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[Weekly Inspiration] One Teacher Shares Her Favorite Children’s Books on Racism

[Weekly Inspiration] One Teacher Shares Her Favorite Children’s Books on Racism

Brittany Smith, a pre-kindergarten teacher from New Jersey knows how important, but difficult, it can be to discuss the state of the world to young children. Earlier this week, she created a thread on twitter of 24 books that discuss race and racism. The post quickly went viral for it’s relevance and importance.

Speaking with Buzzfeed, Brittany shared, “Given today’s climate and our fight for justice, I want parents, teachers, grandparents, aunts/uncles, and anyone who regularly comes in contact with children to be aware there are resources that can help start the conversations of race and racism. There’s a misconception that they’re too young and don’t understand, but they do!”

Below are the books Brittany recommended:

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcom X by Ilyasah Shabazz
Malcolm X grew to be one of America’s most influential figures. But first, he was a boy named Malcolm Little. Written by his daughter, this inspiring picture book biography celebrates a vision of freedom and justice.

Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney
With a kaleidoscope of color and cut paper, Hans Christian Anderson Award nominee and two-time Coretta Scott King Award winner Ashley Bryan celebrates three favorite spirituals: "This Little Light of Mine," "Oh, When the Saints Go Marching In," and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands." The power of these beloved songs simply emanates through his joyous interpretations. Come, sing, and celebrate!

Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice By Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard
Something Happened in Our Town follows two families — one White, one Black — as they discuss a police shooting of a Black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events, and to help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.

My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera
After a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie can’t take any more and she seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. Most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural black hair is beautiful.

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Menedez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
Using his signature illustration style and incorporating his interviews with Sylvia Mendez, as well as information from court files and news accounts, award-winning author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh tells the inspiring story of the Mendez family’s fight for justice and equality.

Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock by Aslan Tudor and Kelly Tudor
At the not-so-tender age of 8, Aslan arrived in North Dakota to help stop a pipeline. A few months later he returned - and saw the whole world watching. Read about his inspiring experiences in the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock. Learn about what exactly happened there, and why. Be inspired by Aslan's story of the daily life of Standing Rock's young water protectors.

My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope by Diane Guerrero and Erica Moroz
Diane Guerrero, the star of Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin, presents her personal story in this middle-grade memoir about her parents’ deportation and the nightmarish struggles of undocumented immigrants and their American children.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell
Otsaliheliga (oh-jah-LEE-hay-lee-gah) is a word that Cherokee people use to express gratitude. Beginning in the fall with the Cherokee New Year and ending in summer, follow a full Cherokee year of celebrations and experiences. Written by Traci Sorell, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation, and illustrated by Frané Lessac, this nonfiction look at one group of Native Americans is appended with a glossary and the complete Cherokee syllabary, originally created by Sequoyah.

I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
Based on the life of co-author Jenny Kay Dupuis’ grandmother, I Am Not a Number is a hugely necessary book that brings a terrible part of Canada’s history to light in a way that children can learn from and relate to.

Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library by Carole Boston Weatherford
Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny), he turned to the New York Public Library, where he created and curated a collection that was the cornerstone of a new Negro Division. A century later, his groundbreaking collection, known as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, has become a beacon to scholars all over the world.

Lailah's Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi
Lailah is in a new school in a new country, thousands of miles from her old home, and missing her old friends. When Ramadan begins, she is excited that she is finally old enough to participate in the fasting but worried that her classmates won't understand why she doesn't join them in the lunchroom.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it's how you look or talk, or where you're from; maybe it's what you eat, or something just as random. It's not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Jacqueline Woodson's lyrical text and Rafael López's dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.

The Boy and the Wall by Amahl Bishara
In the story, a Palestinian boy recalls one spring when a high concrete wall was built next to his home. The new gigantic wall brings many concerns for the boy: his soccer field, places to pick flowers, his father’s safety in commuting to work in Jerusalem, and his turtle’s adjustment to a refugee camp. Portraying the boy’s experiences and thoughts through conditional statements reflects the boy’s longing to go home, which is not physically far away from the camp, yet politically distant.

