Children’s literature has many notable options when it comes to race relations. To help you find the right books for you and your young reader, we’ve compiled a list of the best kids books about race relations.
Our list includes picture books and chapter books. Picture books are generally great options for toddlers and for preschool and kindergarten age children. Picture books are especially enjoyable for adults to read aloud with young kids. The chapter books on our list are generally best for elementary through early middle school age tween kids. You can filter to sort by the best book type for your kid.
When it comes to children’s stories about race relations, there are a variety of titles. This list covers everything, from classics like Iggie’s House to popular sellers like To Kill a Mockingbird to some of our favorite hidden gems like Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
We hope this list of kids books about race relations can be a helpful resource for parents, teachers, and others searching for a new book! As you explore the list, please comment below to let us know what books you would add.
Winner of the Newbery Medal, this remarkably moving novel has impressed the hearts and minds of millions of readers.
Set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression, this is the story of one family’s struggle to maintain their integrity, pride, and independence in the face of racism and social injustice. And it is also Cassie’s story—Cassie Logan, an independent girl who discovers over the course of an important year why having land of their own is so crucial to the Logan family, even as she learns to draw strength from her own sense of dignity and self-respect.
New in the Little People, Big Dreams series, discover the incredible life of Rosa Parks, ‘ The Mother of the Freedom Movement’, in this inspiring story. In this true story of an inspiring civil rights activist, Rosa Parks grew up during segregation in Alabama, but she was taught to respect herself and stand up for her rights. In 1955, Rosa refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus, sparking the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Her decision had a huge impact on civil rights, eventually leading to the end of segregation on public transport. With stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, this empowering series celebrates the important life stories of wonderful women of the world. From designers and artists to scientists, all of them went on to achieve incredible things, yet all of them began life as a little child with a dream. These books make the lives of these role models accessible for children, providing a powerful message to inspire the next generation of outstanding people who will change the world!
For months six-year-old Ruby Bridges must confront the hostility of white parents when she becomes the first African American girl to integrate William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans in 1960.
The true story of how a ride on a carousel made a powerful Civil Rights statement
_A Ride to Remember_ tells how a community came together—both black and white—to make a change. When Sharon Langley was born in the early 1960s, many amusement parks were segregated, and African-American families were not allowed entry. This book reveals how in the summer of 1963, due to demonstrations and public protests, the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park in Maryland became desegregated and opened to all for the first time. Co-author Sharon Langley was the first African-American child to ride the carousel. This was on the same day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Langley’s ride to remember demonstrated the possibilities of King’s dream. This book includes photos of Sharon on the carousel, authors’ notes, a timeline, and a bibliography.
Recounts Rosa Parks’ daring effort to stand up for herself and other African Americans by helping to end segregation on public transportation.
The Youngest Marcher - Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you’re never too little to make a difference. Nine-year-old Audrey Faye Hendricks intended to go places and do things like anybody else. So when she heard grown-ups talk about wiping out Birmingham’s segregation laws, she spoke up. As she listened to the preacher’s words, smooth as glass, she sat up tall. And when she heard the plan—picket those white stores! March to protest those unfair laws! Fill the jails!—she stepped right up and said, I’ll do it! She was going to j-a-a-il! Audrey Faye Hendricks was confident and bold and brave as can be, and hers is the remarkable and inspiring story of one child’s role in the Civil Rights Movement.
Teammates - This is the moving story of how Jackie Robinson became the first black player on a Major League baseball team when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s, and how on a fateful day in Cincinnati, Pee Wee Reese took a stand and declared Jackie his teammate. Illustrated with a blend of historic photographs and eloquent watercolors by Paul Bacon.
This Promise of Change: One Girl's Story in the Fight for School Equality - In 1956, one year before federal troops escorted the Little Rock 9 into Central High School, fourteen year old Jo Ann Allen was one of twelve African-American students who broke the color barrier and integrated Clinton High School in Tennessee. At first things went smoothly for the Clinton 12, but then outside agitators interfered, pitting the townspeople against one another. Uneasiness turned into anger, and even the Clinton Twelve themselves wondered if the easier thing to do would be to go back to their old school. Jo Ann—clear-eyed, practical, tolerant, and popular among both black and white students—-found herself called on as the spokesperson of the group. But what about just being a regular teen? This is the heartbreaking and relatable story of her four months thrust into the national spotlight and as a trailblazer in history. Based on original research and interviews and featuring backmatter with archival materials and notes from the authors on the co-writing process.
