Together, starting with an open book, let’s revisit America’s racial history, examine our take on the present and work together to create a future that is bright and full of equal promise for everyone.

Talking about race can be hard.  This list, in order by age from toddlers to teens, offers suggested resources to help people of all ages start a conversation about race, equality and social justice in America, throughout our history and in today’s climate of change and resistance to change.


  • Shades of black
    Shandra Pinkney

    This book of expressive photographs and simple text is "...a joyous celebration of children, as well as a gracious invitation to readers of all ages and cultures to explore and embrace the rich diversity among African Americans" (from jacket).

  • Shades of People
    Shelley Rotner

    "This book is filled with wonderful photographs of happy, smiling, inquisitive, trusting, and adorable children—all with varying skin tones, hair colors and textures, and facial features. The message is clear and to the point: "Our skin is just our covering, like wrapping paper. And, you can't tell what someone is like from the color of their skin." A good introduction to racial and ethnic diversity." -School Library Journal

  • Underground
    Shane W. Evans

    This award winning picture book, with short, the poignant sentences and expressive illustrations creates, as described by School Library Journal, "a narrative that invites even the youngest listeners to visit this challenging subject... while the abbreviated prose may also generate a rich discussion for older students."

  • We march
    Shane W. Evans

    Shane Evans addresses his readers saying "it takes people of all ages and cultural backgrounds to move a nation into a new era of freedom" and with this moving picture book he introduces even very young readers to the concept of peaceful protest and the incredible change that can come about when people work together toward a common goal.

  • Smoky Night
    Eve Bunting

    Protest and social upheaval isn't always peaceful, it can be terrifying and tragic at times. What can children learn, how can we teach them, about the tumult that seems to grip present-day society? Written following the 1990 Los Angeles riots from the perspective of a child living through them, Kirkus Reviews calls this award-winner an "outstandingly handsome book that represents its subject realistically while underplaying the worst of its horrors; an excellent vehicle for discussion."

  • Child of the Civil Rights Movement
    Paula Young Shelton & Raul Colon

    As seen through the eyes of a six-year-old child, this account of the civil rights movement makes that period in history accessible and relatable to very young audiences.

  • The other side
    Jacqueline Woodson

    "...a moving lyrical narrative told in the voice of a child confused about the fence someone else has built in her yard and the racial tension that divides her world" (from jacket).

  • Let's talk about race
    Julius Lester

    This book, "strongly recommended as a springboard for discussions about differences" by School Library Journal, takes a conversational approach to the concept of racial difference. The focus is on race as an aspect of each person's own unique story, a factor important to understanding one another but not the only factor making us who we are.

  • Remember: The journey to school integration
    Toni Morrison

    "Because remembering is the mind's first step toward understanding," this book uses real photographs from the time to help tell the story of school integration. In doing so, Toni Morrison brings history to life with this moving depiction of that tumultuous period in our American story. As the author explains, "what happened before it and after it is now part of all our lives..."

  • Each kindness
    Jacqueline Woodson

    A teacher drops a pebble into a bowl of water and explains "This is what kindness does. Each little thing we do goes out like a ripple, into the world." In this story, a young girl reflects on her own actions and how lost opportunities for kindness can have lasting effects as well. This gentle picture book is a great way to start a discussion on kindness and acceptance.

  • Show way
    Jacqueline Woodson

    Beautifully illustrated, this story of the author's lineage, told through the analogy of a quilt, helps readers to draw the conclusion that "All the stuff that happened before you were born is your own kind of Show Way."

  • Sit-in: How four friends stood up by sitting down
    Andrea Davis-Pinkney

    A great book to start a discussion on what can be achieved through peaceful protest, both illustrations and text invite readers to imagine what it may have felt like to be on all sides of the counter during the 1960 Greensboro sit-in, which lasted five months and ended in the desegregation of the Greensboro N.C. Woolworth's.

  • Heart and Soul: The story of America and African Americans
    Kadir Nelson

    "Provocative and powerful, this book offers a much-needed perspective for individuals of all ages seeking to understand America’s past and present." (School Library Journal)

  • 28 Days: Moments in black history that changed the world
    Charles R. Smith Jr.

    A Note from the Author: "This book is...what I hope becomes an indispensable tool to teachers and provides endless inspiration, not just for people of color but for anyone with a thirst for knowledge."

  • One crazy summer
    Rita Williams Garcia

    Oakland, California was an incredible place to be in 1968 and for three young sisters visiting their mother for the fist time, the experience is eye-opening and unlike anything they ever expected. Engaging characters, humor and insight bring the time period to life as seen through the eyes of children.

