Starting conversations around race and white privilege can be uncomfortable, but however difficult, they are important and absolutely necessary.
So, if you’re keen to talk to your children about the Black Lives Matter movement – particularly in the wake of George Floyd’s death and the protests that have swept communities globally since – but don’t quite know how or where to start, begin with books.
This selection of fiction and non-fiction, for smaller children as well as young adults, can provide an entry point for discussion for the whole family…
1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
The Hate U Give sees 16-year-old Starr become the only witness when her best friend, Khalil, is pulled over by a white cop and shot dead on the way home from a party. Between her own fear, the silencing tactics of the police and local king (gang) lords getting involved, Starr must decide whether she can risk fighting for justice for Khalil. Angie Thomas astutely interlaces cultural trauma, police brutality and the Black Lives Matter movement, while being a beautifully written, painfully honest, sweet, silly and remarkable debut (watch the film too!).
2. Little Leaders: Bold Women In Black History by Vashti Harrison
Ideal for bedtime reading, Vashti Harrison’s non-fiction books (look up Little Leaders: Exceptional Men In Black History as well) highlight the work and lives of enlightening, empowering and extraordinary black men and women – many of whom you likely haven’t heard of, but should be shouted about.
3. My Hair by Hannah Lee
This story book from writer Hannah Lee and illustrator Allen Fatimaharan tells of a little girl’s search for the perfect party hairstyle. It captures the excitement of preparing for a birthday, and the hairstyles of friends and family are explored and celebrated, from dreadlocks to bantu knots.
4. Stamped: Racism, Antiracism And You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X Kendi
Probably best to just read Jason Reynolds’ entirely brilliant back catalogue, from Ghost and the stunning Long Way Down (in which a 15-year-old decides whether or not to shoot the guy who killed his brother), to his latest, Stamped, a reimagining of Ibram X Kendi’s Stamped From The Beginning. It tackles racism today, and what can be done by readers to defeat racist ideas they encounter.
5. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashti Harrison
In actor Lupita Nyong’o’s first picture book, she movingly examines colourism and self-confidence through the experiences of little Sulwe, whose skin is darker than everyone else’s around her.
6. A Is For Activist by Innosanto Nagara
This rhyming board book, from author and illustrator Innosanto Nagara, will engage even the smallest children with activism around social justice, civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights and the environment. Track down a copy of M Is For Movement – about people uniting for change – if you can, too.
7. This Book Is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell, illustrated by Aurélia Durand
For a comprehensive, accessible and compelling guide to everything to do with racism – from its history to its devastating and ongoing impact – you need this in your family’s library. Featuring 20 chapters designed to build awareness, Jewell equips you with the tools to disrupt racism in your day-to-day life.
8. Noughts And Crosses by Malorie Blackman
This YA series is almost two decades old, but is as relevant as ever. Blackman follows the relationship between childhood friends Sephy (a Cross) and Callum (a Nought), in a dystopian world of segregation, where African people have colonised Europeans. It’s a powerful exploration of race, oppression, discrimination and love at odds with politics.