Lizzie Demands a Seat!: Elizabeth Jennings Fights for Streetcar Rights - In 1854, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings, an African American schoolteacher, fought back when she was unjustly denied entry to a New York City streetcar, sparking the beginnings of the long struggle to gain equal rights on public transportation. One hundred years before Rosa Parks took her stand, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jennings tried to board a streetcar in New York City on her way to church. Though there were plenty of empty seats, she was denied entry, assaulted, and threatened all because of her race—even though New York was a free state at that time. Lizzie decided to fight back. She told her story, took her case to court—where future president Chester Arthur represented her—and won! Her victory was the first recorded in the fight for equal rights on public transportation, and Lizzie’s case set a precedent. Author Beth Anderson and acclaimed illustrator E. B. Lewis bring this inspiring, little-known story to life in this captivating book.
Clover’s mom says it isn’t safe to cross the fence that segregates their African-American side of town from the white side where Anna lives. But the two girls strike up a friendship, and get around the grown-ups’ rules by sitting on top of the fence together.
With the addition of a brand-new author’s note, this special edition celebrates the tenth anniversary of this classic book. As always, Woodson moves readers with her lyrical narrative, and E. B. Lewis’s amazing talent shines in his gorgeous watercolor illustrations.
Ruby Bridges recounts the story of her involvement, as a six-year-old, in the integration of her school in New Orleans in 1960.
A Baptist preacher from Atlanta. A rabbi born in Poland. Their names came to stand for the struggle for justice and equality.
Martin Luther King Jr. grew up in a loving family in the American South, at a time when many of this country’s doors were closed to African Americans. He aimed to open those doors. He became a minister like his daddy, and he preached and marched for his cause.
Abraham Joshua Heschel grew up in a loving family in a Europe that did not welcome Jews. He found a new home in America, where he was a rabbi like his father, carrying a message of peace and acceptance.
Martin put out a call for others to join him. Abraham knew he must answer Martin’s call.
Here is the story of how two men formed a remarkable friendship and turned their personal experiences of discrimination into a message of love and equality for all.
One of the most cherished stories of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird has been translated into more than forty languages, sold more than forty million copies worldwide, served as the basis for an enormously popular motion picture, and was voted one of the best novels of the twentieth century by librarians across the country. A gripping, heart-wrenching, and wholly remarkable tale of coming-of-age in a South poisoned by virulent prejudice, it views a world of great beauty and savage inequities through the eyes of a young girl, as her father—a crusading local lawyer—risks everything to defend a black man unjustly accused of a terrible crime.
A compelling dual-narrated novel that asks, how far have we really come with race relations in the last 100 years? Now in paperback. When seventeen-year-old Rowan Chase finds a skeleton on her family’s property, she has no idea that investigating the brutal, century-old murder will lead to a summer of painful discoveries about the past… and the present. Nearly 100 years earlier, a misguided violent encounter propels seventeen-year-old Will Tillman into a racial firestorm. In a country rife with violence against African Americans and a hometown segregated by Jim Crow, Will must make hard choices and face his inner demons in order to do what’s right the night Tulsa burns. Through intricately interwoven alternating perspectives, this “unflinching, superbly written story” (Kirkus) brings the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 to blazing life, raising important questions about the complex state of U.S. race relations.
Someday is Now - Someday Is Now tells the inspirational story of the celebrated civil rights leader, Clara Luper, who led one of the first lunch-counter sit-ins in America. How will you stand against something you know is wrong? One way is to follow the lessons of bravery taught by civil rights pioneers like Clara Luper. As a child, Clara saw how segregation affected her life. Her journey famously led her to Oklahoma, where she and her students desegregated stores and restaurants that were closed to African-Americans. With courage and conviction, Clara Luper led young people to “do what had to be done.” This moving title includes additional information on Clara Luper’s extraordinary life, her lessons of nonviolent resistance, and a glossary of key civil rights people and terms.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - The 10th anniversary edition of Sherman Alexie’s National Book Award-winning and #1 New York Times bestselling novel—bonus content included! Sherman Alexie, in his first book for young adults, tells the story of Junior, a budding cartoonist growing up on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Determined to take his future into his own hands, Junior leaves his troubled school on the reservation to attend an all-white farm town high school where the only other Indian is the school mascot. Heartbreaking, funny, beautifully written, semi-autobiographical, and coupled with poignant drawings that reflect the character’s art, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian will continue to make a lasting impression for many years to come. Bonus content to include an introduction from National Book Award winner and New York Times bestselling author Jacqueline Woodson, a new author’s note, an excerpt of a sequel from the character Rowdy’s point of view, and more!
