10 Books to Get Kids Thinking About Racism and Discrimination

From elementary to high school these books are sure to get kids thinking and promote conversation

By Macaroni Kid February 1, 2021

We've been looking for books to help us talk to our own kids about racism and discrimination. 

This list, created by a mom who lives in South Africa, seemed like a great place to start. Her blog is called Colours of Us and focuses on multicultural literature for kids.

Here are 10 books from Colours of Us' list of children's books to help teach kids about racism and discrimination:

Elementary school

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: The Story Of Ruby Bridges

The Story Of Ruby Bridges

by Robert Coles

In 1960 a judge orders little Ruby to attend first grade at William Frantz Elementary, an all-white school in New Orleans. Surrounded by Federal Marshals, Ruby faces angry mobs of segregationists as she walks through the school door on her first day (and many after). Being the only student in her class, she is taught by a supportive teacher. With simple text and engaging watercolor illustrations, "The Story Of Ruby Bridges" is a moving picture book about a little girl’s calm perseverance and gracious forgiveness in the ugly face of hate and racism. 

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: Let's Talk About Race

Let’s Talk About Race

by Julius Lester

“I am a story. So are you. So is everyone.” In this acclaimed book, Julius Lester shares his own story as he explores what makes each of us special. He emphasizes that race is just one of many facets of a person. With stunning illustrations and engaging text, "Let’s Talk About Race" will appeal to young readers and is sure to spark further conversations about race and racism. 

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: Separate Is Never Equal

Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

by Duncan Tonatiuh

In 1944 Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage who spoke and wrote perfect English, was denied enrollment to a “Whites only” school. With the help of the Hispanic community, her parents filed and won a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually led to the end of segregated education in California. "Separate Is Never Equal" tells Sylvia’s story in a touching and accessible way. 

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: Amazing Grace

Amazing Grace

by Mary Hoffman

We adore spunky Grace and her love for re-enacting stories, be they from books, movies, or her grandmother. But when she wants to play the lead role in a Peter Pan school play, her classmates tell her she cannot do it because she is a girl and because she is black. With the support of her family and after seeing a black ballerina perform, Grace remains determined to win the lead role. With expressive watercolor illustrations and a strong main character, "Amazing Grace" is an engaging story about challenging gender and racial stereotypes. 

Middle school

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

by Mildred D. Taylor

Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, "Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry" tells of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. This classic masterpiece focuses on Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, and learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect. 

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: Hidden Figures

Hidden Figures Young Readers’ Edition

by Margot Lee Shetterly

"Hidden Figures" tells the amazing true story of four African American female mathematicians at NASA. Despite facing gender discrimination and racial prejudice, these “human computers” helped achieve some of the greatest moments in the US’s space program by calculating the numbers that would launch rockets into space.

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: Stella by Starlight

Stella by Starlight

by Sharon M. Draper

One night 11-year-old Stella and her brother witness a Ku Klux Klan meeting in the North Carolina woods. For the African American siblings, living in the South is a dangerous, scary, and often humiliating experience. "Stella by Starlight" is a gripping and realistic portrayal of life in the segregated South during the Great Depression. 

High school

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: Monster


by Walter Dean Myers

“Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I’ll call it what the lady prosecutor called me … Monster.” Multi-award-winning "Monster" chronicles the unfair court proceedings for Steve Harmon, a teenager accused of murder and robbery. Written as a screenplay playing in Steve’s imagination, coupled with his journal entries, this heart-wrenching novel highlights the racism deeply ingrained in the American justice system. 

Also available as a stunning black-and-white graphic novel, adapted by Guy A. Sims, "Monster: A Graphic Novel." 

(Read Macaroni Kid's interview with Dr. Sims.)

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: All American Boys

All American Boys

by Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

When 16-year-old Rashad goes to buy a packet of chips at the corner shop, he finds himself mistaken for a shoplifter and beaten up by the police. Soon the incident is all over the news and simmering racial tensions get to the point of explosion. Written by two award-winning authors and alternating between the perspectives of one black and one white teenager, "All American Boys" is a moving novel about privilege and racism that every teenager should read.

Children's Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination: The Hate You Give

The Hate U Give

by Angi Thomas

Sixteen-year-old Starr is balancing life between her poor neighborhood and her fancy suburban school. When her unarmed best friend Khalil is killed at the hands of a police officer, his death is making national headlines and protesters are taking to the streets. As the only person who knows what really happened that night, Starr is caught between threats from the police and the local drug lord, protecting her community and risking her own life. No.1 New York Times Bestseller "The Hate U Give" is a powerful and heart-wrenching novel about police brutality and systemic racism. 

Want to read more? This is just part of the list of 37 excellent books identified by Colours of Us that can help open up conversations and thoughts in your home about racism and discrimination. See the Colours of Us full list here!