Books that Educate & Celebrate Racial Diversity

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Inside: Books that Educate & Celebrate Racial Diversity

Here’s something we know to be true: Reading is a way to listen, and listening cultivates empathy.

Stepping into someone else’s shoes and experiencing what they experience from an inside-out perspective changes you. We’ve said it a hundred times, and we’ll say it again a hundred more because it’s so important:

Reading stories reaches the heart in a unique, powerful way.

We don’t have answers to heart-breaking racial injustices around the world. But we do have stories, and they can help shift a person’s perspective.

If you’re wondering where to begin, here’s a suggestion when it comes to these heart-changing life lessons through stories:

Read + Explore + Discuss

Books that Educate & Celebrate Cultural Diversity

Read Stories

Read widely and read diverse voices. Read things that stretch your perspective and widen your experience. Also, have courage to read things that can be, at times, uncomfortable or difficult to read.

Here are stories that celebrate racial diversity and others that address tragic and historic oppression.

We recommend a diet of both: Acknowledge injustice but also celebrate successes of these lives.

The Story Of Ruby Bridges
Beatrice’s Goat
Amos Fortune, Free Man
Emmanuel’s Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah
A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin
Uncle Jed’s Barbershop
Hush, Little Baby
A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day
Freedom Train: The Story of Harriet Tubman
Poetry for Young People: Langston Hughes
Amazing Grace
Apple Pie Fourth of July
Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman
A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams
Secret of the Andes
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry
The Snowy Day
Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Under the Quilt of Night
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt
Steamboat School
Do You Know What I’ll Do?
A Band of Angels
Max Found Two Sticks
Pink and Say
Last Stop on Market Street
Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad
Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou
Poetry for Young People: African American Poetry
Dear Benjamin Banneker
Ticktock Banneker’s Clock
Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra
Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness
Ella Fitzgerald
Hidden Figures: The True Story of Four Black Women and the Space Race
The People Could Fly: American Black Folktales
The People Could Fly: The Picture Book
Counting on Katherine
Overground Railroad
Strange Fruit: Billie Holiday and the Power of a Protest Song
All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom
I, Too, Am America
A Voice of Her Own: The Story of Phillis Wheatley, Slave Poet
Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky
Dave the Potter: Artist, Poet, Slave
Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library
Take a Picture of Me, James Van Der Zee!
The Paper Crane
A Pair of Red Clogs
What Is Given from the Heart
The Red Bicycle: The Extraordinary Story of One Ordinary Bicycle
Whistle for Willie
Salt in His Shoes: Michael Jordan in Pursuit of a Dream
Jabari Jumps
Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story
Phillis Sings Out Freedom
The Boy Who Dreamed of Infinity: A Tale of the Genius Ramanujan
Trombone Shorty
The Secret Garden of George Washington Carver
Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson
Fearless Mary: Mary Fields, American Stagecoach Driver
Before There Was Mozart: The Story of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-George
The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne
Young Pele: Soccer’s First Star
Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré
Talkin’ About Bessie: The Story of Aviator Elizabeth Coleman
Buzzing with Questions: The Inquisitive Mind of Charles Henry Turner
Carter Reads the Newspaper
The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read
My Daddy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way
The Book Rescuer: How a Mensch from Massachusetts Saved Yiddish Literature for Generations to Come
Martin & Mahalia: His Words, Her Song
Sojourner Truth’s Step-Stomp Stride
Free as a Bird
Mama Miti: Wangari Maathai and the Trees of Kenya
One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia
So Tall Within: Sojourner Truth’s Long Walk Toward Freedom
Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom
The Storyteller
Thank You, Omu!
The Blessing Cup
My Heart Fills With Happiness
We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga
Let the Children March
I Have a Dream
Martin Rising: Requiem For a King
Pies from Nowhere: How Georgia Gilmore Sustained the Montgomery Bus Boycott
The Tale of the Mandarin Ducks
Follow the Drinking Gourd
Poet: The Remarkable Story of George Moses Horton
A Single Shard
When My Name Was Keoko
Yeh-Shen: A Cinderella Story from China
Children of the Dragon: Selected Tales from Vietnam

Explore Topics

Explore multiple layers. One story’s perspective on an issue won’t often look the same as another one. Challenge yourself to look deeper by exploring stories from various perspectives.

Explore what happened leading up to an issue. Explore lives of important figures surrounding an issue. Pair a story with another story and another. Exploring with intention will result in deeper empathy and understanding.

Discuss Together

Reading helps us see in a new way. Exploring helps us see more deeply and make connections. Discussion makes it more meaningful.

Take the issues off the page with simple dialogue. Ask your children what they think about a story. Discuss possible connections to their life and current issues.

Here are a few suggestions to begin dialogue:

  • What did you think of that story?
  • How did the person in that story seem to feel? Would you feel that way, too?
  • How did others in the story feel about the main character?
  • What mistakes did people make in the story?
  • What do you think of this character’s choice? What would you have done in that situation?
  • Does this person’s experience remind you of anyone else’s?
  • Do you have any questions about the story?

We hope these ideas and suggestions help you create a culture of empathy and communication in your home.

We hope they help you connect with your child as you read, explore, and discuss powerful and heart-changing stories!

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