As protests against racial injustice and police brutality have spread across the U.S. and around the world in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, and many more, people are looking for a deeper understanding about racism and what they can do about it. Many of those inquiring minds are turning to books, so when Brittany Smith, a pre-kindergarten teacher who teaches in the Atlantic City School District in New Jersey, shared a list on Twitter of her recommended reading materials to teach children about race and racism, it went viral.
Her tweet garnered over 400,000 likes as of Thursday morning, a response that took Smith by surprise. “While I personally thought the conversation was necessary, I had no idea it would go viral the way it did, and in such a short period of time,” she told TIME in an email.
In the Twitter thread, Smith recommends books about Civil Rights leaders, including: Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz; Voice of Freedom: Fannie Lou Hamer, Spirit of the Civil Rights Movement by Carole Boston Weatherford; and Let It Shine: Stories of Black Women Freedom Fighters by Andrea Davis Pinkney.
There were also stories about growing up black in America, like The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and books to teach empathy such as Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt and Chocolate Milk, Por Favor: Celebrating Diversity with Empathy by Maria Dismondy.
Smith’s reading list also featured portraits in bravery, including: Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh; Moses: When Harriet Tubman Led Her People to Freedom by Carole Boston Weatherford; and Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock by Aslan Tudor and Kelly Tudor.
Smith also included reading selections that celebrate culture, including: Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo; Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi; and My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope by Diane Guerrero and Erica Moroz.
Smith hopes that her tweet may help parents, educators, administrators, and lawmakers to recognize the importance of representation and promoting diversity in school and at home and act on it real ways. “We want to raise a conscientious generation, and to do that, we need to be mindful of what we’re teaching them as children,” Smith explains. She plans to add more books to the list and potentially even release her own children’s books.
In addition to reading, Smith suggests classrooms and parents have “diverse dolls and diverse play foods” to help promote inclusion and visiting museums to expose kids to different social environments that explore various cultures.
If you’re looking for more books for your collection, check out TIME’s list of antiracist books for titles including Ta-Nehisi Coates’ memoir, Between the World and Me, Ibram X. Kendi’s children’s book, AntiRacist Baby, Paul Ortiz’s An African American and Latinx History of the United States, and Tiffany Jewell’s activist how-to guide, This Book is Anti-Racist: 20 Lessons on How to Wake Up, Take Action, and Do the Work. Smith also recommends that adults check out Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow, Ibram X. Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning, and The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
In a small sign that people are hungry to learn more about race, but what activist and author Angela Davis famously called antiracist, books like Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race and Ijeoma Oluo’s So You Want to Talk About Race had sold out on Amazon in the U.S. as of Thursday. If you’re looking to add books to your shelves, consider purchasing from one of the black-owned bookstores in this list compiled by LitHub.
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