A Diverse Personal Library Speaks Volumes

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We’ve seen the news. Our hearts are heavy. We grieve with our neighbors, friends and family. We’re feeling sad and overwhelmed. We don’t even know where to go from here.

It’s easy to feel helpless. Especially as white women. But may we be so bold as to suggest that you can help?

Your influence is larger than you may think. Because you, Mama, have children who are listening, absorbing and watching what you say and do.

You may not be able to march at the state house, but you are able to affect change right where you are. Change begins in your home: with the conversations you’re having with your kids, with the shows you’re watching, and the books you’re reading.

There are many resources out there to help you be more intentional about talking with your children about race and racism. A great place to start is your own personal library of children’s books. Books are a simple way to introduce tough topics and guide conversations. Books help expose our kiddos to people and places they might not normally encounter in their day to day life. 

When building a more diverse library, look for books written by BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color). It’s important to hear stories and see illustrations about BIPOC written and drawn by BIPOC. We also want to avoid ONLY adding books to our library that victimize BIPOC. So fewer books about slavery and the civil rights era and more about ordinary Black kids doing ordinary things. It’s not that we don’t want to share these stories, we absolutely should, but we also want our white children to grow accustomed to seeing BIPOC as part of our everyday lives. We want them to be able to positively relate to the BIPOC in the books they read.  

Lastly, make sure your kids are learning a thorough and accurate Black History. Don’t make them wait until they are in school to learn about Martin Luther King Jr, Rosa Parks, Lagston Hughes, Bessie Coleman, and Marsha P. Johnson (just to name a few). 

These are books in our personal libraries that have led to important conversations in our homes and we want to share them with you. This list was put together by moms: we have differing backgrounds yet are united by the same cause. We acknowledge there are more wonderful books out there, but here are some of our favorites. We are also including a couple of Instagram accounts you can follow for more resources to expand your personal library. 

Last Stop on Market Street

by Matt de la Pena

This beautiful picture book is appropriate for all ages. Young children will love the pictures. This sweet story centers on a little boy and his grandmother on a routine bus ride that becomes one full of questions and answers about what makes people different and the same. Recommended for ages 3-5.

Ordinary People Change the World

by Brad Meltzer

Author Brad Meltzer introduces readers to real people, gives important background and explains what that ordinary person did to change the world. Specifically “I am Martin Luther King, Jr.,” “I am Rosa Parks,” “I am Harriet Tubman,” and “I am Jackie Robinson.” The pictures are engaging and each book ends with some sort of application or challenge to the reader. Recommended for ages 5-8. (But personally my teenager enjoys these books too!)

28 Days: Moments in Black History that Changed the World

by Charles R. Smith Jr.

This book begins with the bitter truth of what happened to Crispus Attucks. He was shot in 1770 by a British soldier, beginning the Boston Massacre. Every page or two, a different date in history is noted and an explanation of something influential in black history is spotlighted.

This book includes the first black president, the first successful heart operation (which happened to be conducted by a black doctor) and the first black astronaut who went to space. This book is beautifully illustrated and is a fantastic teaching tool! The only thing I find lacking in this is that each event highlighted spans just a page or two, so it sometimes leaves you wanting more information. Recommended for ages 4-10.

God’s Very Good Idea

by Trillia Newbell

If you’re religious, this book gives kids a way to connect their faith to the world around them. Written by an African American author, Trillia Newbell points out how everyone is different and that is okay. That is how God intended it to be. This book is colorful and depicts many different nationalities. Newbell encourages kids to accept one another’s differences and to show love to all. Recommended for ages 3-8.

Martin’s Big Words

by Doreen Rappaport

This book is a wonderful introductory biography into one of the world’s most influential people. The text takes us on a journey through Dr. Martin Luther King’s childhood and into his role as a civil rights activist. The illustrations are captivating and sure to stir up their own conversations. As a teacher, I used this text in the classroom a lot and it was always a favorite among students. Recommended for ages 6-8. 

Baby Goes to Market

by Atinuke

We found this book first at the library and loved it so much we purchased it for our home library. Baby Goes to Market tells the story of Baby and his mother as they shop in their Nigerian marketplace. The text is simple and fun and it’s a great book for talking about numbers and different types of food. Recommended  for ages 2-5. 

Anti-Racist Baby

by Ibram X Kendi

We haven’t gotten our hands on this book yet, as it hasn’t been released! But it looks like a promising board book. “With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism.” It provides language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age. Recommended for ages 0-3.

Other recommendations submitted by Columbia Mom readers:

Instagram/Facebook accounts to check out for more recommendations: 

What books have you found to be helpful or engaging on the matters of race and racism?

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