Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is a good day to remember to focus on learning anti-racism. Many of us have grown up with Martin Luther King, Jr. Day as a part of the calendar. But did you know that it took 32 years to make it an official holiday? Creating a remembrance of King’s birth, activism, and continuing legacy was not done without a fight. Part of this was due to the slow process of legislation; most of it was because of racism. Now, each year, we remember King’s impact on social justice and civil rights.
However, we are not without racism in the world. We see it often in the news. Ending racism takes hard work! It starts with listening to voices that have experienced racism, getting to know our history, and working on changing our thoughts and actions. We need to be more than “not racist.” We need to become anti-racist. Anti-racism means taking direct action to change our ways of thinking and acting towards others. It means doing things that generate positive change for everyone in the United States.
To start, we can being learning anti-racism. First, we can start by picking up some books from our local library, diving into the experiences of people who know. Community is fostered by making sure all people are represented in our reading and our collections, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, disability, or other factor.
Here are some great titles right here in our own Orem Public Library that can help those learning anti-racism!
For the very young to Pre-Kindergarten
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
A short read with colourful pictures and images, this title takes parents and children through the steps and concepts of being anti-racist. With simple language, picking up these behaviors is easy! Available as a board book and picture book, and through the online collection as both eBook and Audiobook.
Hello, Friend Hola, Amigo by Andres Salguero
We learn about friendship using English and Spanish! Bright images turn this original song into an exploration of language. Add depth to this book on communication by checking out the music on YouTube. Available as a board book.
ABCs of Kindness by Samantha Berger
Children of all shapes, colours, and abilities are represented in this book! Each letter includes a way to be kind, while providing powerful images of empowered young people. Whatever race, ability, or origin, it costs us nothing to be kind. Available as a board book.
Please, Baby, Please by Spike Lee and Tonya Lewis Lee
Parents in particular will relate to this sweet story. Parenting is hard work—but so is being a baby! Laugh together as a story of toddlerhood unfolds, with all of its happiness and struggles. Available as a board book.
Every Little Thing by Bob Marley
Based on the song Three Little Birds, this book helps children remember that life’s downs don’t stick around. Vibrant colours excite as the story of a little boy and his feathered friends unfolds. Available as a board book.
For the Kindergartener to Third Grader
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Children of every origin play and learn together in a day at school. No matter who they are or where they come from, this safe space gives them opportunities to learn from each other. Readers too will learn that we are better when we share our experiences together. Available as a picture book and eBook.
Juneteenth for Mazie by Floyd Cooper
Mazie learns the history of June 19, 1865: the day that enslaved people in Texas learned that they had been freed. These were the last who found out about the Emancipation Proclamation. Experience the hope and happiness in these pages with Mazie. Available as a picture book and eBook.
Let the Children March by Monica Clark-Robinson
It’s 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama. The stage is set for the marches against segregation and separation. Bravery, courage, and passion for liberty demonstrated by the children in these pages inspires readers on their own journeys of anti-racism. Available as a picture book, eBook, and eVideo.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
A little girl who worries about her midnight complexion goes on a journey through the stars and learns that she too is beautiful. Magical illustrations, accompanied with an honest discussion about the struggle for people who have very dark skin, help both light and dark skinned folx understand a lesser known type of discrimination. Available as a picture book and eBook.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
Explore CJ’s neighborhood as he and his grandmother travel across town. From one end to the other, CJ learns that there is beauty wherever we live and that service is an important part of community. Available as a picture book, eBook, and eVideo.
For the 4th Grader to 8th Grader
New Kid by Jerry Craft
Explore what it is like to be a Black student at a mostly white middle school. Young people learn about the small acts of racism that make day-to-day life difficult for people of colour. Available as a junior fiction book, eBook, and Audiobook.
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Most white children don’t have to worry about playing outside, but Jerome’s experience is different. The 12-year-old Black child wanders as a Ghost Boy after being shot by a police officer. On the way, he teaches anti-racism to new friends and to readers. This somber tale is a keystone in understanding privilege and subconscious bias. Available as a junior fiction book, eBook, and Audiobook.
