How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism

Books, articles, media, and more!

By Erin Ardans, publisher of Vacaville Macaroni Kid June 4, 2020

How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism

Books, articles, media, and more!

So how do you even start the conversation about racism with a child? Many parents struggle with teaching their kids about racism and when and where to start. 

I have tried to shield my mixed-race son from racism but even at age ten, he has already felt the effects of racism. It seems too soon to go from a world of make-believe: believing in the tooth fairy and Santa Claus to the cold harsh reality of the world. A world that can seem unfair to a child of color and that someone that has only experienced sexism can only scratch the surface of understanding. 

So should we teach them as early as possible? Yes! 

Does this mean showing them Roots after dinner? No!! 

The conversation about racism can start at any age, right here, right now! 

How do we start?! Well, the basic guidelines are listed below as well as resources to help you get started! 

1. Celebrate differences: 

The first thing that a small child might notice is skin color.

Whether brown or white or in between acknowledge it's okay to be different! Celebrate those differences! 

It's okay to be you and it's okay to have friends that look different from you.
Check out the books below that discuss racial and ethnic differences.

2. Have real conversations:

When children ask questions or when you start the conversation with a book start the conversation focusing on empathy over specific fears. 

Ask them questions that focus on empathy, "How do you think you would feel in this situation? Was this fair? What do you do when things feel unfair?" 

Check out the article below about 100 race-conscious things you can say to advance racial justice.

3. Answer Questions:

Don't feel like you need to have ALL the answers! Listen and understand what your child wants to know about racial differences, different ethnicities, and cultural practices. 

Listen for bias and correct as needed and ask why they may feel a certain way about a particular incident with a child or adult.

4. Learn together:

Don't know what to say? Look below for resources about deep and meaningful conversations that you can have today. Go on a search for more information on that culture. 

Read articles yourself to understand more about racism and why protests are going on. 

Lastly, make sure to put down the social media outlet if you feel overwhelmed, that's okay too. Self-care is important and the best practice is to model yourself what values you want to instill in your child. They will pick up on your kindness, empathy, and compassion.

Be a kind human. 

Books on Racism:

silhouette of child sitting behind tree during sunset

Talk to kids about racism with these 10 books

These books can help kids of any age understand racism and celebrating diversity

Anti-Racism For Kids 101: Starting To Talk About Race

31 Children's books to support conversations on race, racism, and resistance

Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds & Ibram X. Kendi

Articles and more:

100 Race-Conscious things you can say to your child to advance racial justice 

4 Things We Should All Teach Kids About Racism Right Now

How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids

How to Talk to Kids about Race and Racism

Check out this read-aloud