Books on race and racism, by age, recommended by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh

Family discussions on race and racism can begin at a young age and continue through life. Parents are sometimes uncertain about how to get that conversation started. This booklist from the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh can help. The titles here explore and celebrate the lives and history of African Americans.

According to research from P.R.I.D.E. (Positive Racial Identity Development in Early Education), a program in the Office of Child Development at Pitt’s School of Education, even the littlest kids notice race and make decisions based on race.

The library recommends that parents read a book first, then read together with their kids. A conversation can develop organically from there, talking about the stories and the points they present.

Look to the Carnegie Library for additional booklists for kids, such as one on Racial Identity, Feelings and another on Race and Social Justice Fiction for Teens.

For preschool and kindergarten:

1. Child of the Civil Rights Movement: This moving first-person account will help young children understand this historical era. 

2. Crown: A young boy’s trip to the barbershop provides opportunities to uncover and celebrate self-confidence and joy. 

3. Don’t Touch MHair!: A young girl must defend herself against unwanted, though not obviously hostile, touch.  

4. On the Playground: Our First Talk About Prejudice; On the News: Our First Talk About Tragedy: Titles in this series are aimed at helping parents of young children introduce and explain difficult topics.  

5. What Was the March on Washington?:  This book about the Civil Rights era reminds us that today’s struggles are part of a larger effort to promote equity and respect for all people. 

For grades 1-5:

6. Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship: This book of poems written by two authors, one black and one white, examines the ways that race impacts our lives.  

7. How to Build a Museum: Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture: This book showcases the depth and breadth of the African American experience. 

8. Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness: This story about a White family’s reaction to racist violence offers an opportunity to think about what responses we will choose to make ourselves. 

9. The Undefeated: An inspiring look at African Americans whose triumphs have been hard-won against great odds. 

 For middle school kids:

10. A Good Kind of Trouble: After attending a powerful protest, Shayla starts wearing an armband to school to support the Black Lives Matter movement. When the school gives her an ultimatum, she is forced to choose between her education and her identity.

11. Marching for Freedom: Walk Together, Children, and Don’t You Grow Weary: This photo-essay brings the Civil Rights era to life and shows the ways that kids participated in the efforts to bring about change. 

12. This Book Is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work: 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. 

13. This Promise of Change: One Girl’s Story in the Fight for School Equality: This story about school integration offers some background to current conflicts and challenges around building racial equity into our system of beliefs and laws.  

14. Woke: A Young Poet’s Call to Justice: Illustrated poems by women reflect the joy and passion in the fight for social justice, tackling topics from discrimination to empathy, and from acceptance to speaking out.  

15. We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voice:s What do we tell our children when the world seems bleak, and prejudice and racism run rampant? Fifty diverse creators lend voice and comfort to young activists.  

For high school kids:

16. The Port Chicago 50 Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights: This book presents an account of the 1944 civil rights protest involving hundreds of African-American Navy servicemen. They were unjustly charged with mutiny for refusing to work in unsafe conditions after the deadly Port Chicago explosion.

17. Take the Mic: Fictional Stories About Everyday Resistance: This anthology features fictional stories and poems that reflect a slice of the varied and limitless ways that young people resist every day.

18. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: A history of racist and anti-racist ideas in America, from their roots in Europe until today, adapted from the National Book Award winnerStamped from the Beginning.”  

19. Slay: An honors student at Jefferson Academy, 17-year-old Keira enjoys developing and playing Slay, a secret,  online role-playing game celebrating black culture, until the two worlds collide.