Black Brother, Black Brother by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Two brothers. Two skin tones. Two different experiences in a world of colourism and whiteness. The stark comparison of these two brothers provides insight into proximity to whiteness, privilege, and biases that place heavy burdens on the shoulders of dark skinned people. Available as a junior fiction book.
Betty before X by Ilyasah Shabazz
Based on the life Dr. Betty Shabazz, this book follows Betty’s story in 1945 Detroit, Michigan as she dives headfirst into volunteering in an organization to support Black owned businesses. Through her work, she gains confidence and experience that lead her to become a well-respected mover and shaker in the quest for Civil Rights. Available as a junior fiction book.
Midnight Without a Moon by Linda Williams Jackson
In the summer of 1955, 13-year-old Rose Lee Carter lives just one town over from where Emmett Till was murdered. While reeling from the changes around her, Rose discovers courage she didn’t know she had. Available as a junior fiction book.
For Teens and Young Adults
March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
A powerful graphic novel in which John Lewis tells the story of marching for civil rights. This book teaches young visitors as Lewis prepares to participate in the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Available as a graphic novel eBook.
New Kid by Jerry Craft
The first in a new series, New Kid explores what it is like to be a Black student at a mostly white middle school. Young people are introduced to microaggressions and get a first-person experience with the small acts of racism that make day-to-day life difficult for people of colour. Available as a junior fiction book, eBook, and Audiobook.
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Starr Carter must navigate the worlds of her wealthy, white school and her impoverished, gang-ridden neighborhood. She has managed to keep separation between her spaces. However, these two worlds collide in ways she never imagined when her friend is murdered by a police officer. Available as a teen fiction book, eBook, and Audiobook.
I’m Not Dying With You Tonight by Kimberly Jones, Gilly Segal
In this novel, two teenage girls—one white, one Black—are thrown together during a night of fights, protests, and rioting. Lena and Campbell create an alliance to survive the night after racist slurs are hurled at a football game. Available as a teen fiction book, eBook, and Audiobook.
Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You by Ibram X. Kendi, Jason Reynolds
For 400 years, Black people and other people of colour have faced racism that is not only harbored in individuals, but is found at a systemic level. This book unpacks white privilege, enslavement, political and literary narratives and more, while laying the groundwork for anti-racist behaviour and thought. Available as a teen nonfiction book, eBook, and Audiobook.
For Advanced Readers and Adults
A People’s History of the United States by Howard Zinn
This retelling of United States history is a must for every person engaged in unpacking whiteness. It highlights stories, facts, and voices not included in mainstream US textbooks or history. Available as an adult nonfiction book, eBook, and Aubiobook.
White Awake: An Honest Look at What it Means to Be White by Daniel Hill
A white preacher learning anti-racism, Hill explores his own biases, prejudices, and eye-opening experiences to the reality of his power in society. Open, thoughtful, and blunt, this narrative can make white readers uncomfortable. Yet, the work of anti-racism in dismantling systemic discrimination is hard. Therefore, shouldn’t it be uncomfortable? Available as an eBook and Aubiobook.
Barracoon by Zora Neale Hurston
This book depicts the life of the last living enslaved man who was trafficked across the ocean from Africa, Cudjo Lewis. This work gives people insight into language, post-emancipation life for Black people in the south, and the numerous struggles that didn’t end with freedom. Available as an adult nonfiction, eBook, and Audiobook.
An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
In this book, little known or taught portions of US history are presented in stark contrast to what is popularly learned in schools. Further, it examines who writes history and is vital to understanding the experiences of people of colour. Available as an adult nonfiction book, eBook, and Audiobook.
Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram X. Kendi
Confront systemic racism head-on with Kendi. In this book, Kendi examines the evolution of racist philosophy. Readers see a narrative of justifying the difference between white people and Black people. Join Kendi in examining how racist rhetoric has shaped the United States.
Reviewed by Sarah Anne