“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background or his religion. People learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela
It can be an emotional topic, but inclusivity and the impact race can have on someone’s life is something that’s always worth discussing. While there’s no one ‘right way’ to talk to children about race and mistakes will be made and you won’t have all the answers, it's far worse to not speak of it at all. As young as age 3, children start classifying people based on their appearances. So, the important thing is to start early and to never stop talking about it or educating yourself and your children.
Today, we’re sharing a wide variety of resources to help – from books to activities to videos. We encourage you to use these resources, and we invite you to share your own recommendations and experiences in the comments below. (This is a safe space. Comments that are judgmental or offensive in any way will not be published.)
How to Talk to Kids about Race
“The worst conversation adults can have with kids about race is no conversation at all,” says author Jemar Tisby. “Talking to kids about race needs to happen early, often, and honestly.” In this episode of Home School, The Atlantic’s animated series about parenting, Tisby offers advice on how to have a conversation with children about race, from experiential learning to watching classic animated films.
Systemic Racism Explained
Systemic racism affects every area of life in the US. From incarceration rates to predatory loans, and trying to solve these problems requires changes in major parts of our system. Here's a closer look at what systemic racism is, and how we can solve it.
Talking to Kids Authentically About Race and Racism
PBS KIDS for Parents hosted this important conversation — featuring fellow parents, educators and child development and trauma experts — about how you can talk with young children about racial injustice and violence against Black people. Explore questions such as: How can parents of Black children continue to instill confidence and pride in young kids while also explaining the racial inequity and barriers that continue today? And, how can parents of non-Black children help young kids understand their role in confronting anti-Black racism? Hear questions from fellow parents and learn tips and resources you can use to continue to have these meaningful conversations now and into the future.
Sesame Street: Lupita Nyong'o Loves Her Skin
Elmo is talking with his good friend Lupita about skin. Skin comes in all different textures and shades of color. Elmo's skin is very ticklish. Lupita's skin is a beautiful brown color. There are so many possibilities - ticklish or smooth, black, brown, white, or tan - love the skin you have!
“A Kid’s Book About Racism” read by author Jelani Memory
Yes, this really is a kid's book about racism. Inside, you’ll find a clear description of what racism is, how it makes people feel when they experience it, and how to spot it when it happens.
Same Difference (A Children's Book Story by Calida Rawles)
Same Difference is a charming book for young readers (4-8 year olds) that addresses the sensitive and sometime divisive issues of beauty and identity. It has a lyrical, upbeat air that begs to be read aloud and offers an engaging rhyme pattern for young children.
How White Parents Can Talk To Their Kids About Race with Jennifer Harvey, author of Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America
Excerpt: One time after a rally, my 5-year-old said, "Black people are not safe." And I said, "Yes, that's true." And then she said, "But we're white, so we are safe." And I said, "Yeah, that's true too."Then I said to her, "The reason we went to this rally is because we're trying to tell the government that everybody deserves to be safe."
“75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice,” curated by Corinne Shutack.
Racism and Violence: Using Your Power as a Parent to Support Children Aged Two to Five - This resource provides thoughts and guidelines for talking about the complex issues of racism and equality in age-appropriate ways with children aged two to five years of age.
“How to Talk to Kids About Race and Racism” on Parent Toolkit
Excerpt: “Race used to be a taboo topic of conversation. It was considered impolite to talk about.” So, how does this affect kids? “Young children have natural curiosity about differences, but they don’t put any value on what it means, until they pick it up from what their parent says, or what the media tells them,” Chang says. “So, when a child asks their parent, ‘Why does that person look like that?’ and their parent shushes them, it shuts down the conversation and signals to the child there’s something wrong.”
The 2020 Ultimate List of Diverse Children's Books from Charnaie of Here Wee Read. (She's an incredible resource to turn to in general.)
Pre-k teacher Brittany Smith's Twitter list of children's books that discuss race and racism. (This post went viral, it's so good.)
Black Baby Books: A source for finding children’s books with black characters.
Colors of Us: Multi-cultural book recommendations
Books for Diversity: Multi-cultural book recommendations
Pretty Good Design: They have an entire resource roundup on their site for parents, educators
Teaching Tolerance: Provides free resources for educators K-12
PBS KIDS Learning Kit with Daniel Tiger tackles “Life’s Little Lessons.” Using videos and activities, this lesson helps kids value and appreciate the ways in which we are alike and ways we are different.
Sesame Workshop has developed activity toolkits in the past to help early education teachers tackling difficult conversations. One collection includes activities on resilience, to help kids explore their feelings and help them overcome during tough times. Another guide on worry guides adults in calming children’s worry and anxiety with a video, article, and interactive activity.
The Los Angeles Public Library curated a list of Black Lives Matter digital resources from its archives including music, films, and essential readings for children, teens, and adults (including selections in Spanish) to shine a light on the path to justice and reform.
Nicole A. Cooke, a professor of library and information science at the University of Southern Carolina, whose work focuses on diversity and social justice in librarianship, created a Padlet board called “Anti-Racism Resources for All Ages,” where she is collecting many videos, books and other general educational resources for both children and adults, plus pieces specifically on how to talk to kids about racism, including this video showing how Black parents must train their kids to deal with inevitable encounters with the police.
The education staff at WXXI, a public media services company in Rochester, New York pulled together an extensive list of activities from PBS LearningMedia to support educators and families while discussing race. The list explores race, anti-racism, protests, civil rights, Black history, bias, and more.
“If tolerance, respect, and equity permeate family life, they will translate into values that shape societies, nations, and the world.” –Kofi Annan