Children's books are a great way to explore hard to understand concepts such as racism and social injustice. And, there are some truly amazing stories out there to share with elementary and middle school readers. Explore several of the best books to teach children about social injustice issues like racism.
Best Books About Racism and Social Justice for Kids
Books About Racism for Kids
Racism can be a hard concept for a child to understand. However, they're seeing it in the world around them all the time. Give kids some context on racism and what it is through enjoyable books designed for children.
My Hair Is a Garden
People have differences from the color of their skin to the texture of their hair. Help children see differences are beautiful through the book My Hair is a Garden. Children will follow Mackenzie from being bullied for her hair to coming to understand, through her neighbor, natural black hair is beautiful.
Jazz Age Josephine
Josephine Baker lived by her own rules. Through this colorfully illustrated book by Marjorie Priceman, author Jonah Winter shows her vivid life to children. Not only do they see her pet leopard, but they also learn how she was able to dance her way through racial barriers.
For the Right to Learn
Every person should have the right to learn. Through beautiful illustrations, Malala Yousafzi tells the world the story of how she fought the Taliban and nearly lost so that she and other girls could get an education.
My Name Is Truth: The Life of Sojourner Truth
Written by Ann Turner and illustrated by James Ransome, My Name is Truth tells the story of Isabella Baumfree, the former slave that would become the iconic Sojourner Truth. Not only will children see her struggle with racism and inequality as a black woman during the civil rights movement, but they will explore her perseverance and determination.
The Journey of Little Charlie
In his characteristic style, Christopher Paul Curtis brings to life the plight of 12-year-old Charlie Bobo. Children will follow his travels with a slave catcher across the midwest and into Canada as he struggles to make the right choice while saving his own life.
Stella by Starlight
Stella by Starlight gives children a glimpse into the civil rights era by following the brave girl Stella and her fight to stomp out injustice. Growing up in the segregated south, Stella witnesses something that rocks her little town. Undeterred, Stella chooses to fight rather than be afraid.
I Am Not a Number
Could you imagine being stripped of your name and taken from your parents? Irene Couchie was taken from her First Nations family to become nothing more than a number. Through these beautifully illustrated pages, children follow her fight to remember who she is.
Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story
Becoming an actress or actor would be hard enough, but could you imagine becoming the first Chinese American movie star? Through illustrations by Lin Wang, Paula Yoo writes the story of Anna May Wong and her struggle through oppression and discrimination to achieve her dreams.
Books About Social Justice for Kids
While racism is a big one, social justice issues are all around us. Trying to teach children to understand issues like bullying or LGBTQ oppression could be hard. When in doubt, use great books to help you tackle tough social justice topics.
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family's Journey
Shedding light on the Syrian refugee crisis in a way that children can understand, Margriet Ruurs uses the stone art of Nizar Ali Badr to illustrate one family fleeing their village. The beautiful stone images and English/Arabic words describe Rama and her family leaving their home to walk to Europe.
Ada's Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay
You don't need a lot of money to follow your dreams. You just need a little innovation. Ada's Violin follows the story of Ada Rios from a village on a landfill. Her dream of becoming a violinist becomes a reality when an innovative music teacher creates instruments from trash. This book shows the true story of the Recycled Orchestra.
The Name Jar
Being the new kid can be hard. Having a unique name can be even harder. That's why Unhei, a Korean transfer student, decides to choose a new name in her American school with the help of her classmates. However, she comes to realize that her Korean name is the best choice.
Strictly No Elephants
Each person is unique! And sometimes, so are their pets. To show the true meaning of friendship and embracing every person, Strictly No Elephants tells the story of a boy and his pet elephant and how they show the Pet Club that it's important to accept everyone despite their differences.
Bullying comes in all shapes and sizes. In this book, you'll meet Chrysanthemum, who is teased and bullied in school because of her name. However, her music teacher Mrs. Delphinium Twinkle shows the world that Chrysanthemum is a beautiful name.
Oliver Button Is a Sissy
Because of his love of singing and dancing, Oliver Button is bullied. However, Tomie dePaola shows the world in this illustrated children's book that Oliver Button's differences are truly special.
A Peacock Among Pigeons
We weren't all meant to fit it in. Peter the Peacock learns this the hard way when he tries to fit into a world full of gray pigeons. However, in this LGBT-themed illustrated children's book, you find out it's important to feel comfortable in your own skin, and some people were truly meant to shine.
Teaching Kindness and Empathy
Everyone is different. That difference can lead to social injustices and racism. Help children to learn empathy and acceptance of others through exploring these concepts in books. It's also important to explore race and ethnicity along with types of bias when teaching children about social injustices. You might also be interested in reading some award-winning children's books about cultural diversity.