In the aftermath of the tragic killing of George Floyd in Minnesota and now the protests happening across the nation, parents everywhere are collectively wondering just how they can explain racism to their kids what led up to this unbelievably sad event. Fortunately, we have a wide array of well-written books for all ages that can be used as a tool to educate our kids and teens about systemic racism and subsequent activism in the U.S.
The Guardian recently released a list from publisher and book shop owner Aimée Felone featuring a number of age appropriate books that can get kids started in their quest for more knowledge on the subject of racism and the effects it has had on this country.
But how young is too young to start learning about racism and activism? While citing a board book entitled A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara, Felone points out that children are never to young to start learning about this subject. A book meant for babies and young toddlers; brightly colored illustrations, rhymes, and an alphabetized list about activism covers the thick board pages.
For readers a little older, around elementary school age, Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman is a great book that teaches kids about inclusivity. The story line features a little African American girl who has been brought up by loving parents who have told her she can be whatever she wants to be. But when her school puts on a Peter Pan play and Grace who wants to play the part of Pan, she encounters a confusing conversation about race and gender with her classmates who tell her she can’t play that part. Felone explains, “What I love about Amazing Grace is that it not only shows us that Grace can (of course) be Peter Pan, but makes us question where and when racist thoughts begin and who teaches us them.”
The 12 and over set have something of a modern day Romeo and Juliet to sink their teeth into with Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses novel. The story focuses on star crossed lovers, but the reason the main characters’ love is forbidden is due to the different color of their skin rather than enemy families in Shakespeare’s tale. Another interesting aspect of Blackman’s story is that she has reversed racial stereotypes and made the white population in her story the ones who are oppressed while the black population rules - giving the reader a chance to see racial prejudice from a different perspective.
And while your children devour these great reads, it can be a perfect time to open up a dialogue about what is going on in the world today and ask questions that challenge yourself and your children. Felone points out the importance of books to educate about topics like this, “Use these books to start conversations, hold yourself accountable and educate a new generation. Reading isn’t the only answer but it’s the start, above all else.”
How have you addressed the recent events regarding the tragic killing of George Floyd with your children?
Do you have any good book suggestions for kids that would go along with this topic?
Image: Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman