Reading About Race

Adults and children alike can use literature to understand race and nurture a positive sense of self.

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June 2020, Volume 43, Issue 10

For Adults

  • How to Be an Antiracist (2019): Ibram X. Kendi weaves an electrifying combination of ethics, history, law, and science with his own personal story of awakening to antiracism. This is an essential work for anyone who wants to go beyond the awareness of racism to the next step: contributing to the formation of a just and equitable society.
  • White Fragility (2018): In this in-depth exploration, Robin DiAngelo examines how white fragility develops, how it protects racial inequality, and what we can do to engage more constructively.
  • So You Want to Talk About Race (2019): Ijeoma Oluo guides readers of all races through subjects ranging from intersectionality and affirmative action to “model minorities” in an attempt to elicit honest conversations about race and racism and how they infect almost every aspect of American life.
  • The Color of Law (2018): Exploding the myth of de facto segregation arising from private prejudice or the unintended consequences of economic forces, Richard Rothstein describes how the American government systematically imposed residential segregation with undisguised racial zoning; public housing that purposefully segregated previously mixed communities; subsidies for builders to create whites-only suburbs; tax exemptions for institutions that enforced segregation; and support for violent resistance to African Americans in white neighborhoods.
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? (2017): Walk into any racially mixed high school and you will see Black, White, and Latino youth clustered in their own groups. Beverly Daniel Tatum examines whether this self-segregation is a problem to address or a coping strategy.

For Students

  • Antiracist Baby (2020): With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Ibram X. Kendi introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism, providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age.
  • Teach Your Dragon About Diversity (2019): Fun, cute, and entertaining with beautiful illustrations, this book by Steve Herman aims to teach children how to celebrate differences and embrace diversity.
  • Something Happened in Our Town (2018): This book, by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, Ann Hazzard, and Jennifer Zivoin follows a black family and a white family as they discuss a police shooting of a black man in their community. The story aims to answer children's questions about such traumatic events and help children identify and counter racial injustice in their own lives.
  • All Are Welcome (2018): This book by Alexandra Penfold lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, and they are welcome in their school—a school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions.
  • Young, Gifted, and Black (2018): Meet 52 icons of color from the past and present in this celebration of inspirational achievement—a collection of stories by Jamia Wilson about changemakers to encourage, inspire, and empower the next generation of changemakers.

What are your go-to books to start a conversation about race, learn about the history of race in the U.S., and teach your students about the importance of diversity? Post it on Twitter and tag @NAESP and we’ll share your recommendations with our professional learning network.


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