Educators should confront their own racial identities before facilitating conversations about race with students. They should also reach out to parents to inform them about the conversations that will be taking place in the classroom.

Background readings to prepare for teaching and talking about race in the classroom:

Ali Michael, Raising Race Questions: Whiteness & Inquiry in Education

Ali Michael, What White Children Need to Know about Race

Matthew R. Kay, Not Light, But Fire: How to Lead Meaningful Race Conversations in the Classroom

Beverly Tatum, Why are all the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?

Anti-Bias Books for Kids

The books on this list were recommended by Flow of History teachers and librarians at recent workshops. The books:

  • talk about race and identity
  • tell stories of journeys from victim to victor
  • provide examples of being an ally or upstander
  • portray people of color with having agency and courage

The Teaching for Change Project has a more detailed Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books

Book Title Theme & Topic Grade Level/ Comments
Come August. Come Freedom Enslaved people with agency, not as victims Middle School; Historical Fiction; historical fiction; used in the classroom
Unchained Memories: Readings from the Slave Narratives Documentary film; full diverse picture of slavery. There is resistance in it. Middle School
Julius Lester, Let’s Talk about Race Themes of identity and talk about race, raises lots of good conversation with kids Elementary; Picture Book; works well in the classroom at 5th grade and up
Russell Freedman, Freedom Walkers Children as activists; allies and upstanders 5th Grade and up; used in classroom; good visuals
All American Boys Novel about Black Lives Movement; police brutality; told from two perspectives–black and white; bystander Middle School; similar to Hate U Give in theme; read ahead before using with students
Julius Lester, Day of Tears About the largest slave auction in North America; Examples of Upstanders Middle School; used as readers theater where kids select roles to read; challenging language for middle schoolers allows for good conversations about “n” word, etc
Separate is Never Equal Takes place in California; Mexican; Reminds us that the issue of Civil Rights is for all people of color, not just African-Americans 5th Grade; Picture Book
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx Similar theme to above 5th grade +; Picture Book; Bilingual, teacher has a Spanish speaker read it to the class
Esperanza Rising Mexico; Migrant Workers; characters with dark and light skin–entry point to talking about race Easy read for 5th Grade
Little House on the Prairie Examples of institutional racism for Native Americans; disparities of power between whites and indians; Black doctor–has agency, saves whites Middle School; class finds black doctor in the census and learns about his role in the community
Chains Trilogy Powerful black girl in the Revolution Upper Elementary; Middle historical novel
Ghost and Patina Part of a series; Perseverance. Set in NYC with a track team. Big hit with students 10+
Bud, Not Buddy Funny, sweet, hopeful, set in the Great Depression 5th/6th Grade
Child of the Civil Rights Movement Shows what kids can do More than one teacher suggested this
Henry Climbs a Mountain About Thoreau and not paying taxes because of slavery