  • The Watsons go to Birmingham
    Christopher Paul Curtis

    The ordinary interactions and everyday routines of the Watsons, an African American family living in Flint, Michigan, are drastically changed after they go to visit Grandma in Alabama in the summer of 1963.

  • Countdown
    Deborah Wiles

    Using primary source material, this novel delivers readers to the 1960's to experience through the eyes of two children, the different points of view that dominated the time period.

  • Sugar
    Jewell Parker Rhodes

    Taking place after the civil war and during the Reconstruction period in American history, Sugar is the inspiring story of a strong, spirited young girl who grows beyond her circumstances and helps others work toward a brighter future. (from jacket)

  • Copper Sun
    Sharon Draper

    Stolen from her village, sold to the highest bidder, fifteen-year-old Amari has only one thing left of her own- hope. Reviewed by Booklist as "a searing work of historical fiction that will leave readers breathless as they consider the story's larger questions about the infinite costs of slavery and how to reconcile history."

  • Jefferson's sons
    Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

    What does it mean when the man who wrote the Declaration of Independence is your father and also your slave master? Told in three parts from the points of view of three of Jefferson's slaves, these engaging and poignant voices shed light on what life was like as one of Thomas Jefferson's invisible offspring. (from jacket)

  • Brotherhood
    A.B. Westrick

    Taking place in Virginia following the civil war, a young white boy is torn between family loyalty and doing what he knows is right as he secretly takes reading lessons from a freed slave by day and attends KKK meetings with his older brother by night. "This coming-of-age story will spark fruitful discussions about race, identity, social pressure and loyalty." (Kirkus Reviews)

  • A Wreath for Emmett Till
    Marilyn Nelson

    Award-winning poet Marilyn Nelson reminds us of the boy whose fate helped spark the civil rights movement. This martyr’s wreath, woven from a little-known but sophisticated form of poetry, challenges us to speak out against modern-day injustices, to “speak what we see.”

  • Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice
    Phillip Hoose

    Based on extensive interviews with Colvin and many others, Phillip Hoose presents the first in-depth account of an important yet largely unknown teenage civil rights figure, skillfully weaving her dramatic story into the fabric of the historic Montgomery bus boycott and court case that would change the course of American history.

  • Day of tears: a novel in dialogue
    Julius Lester

    Julius Lester draws on historical sources to fictionalize a real event: the biggest slave auction in American history which took place in Savannah Georgia in 1859. The horror of the auction and its aftermath is unforgettable... the personal voices make this a stirring text for group discussions." (from jacket)

  • March: Book One
    John Lewis and Andrew Aydin

    March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis' lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis' personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement (from jacket).

  • How It Went Down
    Kekla Magoon

    When sixteen-year-old Tariq Johnson is shot to death, his community is thrown into an uproar because Tariq was black and the shooter, Jack Franklin, is white, and in the aftermath everyone has something to say, but no two accounts of the events agree.

  • All American Boys
    Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

    When sixteen-year-old Rashad is mistakenly accused of stealing, classmate Quinn witnesses his brutal beating at the hands of a police officer who happens to be the older brother of his best friend. Told through Rashad and Quinn's alternating viewpoints as both teens struggle to make sense of the larger social forces shaping their lives.

  • Monster
    Walter Dean Myers

    While on trial as an accomplice to a murder, sixteen-year-old Steve Harmon records his experiences in prison and in the courtroom in the form of a film script as he tries to come to terms with the course his life has taken.

  • No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row
    Susan Kuklin

    In their own voices--raw and uncensored--inmates sentenced to death as teenagers talk about their lives in prison, and share their thoughts and feelings about how they ended up there. Susan Kuklin also gets inside the system, exploring capital punishment itself and the intricacies and inequities of criminal justice in the United States.

  • Between the World and Me
    Ta-Nehisi Coates

    Coates writes to his 15-year-old son about the inborn hazards of being black in America and his own intellectual, political and emotional confrontation with the need to live fully, even in the face of racialist culture.

  • There are many, many excellent books, videos, website and other resources available to help kids and adults, teachers and students, families and friends embrace the idea of speaking to one another openly and honestly about these tough subjects.

    For other ideas on how to increase racial awareness, generate discussion and create positive action, the Oakland Public Library has compiled an exceptional resource: Listen, Learn, Participate: A #BlackLivesMatter Resource Series.