SALT LAKE CITY — Having a conversation with children amid the protests over the death of George Floyd may seem daunting, and many parents are now questioning how, when and if to talk to their child about race and racism.
Though the conversation may be difficult, experts encourage parents to start young, according to The New York Times.
Children can internalize racial bias by ages 2 to 4, and even infants as young as 6 months begin to notice race-based differences, Dr. Jacqueline Dougé, who coauthored a statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics on the impact of racism on children’s health, told CNN.
For parents who aren’t sure how to open a dialogue with young children, books can be a great place to start.
For preschoolers, stories that touch on themes of discrimination can be talked about in terms of “fairness,” which is something “that kids this age can really understand,” said Katie Ishizuka, co-founder of the education and policy organization The Conscious Kid, in an interview with The Washington Post.
It’s also important for infants to be exposed to books featuring characters of different races.
“At age 1, children are already able to distinguish skin color, and so it’s important to be intentional about exposing babies to books that feature a wide variety of skin tones, races and classes,” Ishizuka told the Post.
Parents can make an effort to add books to their home library that “feature black, brown, and indigenous characters in normal situations, not only the ones that focus on enslavement or injustice,” which could “reboot notions around what a hero, neighbor or friend might look like,” according to National Geographic.
Not sure where to start? Here are 12 books for children that parents can use to start a conversation about race, racism, activism and diversity.
“The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats
- “The Snowy Day” was the first children’s book with an African American hero. The simple story of a boy playing in the snow is easy for young children to relate to, and the book is a classic for a good reason.
“Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Pena
- This book follows a young boy and his grandmother as they ride the bus through their city, noticing the beauty and diversity that is all around them.
“Hair Love” by Matthew A. Cherry
- Also made into a short film that won an Oscar earlier this year, this book celebrates father/daughter relationships and natural hair.
“Malala’s Magic Pencil” by Malala Yousafzai
- Written by Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, this book tells the story of her childhood and encourages children to make a change in the world.
“A is for Activist” by Innosanto Nagara
- This board book goes through the ABCs of activism, introducing children to ideas about civil rights, environmental justice, and more.
“AntiRacist Baby” by Ibram X. Kendi
- Ibram X. Kendi is also the author of the bestselling “How to Be an Antiracist,” but in this board book he shares with young children nine simple steps to make the world a more equitable place.
“All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color” by Katie Kissinger
- For children who have questions about race and different skin colors, this book gives a simple, scientific explanation of melanin and the other factors that go into skin tones.
“It’s Okay to Be Different” by Todd Parr
- This simple book celebrates multiculturalism and diversity and reminds children that differences and individuality are important.
“Whoever You Are” by Mem Fox
- This book reminds children that though people around the world may look different or act different, inside they are all alike.
“The Story of Ruby Bridges” by Robert Coles
- The true story of Ruby Bridges, who was the first African American child to integrate a school in New Orleans.
“Let the Children March” by Monica Clark-Robinson
- This book tells the stories of the thousands of African American children in Birmingham, Alabama, who marched for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak.
“I Am Enough” by Grace Byers
- This book reminds children to love who they are, respect others and to be kind to one another.