Maybe race is something our family has always talked about, however imperfectly, because of who we are. We may be your average white American family, but our extended family is made up of immigrants and the children of immigrants; some of its members are different races and ethnicities. And it’s absolutely beautiful.
But even in a multi-ethnic family, race is something that has to be discussed. We’ve always told our kids that God made all people in his image. He loves them all and calls us to do the same. But understanding an abstract concept is always easier if you can make it concrete. That’s what a good picture book can do.
One of my favorite picture books for talking with young kids about race is God’s Very Good Idea by Trillia Newbell illustrated by Catalina Echeverri. I love how Newbell emphasizes that it was God’s idea to make all different kinds of people, all in his image. It was his plan that they would love him and love each other. But we messed up God’s good plan. And because of that, “sometimes we treat others badly because they are different from us.” And that means we all need forgiveness.
But Newbell doesn’t leave us there. Her gospel-centered story takes us through God’s plan of redemption and introduces his family, the church.
“This is God’s very good idea: lots of different people enjoying loving him and loving each other.”
Maybe race is something your family hasn’t talked much about until recently. Now’s a good time to start. Because if you are part of God’s family, your family looks like mine. Different languages and races, different ethnicities and nationalities, all made in God’s image, children of one Father, dearly loved. If we pray “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” we need to be ready to live it out, and that starts with how well we love others and teach our children to do the same.
Of course, this isn’t a conversation that is over in one picture book, so let me offer a further reading list of picture books by authors of color that can help you explore this topic with your kids.
- Mixed: A Colorful Story by Arree Chung
- Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, PhD, Marietta Collins, PhD, Ann Hazzard, PhD, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin
- Lulu the One and Only by Lynnnette Mawhinney
Don’t stop there. Add books to your bookshelf by authors of color as a way of showing your kids how to love and value others who may look different from you. Start with these fantastic picture books:
- Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña illustrated by Christian Robinson
- The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
- My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero and Zeke Peña
- Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juanna Martinez-Neal
- The Day You Begin by Jaqueline Woodson Rafael López
- Let’s Dance by Valerie Bolling illustrated by Maine Diaz
- Drawn Together by Minh Lê illustrated by Dan Santat
- Dreamers by Yuyi Morales