National Geographic Readers: Rosa Parks - Find out about the life of Rosa Parks and how her actions in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1955 helped end racial segregation in America. This book follows the same standards as other National Geographic Readers with the same careful text, brilliant photographs, and fun approach that kids love. The life story of Rosa Parks has enduring lessons to teach us and this biography should appeal to kids, parents, and teachers.
My Year in the Middle - Miss Garrett’s classroom is like every other at our school. White kids sit on one side and black kids on the other. I’m one of the few middle-rowers who split the difference. In a racially polarized classroom in 1970 Alabama, Lu’s talent for running track makes her a new best friend—and tests her mettle as she navigates the school’s social cliques. Sixth-grader Lu Olivera just wants to keep her head down and get along with everyone in her class. Trouble is, Lu’s old friends have been changing lately—acting boy crazy and making snide remarks about Lu’s newfound talent for running track. Lu’s secret hope for a new friend is fellow runner Belinda Gresham, but in 1970 Red Grove, Alabama, blacks and whites don’t mix. As segregationist ex-governor George Wallace ramps up his campaign against the current governor, Albert Brewer, growing tensions in the state—and in the classroom—mean that Lu can’t stay neutral about the racial divide at school. Will she find the gumption to stand up for what’s right and to choose friends who do the same?
Thirteen-year-old Billie Simms doesn’t think her hometown of Anniston, Alabama, should be segregated, but few of the town’s residents share her opinion. As equality spreads across the country and the Civil Rights Movement gathers momentum, Billie can’t help but feel stuck—and helpless—in a stubborn town too set in its ways to realize that the world is passing it by. So when Billie learns that the Freedom Riders, a group of peace activists riding interstate buses to protest segregation, will be traveling through Anniston on their way to Montgomery, she thinks that maybe change is finally coming and her quiet little town will shed itself of its antiquated views. But what starts as a series of angry grumbles soon turns to brutality as Anniston residents show just how deep their racism runs. The Freedom Riders will resume their ride to Montgomery, and Billie is now faced with a choice: stand idly by in silence or take a stand for what she believes in. Through her own decisions and actions and a few unlikely friendships, Billie is about to come to grips with the deep-seated prejudice of those she once thought she knew, and with her own inherent racism that she didn’t even know she had.
Young Steve Satlow is thrilled when his hero Jackie Robinson moves onto his block. After the famed second baseman invites Steve to a Dodgers game, the two become friends. So when Jackie hears that the Satlows don’t have a Christmas tree, he decides to give them one, not realizing the Satlows are Jewish. But Jackie’s gift helps these two different families discover how much they have in common.
Written by the daughter of baseball legend Jackie Robinson and illustrated by a Caldecott Honor winner, Jackie’s Gift is a holiday tale-based on a true story-about friendship and breaking barriers.
Eleven-year-old Isabella’s blended family is more divided than ever in this thoughtful story about divorce and racial identity from the award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Out of My Mind, Sharon M. Draper. Eleven-year-old Isabella’s parents are divorced, so she has to switch lives every week: One week she’s Isabella with her dad, his girlfriend Anastasia, and her son Darren living in a fancy house where they are one of the only black families in the neighborhood. The next week she’s Izzy with her mom and her boyfriend John-Mark in a small, not-so-fancy house that she loves. Because of this, Isabella has always felt pulled between two worlds. And now that her parents are divorced, it seems their fights are even worse, and they’re always about HER. Isabella feels even more stuck in the middle, split and divided between them than ever. And she’s is beginning to realize that being split between Mom and Dad is more than switching houses, switching nicknames, switching backpacks: it’s also about switching identities. Her dad is black, her mom is white, and strangers are always commenting: “You’re so exotic!” “You look so unusual.” “But what are you really?” She knows what they’re really saying: “You don’t look like your parents.” “You’re different.” “What race are you really?” And when her parents, who both get engaged at the same time, get in their biggest fight ever, Isabella doesn’t just feel divided, she feels ripped in two. What does it mean to be half white or half black? To belong to half mom and half dad? And if you’re only seen as half of this and half of that, how can you ever feel whole? It seems like nothing can bring Isabella’s family together again—until the worst happens. Isabella and Darren are stopped by the police. A cell phone is mistaken for a gun. And shots are fired.
