Raising Antiracist Children: Suggested Readings

No matter what our zip code is here in Wisconsin, we all want our children to be given the best education and opportunities they can receive. We all want our children to grow up with care and without judgment. We all want our children to be safe, free from prejudice, bias, and physical harm. 

With Daunte Wright at the forefront of my mind, this tragic loss of life, and the hole this leaves in his family. I cannot stop thinking of his son, who no longer has his father, and the impact this is having and will have on him going forward. This isn’t happening in a faraway place, this happening in our communities. How we react impacts not only what happens to Daunte Wright and his family but it impacts our children, how they see the world. 

That’s when I decided to research the impacts and found an article that really gave me insight and the reality check I needed to take action. This article is from the American Academy of Pediatrics written by co-authors Ashaunta Anderson, MD, MPH, MSHS, FAAP, and Jacqueline Dougé, MD, MPH, FAAP about Talking To Children About Racial Bias. 

How early do children learn racial bias? 

  • As early as 6 months, a baby’s brain can notice race-based differences.
  • By ages 2 to 4, children can internalize racial bias.
  • By age 12, many children become set in their beliefs—giving parents a decade to mold the learning process, so that it decreases racial bias and improves cultural understanding.”

It can be really hard to have those tough conversations with the kids in our lives. Especially about the difficult issues that grown-ups have trouble unpacking themselves. Believe me, it’s worth it to step outside of our comfort zones. Even when it can feel scary and intimidating.  Even if we don’t know all the answers, or we don’t know how to handle a situation. That’s okay, and we can be honest about that. 

From Ashland to Milwaukee, we are all in Wisconsin to do better for Communities of Color. By joining together we can demand that our elected leaders fund our lives. By creating the schools, social services, and care that we all need. By actively working towards being Antiracist in our children’s lives and care, we can work towards demanding equity and safety in our communities for every single one of us

I encourage readers to take the time to read the article above, where Dr. Ashaunta Anderson and Dr.Jacqueline Dougé dig deeper into how we can combat the racial bias children can be exposed to. They both offer educated strategies, tips, and further resources. 

Another great resource that I intend to continuously tap into that I’d like to recommend a bookmark for is Common Sense Media. They are a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to helping parents, educators, childcare providers, and advocates navigate the digital world with young children. They provide research-backed resources with a huge database of content based on age, development, and topic. They recommend books, movies, apps, and provide guides to a wealth of topics that include faqs, articles, and videos. Their multiple programs and resources are all geared towards equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

Today, we’re going to start this process by introducing everyone to five books that you can invest time into reading with and discussing with the kids in our lives.

5 AntiRacist Books for You and Your Children

“Kamala and Maya’s Big Idea” written by Meena Harris & illustrated by Ana Ramírez González (Ages 4+)

Summary: “One day, Kamala and Maya had an idea. A big idea: they would turn their empty apartment courtyard into a playground!

This is the uplifting tale of how the author’s aunt and mother first learned to persevere in the face of disappointment and turned a dream into reality. This is a story of children’s ability to make a difference and of a community coming together to transform their neighborhood.”

Why we recommended this book: 

In many ways, this book is a bright, colorful, and happy story about two little girls of color. One of the girls later became the very first woman, and the first woman of color to hold the role of Madame Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris. And a story about Kamala’s sister, Maya Harris. who would grow up to become a lawyer, a public policy advocate, and writer. The sweetest part is that this true story was written by the daughter of Maya–Author, Meena Harris. 

We love this book for children and for grown-ups because it tells a story of how many hands make for lighter work, that persisting is good, and that we all do better when we all go in together as a community, for the betterment of our communities. 

This book also shows Communities of Color in roles of leadership, organizing, and making a positive change that benefits everyone in their community. Stories like these need to be read and normalized in life, in the media, and in the content that we expose to the children in our lives.

All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis (Ages 6+)

Summary: “Through the eyes of one little girl, All Different Now tells the story of the first Juneteenth,

the day freedom finally came to the last of the slaves in the South. Since then, the observance of June 19 as African American Emancipation Day has spread across the United States and beyond. This stunning picture book includes notes from the author and illustrator, a timeline of important dates, and a glossary of relevant terms.

Told in Angela Johnson’s signature melodic style and brought to life by E.B. Lewis’s striking paintings, All Different Now is a joyous portrait of the dawn breaking on the darkest time in our nation’s history.”

Why we recommend this book: 

Why wouldn’t we want to educate our children about Juneteenth? This book tells us about an important holiday in Black History, a day when Black people were set free from being enslaved, on June 19th. All in the perspective of a younger child and how things would be different after that day. 

