Talking About Race And Racism With Children

Below are some resources compiled by The Leadership Institute for discussing race and racism. Below are some resources we have compiled for discussing race and racism. When using these books or movies, adults should be cautious to avoid projecting their own experiences and anxieties onto their children. Come to think of it, that’s good advice everyday. Instead, allow children to respond and process freely.  So often as adults, we sense the need to tell children how they are supposed to feel. These books can provide the space for children to express their feelings and their own sacred stories.

The movies listed below are for adults. Some have mature content and while watching them with teens can lead to powerful conversations about race, families should take caution using these films with children who are very young.

An Anti-Racism Reading List (by National Catholic Reporter)

Reflection Questions for Children and Pre-Teens

Adults: use this as a chance to help guide children in responding and processing. To engage conversations, we recommend the following questions:

Ages 3-5: What was important in this story? What bothered you about the story? What did you like about the story?

Ages 5-8: Have you ever felt like one of the characters? Have you had an experience or seen something like this happen – how did it that make you feel?

Ages 8-12: What feelings did you have about this story? I wonder why you felt ____. I wonder what you would do in this situation. I wonder how this story could have been different. I wonder what made this happen.

Ages 12 and older (movies-specific): What did you think about the experiences shown in the film? What challenges do you think the movie raises for today’s society?

Books With A Historical Context

I Have A Dream (ages 7 and up)
Martin Luther King Jr, illustrated by Kadir Nelson
This is the text of King’s speech, given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, August 28th, 1963. Beautifully bold paintings by Kadir Nelson bring the reader onto the steps with King.

Gordon Parks: How The Photographer captured Black and White America (ages 6-10)
Carole Boston Weatherford & Jamey Christoph
This book follows the life of Gordon Parks, famous for being the first black film director. The pictures and story captured in this book really show how he captured life where people were treated different because of the color of their skin via photography.

White Flour (ages 8-12)
David LaMotte
Inspired by true events in May of 2007, White Flour tells a story of humor conquering hatred. This was the day that the Ku Klux Klan met the Coup Clutz Clowns. It is an instructive and inspiring tale of a Third Way, illustrating that there are more creative responses to hatred and bigotry than fight or flight, and doing so in Seussian rhyme. Christian formation lesson plans and video available:

Relationship Building & Anti- Discrimination

The Judgmental Flower (ages 4-8)
By: Julia Cook
Using flowers, this book discusses differences and helps us to learn how to value differences by exploring  how we might feel when excluded and how we should treat one another.

Giraffes Can’t Dance (ages 3-7)
By: Giles Andreae
A story about not judging a book by its cover. Themes of being different, accepting others, and celebrating gifts.

The Crayon Box that Talked (ages 3-7)
By: Shane DeRolf (Anti-Discrimination)
This book is an illustration about not getting along and being different and how to accept one another by using crayons who live in a same box.

Strictly No Elephants (ages 6-8)
By: Lisa Mantchev
This book displays the importance of friendship despite differences, when his pet elephant isn’t allowed into the local pet club.

Chinese Eyes (ages 6-9)
Marjorie Ann Waybill and Pauline Cutrell  *Out of print but widely available used
A story about a first-grade girl who is adopted from Korean. How she feels and how her mother supports her when she comes from from school having been called “Chinese eyes” by older children. An honest and heartfelt book. 10 minutes to read aloud.

Faith Based Books

God’s Dream (ages 3-7)
By Archbishop Desmond Tutu
This book discusses unity and forgiveness and reminds us that we are all brothers and sisters.

The Beatitudes: From Slavery to Civil Rights (ages 8-12)
Carole Boston Weatherford, illustrated by Tim Ladwig
Churches that follow the Revised Common Lectionary in 2017 will be hearing the Beatitudes, Matt 5: 1-12, for Epiphany 4. In this book, using free-form poetry, Weatherford connects Jesus’ powerful sermon (found along the bottom of each page) with the experiences of African-Americans: from the earliest instances of slavery through the Civil Rights Era and today.

