Literature For Racial Justice Learning In The Classroom

Racial justice Lit-collage (1)

Talking to kids about race, racism, and identity is core to supporting a positive in-school experience, and promoting future academic success and sense of belonging. Academic content that authentically incorporates positive reflections and perspectives of students of color is an essential component to investing students in education. Literature draws students in when it shows them a mirror of their own experience, and gives them a window into a new world. 

Projects such as The Conscious Kid and Here Wee Read offer guidance for educators and families looking to provide students with books written by BIPOC authors that push students to explore ideas of race, identity, and culture centering communities of color.  

In the words of Jill Anderson, the host of Harvard EdCast, It’s been more than 50 years since literacy experts first stressed the need for more diverse books in the classroom, and yet reading lists look surprisingly the same as they did in 1970.” As you build out your school, home, or classroom library this year, here are some suggestions:  


Lower Elementary

cover_a is for activist

  1. A is for Activist – Innosanto Nagara
  2. Juneteenth for Mazie – Floyd Weber
  3. Hair Love – Vashti Harrison and Matthew A. Cherry
  4. Anti-Racist Baby Board Book – Ibram X. Kendi
  5. Don’t Touch My Hair – Sharee Miller
  6. The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family – Ibtihaj Muhammad and Hatem Aly
  7. Dreamers – Yuyi Morales


Upper Elementary

cover_the day you begin

  1. The Day You Begin – Jacqueline Woodson
  2. Those Shoes – Maribeth Boelts
  3. Latinitas – Juliet Mendez (coming in 2021)
  4. The Name Jar – Yangsook Choi
  5. All the Colors We Are/Todos Los Colores de Nuestra Piel: The Story of How We Got Our Skin Color/La Historia de Por Que Tenemos Diferentes Colores de Piel – Katie Kissinger
  6. Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation – Duncan Tonatiuh


Middle School

cover_can i touch your hair

  1. Can I Touch Your Hair? Poems of Race, Mistakes and Friendship – Irene Latham et. al
  2. Let’s Talk About Race – Julius Lester
  3. Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock – Kelly Tudor and Aslan Tudor
  4. I Too, Am America – Langston Hughes and Bryan Collier
  5. The Usual Suspects – Maurice Broaddus
  6. Crossing Bok Chitto – Tim Tingle
  7. A Young People’s History of the United States – Howard Zinn


High School

cover_things that make white ppl uncomfortable

  1. Things that Make White People Uncomfortable – David Zirin and Michael Bennet
  2. Black Enough: Stories of Being Young and Black in America – Ibi Zoboi et. al
  3. The Skin I’m In – Sharon G. Flake
  4. I’m Not Dying With You Tonight – Gilly Segal and Kimberly Jones
  5. American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang


Adult Learning 

cover_how to be an anti racist

Checklist for diversifying your bookshelf 

  1. How to be an Anti-Racist – Ibram X. Kendi
  2. So You Want to Talk About Race – Ijeoma Oluo
  3. We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom – Bettina Love
  4. This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action and Do the Work – Tiffany Jewell and Aurelia Durand
  5. The Revolution Will Not Be Funded – Incite!

For more information on diversifying literacy curriculums visit: “Hooked on Classics” by Jill Anderson, “Rethinking How We Choose Books in School” by Jenna Chandler-Ward.

Written by: Gianna Baez and Jannah Garfio, KIPP Foundation



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