The fourth book in the fully illustrated, globe-trotting middle grade fantasy-adventure series about mythical creatures and their cultures of origin, from the Newbery Honor-winning author of The Inquisitor’s Tale. Elliot and Uchennna have only just returned from their most recent Unicorn Rescue Society mission when they (along with Jersey!) are whisked away on their next exciting adventure with Professor Fauna. This time, they’re headed to the Mexican border to help another mythical creature in need: the chupacabras! The Chupacabras of the Río Grande is co-written with David Bowles, author of the Pura Belpré Honor-winning book, The Smoking Mirror!
When an eleven-year-old boy takes over a friend’s newspaper route in July, 1959, in Memphis, his debilitating stutter makes for a memorable month.
The Liberation of Gabriel King - Gabriel King was a born chicken. He’s afraid of spiders, corpses, loose cows, and just about everything related to the fifth grade. Gabe’s best friend, Frita Wilson, thinks Gabe needs some liberating from his fears. Frita knows something about being brave— she’s the only black kid in school in a town with an active Ku Klux Klan. Together Gabe and Frita are going to spend the summer of 1976 facing down the fears on Gabe’s list. But it turns out that Frita has her own list, and while she’s helping Gabe confront his fears, she’s avoiding the thing that scares her the most.
The Soccer Fence - As a boy, Hector loved playing soccer in his small Johannesburg township. He dreamed of playing on a real pitch with the boys from another part of the city, but apartheid made that impossible. Then, in 1990, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, and apartheid began to crumble. The march toward freedom in South Africa was a slow one, but when the beloved Bafana Bafana national soccer team won the African Cup of Nations, Hector realized that dreams once impossible could now come true.
Busing Brewster - Brewster is excited about starting first grade . . . until Mama announces that he’ll be attending Central—a school in the white part of town. Mama says they have art and music and a library bursting with books, but Brewster isn’t so sure he’ll fit in. Being black at a white school isn’t easy, and Brewster winds up spending his first day in detention at the library. But there he meets a very special person: Miss O’Grady. The librarian sees into Brewster’s heart and gives him not only the gift of books but also the ability to believe in himself. This powerful and tender story of desegregation in the 1970s introduces readers to the brave young heroes who helped to build a new world.
Climbing Lincoln's Steps - Interweaves the story of black Americans’ struggle for equality with important moments in African-American history that have occurred at the Lincoln Memorial, including Marian Anderson’s concert in 1939; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech in 1963; and a visit from the first African-American president and his family in 2009.
In 1875 Ohio, twelve-year-old Cap Cooper is an aspiring inventor—and a reluctant graverobber—enlisted by his father to help pay for his mother’s medical expenses. When one of the dead returns to life at his touch, Cap unearths a world of dark secrets that someone at the local medical school wants to keep buried. On the brink of discovery, he’ll have to use every ounce of cunning he has to protect those he loves most and save his own skin. The Grave Digger is an eerie mystery set in the aftermath of the Civil War, filled with action, friendship, and a hint of the paranormal, perfect for those who enjoy reading late into the night and long after the lights go out.
“Hope is the thing with feathers” starts the poem Frannie is reading in school. Frannie hasn’t thought much about hope. There are so many other things to think about. Each day, her friend Samantha seems a bit more “holy.” There is a new boy in class everyone is calling the Jesus Boy. And although the new boy looks like a white kid, he says he’s not white. Who is he?
During a winter full of surprises, good and bad, Frannie starts seeing a lot of things in a new light—her brother Sean’s deafness, her mother’s fear, the class bully’s anger, her best friend’s faith and her own desire for “the thing with feathers.”
Jacqueline Woodson once again takes readers on a journey into a young girl’s heart and reveals the pain and the joy of learning to look beneath the surface.
**”[Frannie] is a wonderful role model for coming of age in a thoughtful way, and the book offers to teach us all about holding on to hope.”—Children’s Literature
“A wonderful and necessary purchase for public and school libraries alike.”—VOYA
When it comes to friendship, who cares about skin color? This classic middle grade novel from Judy Blume carries an important message—with a fresh new look.
Iggie’s House just wasn’t the same. Iggie was gone, moved to Tokyo. And there was Winnie, cracking her gum on Grove Street, where she’d always lived, with no more best friend and two weeks left of summer.
Then the Garber family moved into Iggie’s house—two boys, Glenn and Herbie, and Tina, their little sister. The Garbers were black and Grove Street was white and always had been. Winnie, a welcoming committee of one, set out to make a good impression and be a good neighbor. That’s why the trouble started.
Because Glenn and Herbie and Tina didn’t want a “good neighbor.” They wanted a friend.
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