristi wants to live in a world filled with sea glass-covered beaches and Great Danes. As a professional with more than 6 years of marketing experience at the library, she’s been put to the test on a regular basis to create innovative and thoughtful marketing materials and campaigns. She is a big proponent for “Bring Your Dog To Work Day”, however, the administration doesn’t seem to be as enthusiastic.
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