Three Powerful Anti-Racism Books for Children

Reading Lists
Mary Lonsdale
Anti-racism reading lists: three of our favourites.

Following the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and more, people across the world have taken to the streets to protest against police brutality and institutional racism: it’s an issue that has (rightly) inflamed the globe. With this in mind, many parents are wondering how best to broach the pertinent topic of prejudice with their children. Literature, always a powerful tool, can be an effective mechanism for shedding light on racial injustice, helping children to understand the importance of inclusivity, the abhorrence of racism, and the valuable role they can play – no matter their age – in fighting against it.

The American activist and educator Angela Davies stated that it’s ‘not enough to be non-racist, you have to be anti-racist.’ Here are some of our favourite anti-racism books for children.

Amazing Grace (Mary Hoffman)

2020 marks the thirty-year anniversary of the publication of Amazing Grace – and the appearance of one of the very first black heroines in children’s literature. The anti-racism messages in the book are as relevant today as they were back in the 1990s.

Through the struggles of Grace, an African-American child who is denied the chance to play Peter Pan in the school play (partly because she’s female, partly because she’s black), the reader learns that prejudice can begin at an early age – it is, after all, Grace’s young peers who trample her hopes of auditioning for the lead role. But after her nana takes her to see the ballet Romeo and Juliet, during which the young girl sees an African-American ballerina play Juliet, Grace tells herself: ‘I can be anything I want’. As a result, she auditions successfully for Peter and her eventual performance in the play is deemed ‘amazing’.

Amazing Grace is a fantastic, heart-warming tale that shows anything is possible – whilst clearly demonstrating that it’s never too early to teach children about inclusiveness, kindness, and respect.

Noughts and Crosses (Malorie Blackman)

In this gripping novel, which is set in a dystopian future, the population is divided into ‘Crosses’ and ‘Noughts’. The Crosses, who are black and perceived as the ‘superior’ race, rule over the white Noughts, who are treated as the underclass. When Sephy, a Cross and daughter of a powerful politician, falls in love with Callum, a Nought – something that is strictly forbidden by their society – her eyes are opened to the racial injustices suffered by many Noughts – with shocking results.

By cleverly subverting traditional stereotypes, Blackman is able to explore discrimination and racial prejudice in a really powerful and thought-provoking way. A must-read for any budding bookworm – and a must-have for any anti-racism reading list.

The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas)

Dubbed ‘one of the most important books of 2017’, The Hate U Give is a profound, beautifully-told portrayal of both the modern black experience and the trials and tribulations of adolescence.

Starr Carter is a 16-year-old black girl who lives in the fictional (mostly black) neighbourhood of Garden Heights and attends an affluent, mostly-white preparatory school. One weekend, she and her childhood friend Khalil are pulled over by the police. When the police apparently mistake Khalil’s hairbrush for a gun, shots are fired – and Khalil is killed. As the only witness, Starr is now faced with an extraordinary choice: does she keep quiet and protect her anonymity and her family, or does she speak up and fight for justice, even if it means stepping into the spotlight (and, at the same time, confronting some of the latent prejudices of her prep school friends)?

Through its terrific exploration of all different forms of prejudice – from police brutality to so-called ‘soft’ racism – as well as the power of the individual, the struggle to find one’s true identity, and the confusing journey from childhood into young adulthood, The Hate U Give is a memorable, moving and truly unique novel. A fantastic addition to an anti-racism reading list.

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