6 books that can help you teach your kids how to be an ally
Teaching children to be allies (someone who stands with and speaks up for minorities and discriminated communities) can be a difficult topic to broach or explain, especially to younger children. One of the most important ways to do this is to normalize differences and teach them how to include all kinds of people, races, and preferences in their lives. A great way to introduce them to this is to use books.
The following list of children’s books features a diverse set of characters, and/or have plots that center around tolerance and inclusion. Moreover, these books tactfully broach difficult topics like racism, privilege, slavery, the LGBTQIA community, and more. So grab these for your kids and get reading!
Something Happened In Our Town follows the story of two households - one white, and one black, that recount conversations about a police shooting in their town. In the white household, Emma, a little girl asks her parents questions about what happened, and why the Police officer shot a black man, and the same happens in the black household with Josh. The story takes the kids through a natural progression of questions about race, racism, racial bias, and systemic oppression. The story teaches kids how to recognize unfair racial bias and even broaches the topics of white privilege and slavery.
With detailed illustrations and thoughtful conversations, the book is definitely a great way to start explaining complex topics to your child and teach them how to identify unfair patterns. On the other hand, the conversations are fairly bland and informational: more emotional responses might have increased the impact of the message. The book does have extra tips and notes for parents and teachers to navigate a post-reading conversation and includes questions that you can use to have an extended discussion about race.
Innosanto Nagara (Author)
A is for Activist is a children’s alphabet book that takes you all the way from A through Z, but with more complicated words and concepts that can help you explain allyship, women’s rights, racism, climate change, democracy and more. Unlike most alphabet books, this book is definitely not meant for younger kids or toddlers, but for older kids, perhaps for above the age of 7 or 8.
Some of the words and concepts in the book can be hard to grasp, and probably require further explanation from a parent or teacher. A word of warning: the book is fairly liberal in its ideology, so you might want to make sure you’re okay with that before you get this book. That being said, A is for Activist is a good way to cover a long list of topics with your child that can lead to some pretty great conversations.
A narrative story about a black man born in 1939, Lester takes your child through the concept of race and how it’s just one part of what makes us who we are. The book explains how we are not only our race - we’re much more than that. We’re made up of pieces of history, culture, the people around us, our opinions and preferences, and more. He talks about how if we were to remove our skin, we’d all be the same on the inside - how we have the same bones and structure.
Let’s Talk about Race does a good job of explaining how we’re the same, but I wonder if the idea of us all being the same is not one that ultimately does more harm than good. If we really wanted to commit to inclusion and diversity, a color-blind worldview might not be the best way to help a child understand or learn to embrace and celebrate differences rather than ignore them.
A Kids Book about Racism is an easy-to-read book that explains the concept of racism well and is simple enough for a child to understand. The author describes his own journey of being a person of color who has a black dad and a white mom. The book does not have any illustrations but uses dynamic typography to drive home the message. Different sized fonts, doodles, lines, and colors highlight words in the book and make it interactive and attention-keeping.
Unlike Let’s Talk about Race, the book doesn’t have a color-blind approach to race and emphasizes the importance of celebrating our differences.
Yes, we’re tooting our own horn - but that’s because The Orangey-Tan is one of the more plot-driven children’s books out there that captures the whole aspect of racism, bigotry, and hate towards anyone different. Moreover, it’s not dry or bland, and the story can not only hold the attention of kids but parents as well.
The Orangey-Tan makes your child the hero in a story that revolves around Orangey-Tan, a vain ape that gets elected king of Manimal Forest, and then proceeds to lock up other animals in cages and sows hatred and division. Your child comes to the rescue and helps the rest of the Manimals protest and stand up to Orangey-Tan. Of course, the Orangey-Tan’s uncanny resemblance towards a certain 45th US President is entirely coincidental!
The book provides ample opportunities to discuss the concepts of racism, hate, bigotry, and how kids can stand up for what's right. Moreover, because the book has beautiful illustrations and engaging characters, your child is more likely to remember the story and its lessons. To read more about some of the lessons the book teaches, you can check out this post.
Families, Families, Families is a great book to help teach your child to be an ally to the LGBTQIA community. The book is extremely simple, easy to understand, and normalizes all different kinds of family structures.
The book used gorgeous illustrations of animal families to explain to kids that families come in all different shapes, colors and forms - and that as long as people love one another, that makes them a family.
Did we miss out any good books? Let us know in the comments!