The Whispering Town by Jennifer Elvgren
In lyrical text, Carole Boston Weatherford describes Tubman's spiritual journey as she hears the voice of God guiding her North to freedom on that very first trip to escape the brutal practice of forced servitude. Tubman, courageous and compassionate, and deeply religious, would take nineteen subsequent trips back South, never being caught, but none as profound as this first. Harriet Tubman's bravery and relentless pursuit of freedom are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford
In lyrical text, Carole Boston Weatherford describes Tubman's spiritual journey as she hears the voice of God guiding her North to freedom on that very first trip to escape the brutal practice of forced servitude. Tubman, courageous and compassionate, and deeply religious, would take nineteen subsequent trips back South, never being caught, but none as profound as this first. Harriet Tubman's bravery and relentless pursuit of freedom are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit.

When I Was Eight by Christy Jordan-Fenton and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton
Olemaun is eight and knows a lot of things. But she does not know how to read. Ignoring her father's warnings, she travels far from her Arctic home to the outsiders' school to learn. The nuns at the school call her Margaret. They cut off her long hair and force her to do menial chores, but she remains undaunted. Her tenacity draws the attention of a black-cloaked nun who tries to break her spirit at every turn. But the young girl is more determined than ever to learn how to read. Based on the true story of Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, and complemented by stunning illustrations, When I Was Eight makes the bestselling Fatty Legs accessible to younger readers. Now they, too, can meet this remarkable girl who reminds us what power we hold when we can read.

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin
Is there anything more splendid than a baby's skin? For families of all stripes comes a sweet celebration of what makes us unique—and what holds us together.

Chocolate Milk, Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity with Empathy by Maria Dismondy
This story shows how a simple act of kindness is worth more than a thousand words. Kindness really is a universal language.

Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford
Despite fierce prejudice and abuse, even being beaten to within an inch of her life, Fannie Lou Hamer was a champion of civil rights from the 1950's until her death in 1977. Integral to the Freedom Summer of 1964, Ms. Hamer gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention that, despite President Johnson's interference, aired on national TV news and spurred the nation to support the Freedom Democrats. Featuring vibrant mixed-media art full of intricate detail, "Voice of Freedom" celebrates Fannie Lou Hamer's life and legacy with a message of hope, determination, and strength.

When We Were Alone by David A. Robertson and Julie Flett
When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and wear beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where everything was taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, a story of empowerment and strength.

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo
Anna May Wong--the first Chinese American movie star--was a pioneer of the cinema. Her spirited determination in the face of discrimination is an inspiration to all who must overcome obstacles so that their dreams may come true.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. Among these women, you’ll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things – bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come

Maddi's Fridge by Lois Brandt
Best friends Sofia and Maddi live in the same neighborhood, go to the same school, and play in the same park, but while Sofia's fridge at home is full of nutritious food, the fridge at Maddi's house is empty. Sofia learns that Maddi's family doesn't have enough money to fill their fridge and promises Maddi she'll keep this discovery a secret. But because Sofia wants to help her friend, she's faced with a difficult decision: to keep her promise or tell her parents about Maddi's empty fridge. Filled with colorful artwork, this storybook addresses issues of poverty with honesty and sensitivity while instilling important lessons in friendship, empathy, trust, and helping others.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
Zuri's hair has a mind of its own. It kinks, coils, and curls every which way. Zuri knows it's beautiful. When Daddy steps in to style it for an extra special occasion, he has a lot to learn. But he LOVES his Zuri, and he'll do anything to make her -- and her hair -- happy.

Brittany Smith knows the important role teachers play in the fight for justice and equality, stating the first step is, “Creating a welcoming environment for all students by having representation, [and]  acknowledging and celebrating differences.” Thank you for inspiring us this week, Brittany!

haley.peterson@edmentum.com's picture

Haley Peterson studied Marketing at Winona State University in Minnesota, and has worked with Edmentum since March 2018. She currently serves as a Digital Marketing Specialist, and believes knowledge is power.