This is not just another book list.
Anti-Black racism has been an inequity issue for many years and systemic barriers have affected Black youth acutely. There is an underlying discomfort when raising questions around race and identity in Canadian classrooms, especially in the elementary years. Books representing Black people on the cover are displayed during February and often relegated to a pile for the rest of the year.
According to Dr. Ashaunta Anderson, babies learn about racial bias and racial difference as early as 6 months old. By the age of 12, they have already become set in their belief systems. That first decade is essential then, to offer children the time and space to process human differences. What kinds of narratives do we share, read aloud, or bring attention to during those years?
The way we model talk can empower young persons to be courageous when acting as an anti-racist ally.
In the early elementary years, educators often turn to a unit talking about “Community Helpers”. A police officer is almost always central to this unit. Just as it would be a stereotype to say every police officer is harmful, it would also be a stereotype to say they are ALL helpful. We need to be mindful of how triggering such an image could be for a young child of colour.
Woke Kindergarten models how to read aloud a book that includes ideas that we may think are difficult to raise with little ones:
Children’s books offer a safe starting point to support conversations about race and inequity.
Books celebrating Black joy are included.
Remember, publishing has its own diversity gaps and issues of inequity. When looking for books, consider whose voice is being amplified, and whose has been left out. There are independent Black creators who are climbing over obstacles to be heard – look for them and make space for them. In Canada, find the work of Rahma Rodaah and include her books in your collections. Look for BIG DREAMERS from the founders of Bright Confetti Media – Akilah Newton and Tami Gabay.
A is For Activist (Board Book)
Anti-Racist Baby (Board Book)
Not My Idea (FREE PDF until Juneteenth!)
Say Her Name (For Teens)
Visit Zetta Elliott’s site to find a large collection of titles (picture books, too), some that she had to push out into the world through self-publishing in order to make space for Black voices, so they would no longer be left on the margins. As Zetta says, “I write as much for parents as I do for their children because sometimes adults need the simple instruction a picture book can provide.” You can listen to her book Milo’s Museum here.
Something Happened in Our Town (With Tipsheet and Q&A)
This Book Is Anti-Racist (Teens+) Link to Teacher’s Guide and Posters
This is certainly not an exhaustive list. You can also support conversations around big topics by following scholars, educators and activists referenced in my last post.
Find more links below.
Oh – and have you heard of Bellen’s More than Peach Project? Check out this 9 year-old’s brilliant idea to create crayons beyond peach.
Support Black-owned Bookstores (CANADA):
Support Organizations/Patreon account and read articles highlighting books:
FOLD: Festival of Literary Diversity (Canada)
Support (Un)Learning for Educators/Advocates at home:
Parents for Diversity (Canada)
10 books you must read to learn about racism (What they don’t teach you in British schools)
Support educators offering ways to talk to younger people about race and racism (also see last post):
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester (YouTube video)