Want to Raise Socially Conscious Children? Read These 7 Books as a Family
Martin Luther King Jr. called on us to judge others by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. When it comes to raising children, however, attempting to teach “colorblindness”—that is, to ignore physical and cultural differences in an effort to treat everyone equally—can have adverse effects. That’s because kids don’t necessarily care about the color of someone’s skin, but they do recognize when it’s different from their own. Avoiding talking about it at home can make them feel like physical differences are taboo subjects, rather than something to be celebrated.
Ahead are 7 books to help inspire a conversation between mama and little and create a space for open dialogue about diversity at home.
Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
A board book version of the wildly popular book Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, each page features black women who accomplished big dreams. Perfect for babies, this is an age-appropriate way to show off the beautiful faces of women heroes in black history. From Mae Jemison who went all the way to space to Oprah who shined her light on others, this book inspires children to start dreaming big. As they get older, the book can open up a conversation about the setbacks these women faced when going after their dreams.
Recommended for babies ages 0-3.
What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel Nolan
Each of the kids depicted in this board book is uniquely different from one another and love themselves for it. This lighthearted, fun book boosts self-esteem while calling out the ways we can be different, from the texture of our hair to the foods we eat. When your little is old enough to talk, let them join in the story and name the things that they love the most about themselves.
Recommended for babies ages 0-3.
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Tracy Sorell
This book follows modern Native American traditions throughout the year:
from the Great Moon Ceremony in fall to sewing moccasins in the spring. Through each season’s blessings and challenges, members of the Cherokee Nation say otsaliheligato to express their gratitude. Sorell’s telling demonstrates the importance of keeping indigenous traditions alive and celebrates a way of life that is often overlooked in history books, all while giving your child a taste of Cherokee culture and language. As a mama, it’s an opportunity to connect with your child about the importance of culture, keeping traditions alive, and celebrating differences. The book is appended with a glossary of terms and the complete Cherokee syllabary.
Recommended for children ages 3-7.
Same Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki—Shaw
A story about two pen pals living a world apart, Same Same but Different is a story about Elliot, who lives in the United States, and Kailash, who lives in India. Although colorful illustrations depict how their worlds look different, the two boys find the ways they are the same through an exchange of letters and pictures. It’s a fun example of how friendships can form in the most unlikely places and invites young readers to begin recognizing and exploring other cultures and ways of life.
Recommended for children age 4-6.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
A book about seeking connections despite differences, Woodson states the obvious in a simple, unintimidating way: “There will be times when you walk into a room and no one is quite like you.” It could be that your family didn’t take a vacation during summer break while others did, or it could be how you talk, the color of your skin, or the curl of your hair. Being different is sometimes a lonely feeling, but you go forward anyway, and that takes courage. The book’s straightforward language sets the tone for conversations around physical differences and the vibrant illustrations draw little minds into a story that inspires courage in the face of insecurity.
Recommended for children ages 4-8.
Ruth and the Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey
Set in the early 1950s, Ruth and her family take a road trip from Chicago to Alabama. It was rare for African American families to own a car during that time, and they find themselves up against racism and prejudice at businesses along the way until being introduced to the Green Book. The story mentions the Jim Crow Laws and shows the Green Book’s role in helping African American travelers find safe passage across the country. After reading, let your babe ask questions and talk about the feelings they experienced when hearing Ruth’s story.
Recommended for children 7-11.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
This collection highlights the stories of 40 influential black women throughout U.S. history. Each entry features an illustration of the smiling heroine coupled with two to three easy-to-read paragraphs explaining their accomplishments. Featuring strong female figures of Black History like Bessie Coleman, Alice Ball, and Maya Angelou, this collection not only details the courage of these women against their adversaries but also demonstrates their leadership skills as qualities all children can acquire. It presents a good opportunity to talk to your child about their dreams while also introducing themes like privilege and racial equity.
Recommended for children ages 8-11.
From a young age, little minds are taught to embrace individuality and celebrate uniqueness. By starting the dialogue around race, culture, and prejudice early, mamas can teach awareness, compassion, and gratitude for the differences that color our world, and our babes will be better for it.