As I scan news headlines and scroll through social media feeds, my heart grows increasingly heavy for the world in which I’m raising my two littles. The violence and division that stem from issues of race and justice are particularly weighty. This heaviness has caused me to examine my own attitudes and actions regarding racial reconciliation and justice and forced me to consider how this impacts my parenting.I feel like the Holy Spirit is putting his finger on this topic for me personally, and I'm asking Him how to equip my children. Some of the big questions I'm wrestling with are:
What can I do to raise my kids to love and celebrate their own uniqueness and that of others?
How can I instill in my children the love of Jesus in a way that will mold their interactions with others--even and perhaps especially those different than them?
How should I teach my children to act justly and love mercy?
I have a long way to go in fully answering these questions (both for me personally and in parenting), but one small baby step we've taken together is diversifying the books we read. I know it might sound insignificant, but research suggests that reading books written by and/or featuring people of color does have an impact on young hearts and minds in their development of racial bias. I want to lean in to and be intentional about that while my kids are still so young and soft in heart.
After combing several online lists of books that celebrate diversity and address race-related issues, I was able to check out several of them from our local library. Here are ten books that my littles and I fell in love with:
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands by Kadir Nelson - I can't think of a simpler, more comforting message than this classic children's song in book form. Beautiful illustrations featuring people of color perfectly compliment these timeless lyrics.
If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson - Same author, another great book. Nelson manages to masterfully take a deep scriptural concept like reaping and sowing (selfishness and kindness) and break it down for even the youngest of little "readers." More beautiful pictures help to tell this powerful story.
What is Given From the Heart by Patricia C. McKissack - Confession: I'm not a crier, but this book definitely made me tear up the first time I read it. It tells the story of the difficult life a young boy and his mother are living, and a sacrificial act of kindness.
I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien - Written from the perspective of young children that have recently moved to the United States from other countries, this book offers insight into how kids in this situation feel and the difficulties they face. The simple language and realistic illustrations make this a great read for kids in preschool or early elementary.
Questions and Feelings about Racism by Anita Ganeri - This book offers a definition of racism for children, as well as situations and examples of what racism can look like (specifically for children). This might be better for a slightly older preschool or early elementary crowd, depending on the types of conversations you want to have with your child and their readiness to discuss the topic.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry - Little Zuri loves her hair, but she needs some help from her dad to fix it just the way she wants for a special day. My daughter wants me to read her this book over and over again, and I actually don't mind to read it to her over and over again. It's sweet and comical and provides a great way to talk about how God made us differently.
Only You Can Be You by Nathan and Sally Clarkson - "Everyone's different, and that's okay. The Maker of everything made us that way." That's the central message of this encouraging book. It's playful illustrations invite young eyes to study and pay attention. It's a beautiful celebration of the Maker's handiwork.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman - Young Grace loves stories and acting, and can't wait to try out for her school's performance of Peter Pan. But comments made my classmates leave her feeling discouraged and confused.
You Are Extraordinary by Craig and Samantha Johnson - This book is a beautiful celebration of God's unique design and purpose for each of us.
Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim - This short and interactive board book is great for your littlest readers.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of books for preschoolers on race or celebrating our uniqueness (there are many great titles out there). Just like reading some children's books is not a comprehensive approach for me to educate my kids on these deep societal issues. Yet, they offer for me a glimpse of hope in the right direction, and I hope they do the same for you.