Bestselling Books for Kids

  • “The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz
  • “Let’s Talk About Race” by Julius Lester
  • “The Skin I’m In: A First Look at Racism” by Pat Thomas
  • Sesame Street’s “We’re Different, We’re the Same” by Bobbi Jane Kates
  • “Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story about Racial Injustice” by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard
  • “I Am Enough” by Grace Byers
  • “Happy in Our Skin” by Fran Manushkin and Lauren Tobia
  • “Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer: The Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement” by Carole Boston Weatherford and Ekua Holmes
  • “Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America” by Jennifer Harvey
  • “Daddy Why Am I Brown?: A healthy conversation about skin color and family” by Bedford F. Palmer
  • “A Terrible Thing Happened” by Margaret Holmes
  • “Antiracist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi

Books for Adults

  • “White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk about Racism” by Robin DiAngelo
  • “How to Be an Antiracist” by Ibram X. Kendi
  • “Biased: Uncovering the Hidden Prejudice That Shapes What We See, Think, and Do” by Jennifer L. Eberhardt
  • “Raising White Kids” by Jennifer Harvey
  • “So You Want to Talk About Race” by Ijeoma Oluo
  • “The Black and the Blue: A Cop Reveals the Crimes, Racism, and Injustice in America’s Law Enforcement” by Matthew Horace and Ron Harris
  • “Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption” by Bryan Stevenson
  • “The Fire Next Time” by James Baldwin
  • “Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • “They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement” by Wesley Lowery
  • “Hood Feminism: Notes From The Women That The Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall
  • “Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism” by bell hooks
  • “Open Season: Legalized Genocide of Colored People” by Ben Crump
  • “From Slavery To Freedom: A History of African Americans” by John Hope Franklin
  • “The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear” by Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove and William Barber II
  • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • “Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
  • “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness” by Michelle Alexander

Books for Teens

  • “The Hate U Give” by Angie Thomas
  • “Harbor Me” by Jacqueline Woodson
  • “This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do The Work” by Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand
  • “Brown Girl Dreaming” by Jacqueline Woodson
  • “Dear White People” by Justin Simien

Movies Adults (and families with older teens)

Do The Right Thing (1989)
Quintessential movie about police brutality.

Fruitvale Station (2013)
The story of Oscar Grant (Michael B. Jordan), a 22-year-old black man who was shot to death by police at an Oakland, California, metro station.

Moonlight (2016)
This Academy Award-winning picture shows the grief and trauma of black men through an entirely different lens than police brutality while also highlighting the black LGBTQ community.

Dead Presidents (1995)
One of the few movies about Vietnam that focuses on the black veteran experience.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)
This film came at the height of Sidney Poitier’s career, several years after he became the first black star to win best actor at the Oscars (for “Lilies of the Field”). It includes a powerful scene that experts call “the slap heard round the world.”

13th (2016)
Ava DuVernay’s documentary explains the prison industrial complex and is timely as it spans from the 1800s through to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

To Sleep With Anger (1990)
A film about a black family living in Los Angeles whose lives are interrupted when one of their old friends from down South shows up unexpectedly.

The Hate You Give (2018)
Based on Angie Thomas’ 2017 young-adult novel and takes on themes of Black Lives Matter, police brutality and black identity and puts them in the thought-provoking story of a black girl growing up in a predominantly black inner city while attending a white private school across town. This film is especially important for families with budding teenagers as it depicts how early the trauma and grief can start for some children.

To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)
Adapted from Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name and follows the story of Atticus Finch, a white lawyer (Gregory Peck) who represents a black man (Tom Robinson) accused of raping a white woman. The Broadway play (closed due to the pandemic) is also worth a trip to the city.

Malcolm X (1992)
Stars Denzel Washington as the activist and base don Alex Haley and Malcolm X’s “The Autobiography of Malcolm X.” The film takes you through monumental events in his life, from his criminal history to joining the Nation of Islam to his assassination. A foundational film for those who wish to learn more.

Let the Fire Burn (2013)
Depicts the police bombing of the MOVE organization (a black liberation group) in Philadelphia in 1985. The standoff led to the deaths of 11 people, included children.