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Children's and Young Adult Literature

Anti-racism, Educators, and Children's Literature

by Linda Salem on 2020-08-12T09:56:00-07:00 | 0 Comments

Please visit the new exhibit Anti-racism & Educators as Allies with more grade level recommendations. 

Here find children's books and books for educators about anti-racism.


It is vital that educators “counter racism and violence against Black men and women” (May 28, 2020) as officially declared by the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA) and in solidarity with the San Diego State University Senate Resolution (June 4, 2020).   As allies, educators are empowered, especially through books, to educate ourselves and facilitate age-appropriate conversations about racism with our students.  

We join with BCALA in “the condemnation of the systematic social injustices of Black people and People of Color” and we share in The Brown Bookshelf’s commitment “to the ongoing work of amplifying and celebrating Black voices, rejecting white supremacy, and empowering young readers” for a more socially just classroom and the wider community. 

We join with author Ibram X. Kendi to affirm that children’s literature is an avenue to teach about social injustice, race, how to be an antiracist, and most importantly, to celebrate whole and joyful Black lives.

Classroom Read Alouds

Antiracist Baby 

by Ibram X. Kendi and illustrated by Ashley Lukashevsky


Ashley Lukashevsky’s colorful illustrations show diverse toddlers and their parents happily living antiracist lives as prescribed by Ibram X. Kendi in nine steps “to make equity a reality.”  Each rhyming step teaches caregivers the active role they play in raising an antiracist baby.  First published as a board book and now in picture book format, Lukashevsky’s inspiring illustrations complement Kendi’s important messages about cultivating justice.


    I Am Every Good Thing 

   by Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Gordon C. James


  Award-winning author and illustrator Derrick Barnes and Gordon C. James      team up again to show Black boys’ humanity in this timely, newly released     realistic fiction text.  Black boys are affirmed, through poetic statements, that they are good.  James’ oil paintings display Black boys thriving and good, conveying an antiracist message for all readers.


Woke Baby 

by Mahogany L. Brown and illustrated by Theodore Taylor


Close-up illustrations by Theodore Taylor, a Coretta Scott King John Steptoe New Talent Award (2014) winner, depict a joyful woke baby who raises his fist and babbles songs of freedom, enacting gestures of resistance.  Told in second person, you, Mahogany L. Brown commands the justice-oriented baby of color to “cry out for justice” and “grow up to change the world.”  This inspirational depiction also offers allies an opportunity to discuss a commitment to justice.


The Undefeated 

by Kwame Alexander and illustrated by Kadir Nelson

(Grades 1-5)


The Undefeated is a multiple award-winning poetic text that inspires readers with excerpts by some of the most celebrated Black American poets.  Colorful and vivid illustrations show the endurance of unforgettable athletes, artists, and activists.  Teachers can use this text as a springboard into students’ biographical exploration of many inspiring Black Americans who defied defeat.

Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down 

by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney

(Grades 1-8)

Through watercolor and India ink depictions of four friends’ protest of segregation, this nonfiction text provides a historical account of white-only lunch counter sit-ins.  Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King’s nonviolent philosophy, David, Joseph, Franklin, and Ezell stand up to injustice by sitting down at a Woolworth lunch counter.  Readers will realize that all forms of protest help lead the way to justice through the powerful role models in Sit-in.


For Educators

What follows are current antiracist resources to help preservice elementary teachers begin this life-long process of self-reflection with respect to privilege, power, and bias in our institutions and our lives.

How to Be an Antiracist

by Ibram X. Kendi

“Being an antiracist requires persistent self-awareness, constant self-criticism, and regular self-examination,” remarks Dr. Ibram X. Kendi in How to be an Antiracist.  Through anecdotal self-reflection of his own life, Kendi incorporates history and cultural theory that will push the reader to examine one’s own beliefs, beliefs that may be blatantly or insidiously racist.  Kendi is a leading expert on antiracism and this book accelerates the idea that one must actively choose to be antiracist.

So You Want to Talk About Race

by Ijeoma Oluo

Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk about Race is described as a straightforward conversation about the racial divide in the United States of America that is present in our schools, workplaces, government, and in commerce.  Oluo’s perspective, as a Person of Color in the racially charged United States of America, is considered honest and even humorous.  Readers clearly understand that action must be taken to tear down racism.

Teaching for Black Lives

Edited by Dyan Watson, Jesse Hagopian, and Wayne Au

ISBN:  9780942961041 

from Rethinking Schools

A Skipping Stones Honor Award (2019) winner for teaching resources, this urgent text emerged from the Black Lives Matter movement.  Editors Watson, Hagopian, and Wu show how a responsive classroom can connect curriculum to Black students’ experiences as well as underline the importance of activism.  Resources are provided. 

Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the above descriptive reviews are not wholly original but rather influenced by online resources particularly the Children’s Literature Comprehensive Database and the rich Teaching Books digital resource for educators.

Gretchen McLaughlin

Teacher Librarian/SDSU Library School Intern Summer 2020 (Supervisor Linda Salem)


Ashby, R. E. (2020, June 1). Statement Condemning Increased Violence and Racism 

Towards Black Americans and People of Color. Black Caucus American Library 



Rhuday-Perkovich, O. (2020, June 6). KidLit Rally 4 Black Lives: Anti-Racist Resources 

for Children, Families, and Educators. The Brown Bookshelf.


San Diego State University Senate. SDSU Announces Resolution on Police Practice 

and Education. San Diego State University College of Professional Studies and 

Fine Arts.



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