This book is a great tool to start up a conversation about empathy, generational trauma, and the dark history we have of enslaving People of Color in the United States

“Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness,” (Ordinary Terrible Things) by Anastasia Higginbotham (Ages 8+)

Summary: A white child sees TV news coverage of a white police officer shooting a brown person whose hands were up. Upset, he asks his mother why; she deflects, assuring him that he is safe. Later, they visit an aunt and uncle, where the TV, always-on, shows a rally in response to the police shooting. The child glimpses a moving press conference with the victim’s family while his aunt claims she simply “can’t watch the news.”

The book’s narrator accompanies the child as he faces history and himself. The activities section urges kids to grow justice (“like a bean sprout in a milk carton”) inside of themselves, seek out and listen to the truth about racism and white supremacy, and prepare to be changed, heartbroken and liberated by this experience.

Part history lesson, part compassionate primer to assist children (and parents) past defensiveness, Not My Idea is a tangible tool for necessary conversations.”

Why we recommend this book:

It’s not only relevant but essential for white children to know how to handle what they see on the tv screen, what they could witness in their surroundings and how they should respond, and how they can help. This book addresses that. It addresses white privilege and how white children can be allies to People of Color.

Wishtree was written by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charles Santoso. (Ages 9+)

Summary: Red is an oak tree who is many rings old. Red is the neighborhood “wishtree”—people write their wishes on pieces of cloth and tie them to Red’s branches. Along with their crow friend Bongo and other animals who seek refuge in Red’s hollows, this “wishtree” watches over the neighborhood.

You might say Red has seen it all. Until a new family moves in. Not everyone is welcoming, and Red’s experiences as a wishtree are more important than ever.”

Why we recommend this book:

This is a chapter book about a tree named Red that is gender indifferent, has seen a lot, and met a lot of people. Red spends their time taking care of their neighborhood of animals and humans, making wishes, and making friends. 

This story is about the impact of trauma from racism and hate crimes on Muslim and immigrant communities. Red shares their home with a house with a family who is Muslim. One of the people in the family was a little girl named Samar.

Samar and her family experienced a hate crime when someone carves, “LEAVE,” into Red’s trunk. Igniting a community problem that traumatizes Samar and puts Red in danger of being cut down. As the story progresses, the reader goes on a journey to organize and stop the acts of racism.

This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 lessons on how to wake up, take action, and do the work (Empower the Future 1) written by Tiffany Jewell, and illustrated by Aurelia Durand. (Ages 11+)

Summary: “Who are you? What is racism? Where does it come from? Why does it exist? What can you do to disrupt it? Learn about social identities, the history of racism and resistance against it, and how you can use your anti-racist lens and voice to move the world toward equity and liberation.

“In a racist society, it’s not enough to be non-racist—we must be ANTI-RACIST.” —Angela Davis

Gain a deeper understanding of your anti-racist self as you progress through 20 chapters that spark introspection, reveal the origins of racism that we are still experiencing, and give you the courage and power to undo it. Each lesson builds on the previous one as you learn more about yourself and racial oppression. An activity at the end of every chapter gets you thinking and helps you grow with the knowledge. All you need is a pen and paper.

Author Tiffany Jewell, an anti-bias, anti-racist educator and activist, builds solidarity beginning with the language she chooses—using gender neutral words to honor everyone who reads the book. Illustrator Aurélia Durand brings the stories and characters to life with kaleidoscopic vibrancy.

After examining the concepts of social identity, race, ethnicity, and racism, learn about some of the ways people of different races have been oppressed, from indigenous Americans and Australians being sent to boarding school to be “civilized” to a generation of Caribbean immigrants once welcomed to the UK being threatened with deportation by strict immigration laws.

Find hope in stories of strength, love, joy, and revolution that are part of our history, too, with such figures as the former slave Toussaint Louverture, who led a rebellion against white planters that eventually led to Haiti’s independence, and Yuri Kochiyama, who, after spending time in an internment camp for Japanese Americans during WWII, dedicated her life to supporting political prisoners and advocating reparations for those wrongfully interned.

Learn language and phrases to interrupt and disrupt racism. So, when you hear a microaggression or racial slur, you’ll know how to act next time.

This book is written for EVERYONE who lives in this racialized society—including the young person who doesn’t know how to speak up to the racist adults in their life, the kid who has lost themself at times trying to fit into the dominant culture, the children who have been harmed (physically and emotionally) because no one stood up for them or they couldn’t stand up for themselves, and also for their families, teachers, and administrators.

With this book, be empowered to actively defy racism and xenophobia to create a community (large and small) that truly honors everyone.”

Why we recommend this book: 

There are twenty solid reasons to read this book with a kiddo in your life. Twenty lessons on how to be an Antiracist while reflecting the values we chose to uphold. All while getting to spend some quality time with the younger children in our lives.

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