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21 children’s books to spark important discussions about race + tolerance

If you're wondering when the "right" time is to begin having these talks—it's now, mama.

kids books about race

It seems like there's always a new event that is making us wonder when and how to start talking to our children about race and tolerance. But, you might be overwhelmed by the idea: How do I start the conversation? What if I say the “wrong" thing? Can a very young child even benefit from these kinds of discussions?

The answer is a resounding yes, so if you're wondering when the “right" time is to begin having these talks—it's now, mama.

Having honest and open discussions about race, tolerance and acceptance from a very early age can set the stage for a much broader and deeper understanding of these issues as your child grows.

Here are 20 books that can help spark these conversations.



Skin Again by Bell Hooks, illustrated by Chris Raschka

skin again book

This poetic ode to celebrating our differences is a gentle way to introduce young children to the concepts of race and identity.

$9.49

Beautiful Beautiful Me Book by Ashley Sirah Hinton, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley

beautiful beautiful me book

A beautiful children's book celebrating diversity and reminding kids of all colors how beautiful they are.

$17.50

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family's Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

separate is never equal

An inspiring story about one family's efforts to desegregate California schools in the late 1940s. A 2015 Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor Book.

$15.19

Henry's Freedom Box by Ellen Levine, illustrated by Kadir Nelson

henrys freedom box

The stunningly illustrated, heart-wrenching tale of a slave who mailed himself to freedom.

$14.03

The Color of Us by Karen Katz

the colors of us

A celebration of the many shades of skin color, as told through the eyes of a seven-year-old girl trying to paint a picture of herself. Perfect for introducing the concept of race to even the youngest readers.

$6.79

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev, illustrated by Taeeun Yoo

strictly no elephants

A sweet lesson in tolerance, acceptance, and inclusion for even the youngest readers.

$15.58

Martin's Big Words by Julius Lester, illustrated by Karen Barbour

martins big words book

A beautiful, accessible introduction to the life and words of Martin Luther King, Jr. Winner of the 2002 Caldecott Medal.

$7.54

Red: A Crayon's Story by Michael Hall

red a crayons story

A funny, clever story that will help little ones down the path of finding joy in staying true to who you really are.

$11.98

One Family by George Shannon, illustrated by Blanca Gomez

one family kids book

A playful look at diversity and the many ways to form a family.

$10.98

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

a is for activist

A primer for social justice perfect for even the littlest activist.

$9.97

Let's Talk About Race by Julius Lester, illustrated by Karen Barbour

let's talk about race book

The perfect conversation starter for any discussion about race, this lively picture books celebrate what makes us different yet all the same.

$7.48

We March by Shane W. Evans

we march kids book

A critical moment in the civil rights movement— the 1963 March on Washington—told in clear, concise prose.

$6.98

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis

the other side book

A longstanding classic about bridging the racial divide between two young friends, told through powerful prose and gorgeous watercolor illustrations.

$13.37

A Poem for Peter: The Story of Ezra Jack Keats and the Creation of The Snowy Day by Andrea Davis Pinkney, illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

a poem for peter book

The inspiring story behind the groundbreaking classic A Snowy Day, the first mainstream book to feature an African American hero.

$13.29

Be Who You Are by Todd Parr

be who you are kids book

The ultimate celebration of self and a vibrant, playful reminder to be proud of who you are and where you come from.

$10.96

The Adventures of Beekle: An Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat

beekle book

A charming, endearing friendship story that reminds us all there's a place for everyone in this big, wide world. Winner of the 2015 Caldecott Medal.

$12.40

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

the youngest marcher book

The story of the youngest known civil rights protester in history will teach children that you're never too small to stand up for what you believe in.

$15.29

I Like Myself! by Karen Beaumont, illustrated by David Catrow

I like myself book

A silly, joyful celebration of being true to who you are. Catchy rhyming text makes this a perfect read-aloud.

$6.59

The Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena, illustrated by Christian Robinson

last stop on market street book

This bus ride through a busy city showcases people of different skin colors, ages, and classes, and takes readers on a journey that will help them appreciate the beauty all around. Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal and the 2016 Caldecott Honor.

$10.49

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman, illustrated by Caroline Binch

amazing grace kids book

Ideal for sparking conversations about race and gender with young children, the story of spirited Grace remains as important today as it was when it was first published 25 years ago.

$13.73

Malala's Magic Pencil

malalas magic pencil

Malala's Magic Pencil, the first picture book from Nobel Prize winning Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai. It depicts the story of her childhood for a young audience.

$12.92

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These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

1. Go apple picking.

Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

4. Have a touch-football game.

Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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