Wednesday, January 17, 2007

26+ Conversation Starter Picture Books

Update and "disclaimer" - This was NOT a sponsored/affiliated post when I wrote it seven years ago (that in itself is its own special disclaimer). But presumably, if you buy any of these books from Amazon by clicking on my link, they will pay me kajillions and kajillions of dollars.  Or at least a few cents I guess.

I have limited this list to books I have actually read and ENJOY. And there are new ones coming out all the time. But here's a start!


In response to several requests, I’m posting a list of books to help start conversations with children about racism, discrimination, gender bias, etc. When it comes to picture books, I don’t even pick one up unless the illustrations are at *least* very good. So I imagine there are countless books missing from this list just because I judged a book by its cover.

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting (to discuss: racism, prejudice, befriending those who are different from ourselves)

Smoky Night

Happy Birthday Martin Luther King by Jean Marzollo (to discuss: civil rights, prejudice)

Happy Birthday, Martin Luther King Jr. (Scholastic Bookshelf)

Woody Guthrie Poet of the People by Bonnie Christensen (to discuss: poverty, social justice)

Woody Guthrie

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch (to discuss: gender bias)

Not your typical Rober Munsch - this is one of my favorites for discussing gender bias in a totally age appropriate way. The boys love it because of the dragon, the girls love it because of the princess...and then we get to confuse them all with a princess that doesn't need saving!

The Paper Bag Princess

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez by Kathleen Krull (to discuss: prejudice, racism, social justice)

Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez

Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman by Alan Schroeder (to discuss: slavery, prejudice)

Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman

If a Bus Could Talk The Story of Rosa Parks by Faith Ringgold (to discuss: civil rights, prejudice)

If A Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks

Tar Bech by Faith Ringgold (to discuss: civil rights, prejudice, discrimination, unions, name calling, differences in socioeconomic status, etc. etc. etc.)

Tar Beach

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds The Sammy Lee Story by Paula Yoo (to discuss: prejudice, discrimination, perseverance)

Sixteen Years in Sixteen Seconds: The Sammy Lee Story

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz (to discuss: skin color)

The Colors of Us

Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky by Faith Ringgold (to discuss: slavery, standing up for beliefs)

Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad in the Sky

Benno and the Night of Broken Glass (to discuss: the Holocaust)

Benno and the Night of Broken Glass

The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark by Carmen Agra Deedy (to discuss: prejudice, Holocaust)

The Yellow Star: The Legend of King Christian X of Denmark

More, More, More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams (to discuss: interracial families, skin color)

Another of my favorites! Perfect for even the youngest and most curious, a great book even if the child in question ISN'T asking questions.

"More More More," Said the Baby Board Book

Martin’s Big Words by Doreen Rappaport (to discuss: civil rights)

Martin's Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

My Dream of Martin Luther King by Faith Ringold (to discuss: civil rights)

Keeping the Promise: A Torah’s Journey by Tami Lehman-Wilzig (to discuss: Holocaust, Standing up for Beliefs)

Keeping the Promise (A Torah's Journey)

Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes (to discuss: relationships, friendships with people different from ourselves)

Chester's Way

This Land is Your Land by Woodie Guthrie (to discuss: poverty, social justice)

This Land Is Your Land

All the Colors of the Earth by Sheila Hamanaka (to discuss: skin color)

All the Colors of the Earth

Satchel Paige by Lesa Cline-Ransome (to discuss: prejudice, racism)

Satchel Paige

The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater (to discuss: peer pressure, individuality)

The Big Orange Splot

A Bad Case of Stripes by David Shannon (to discuss: peer pressure, individuality)

A Bad Case of Stripes

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes (to discuss: teasing, peer pressure, individuality)


Fly Away Home (to discuss: homelessness)

Abiyoyo by Pete Seger (to discuss: different cultures - tons are represented in the illustrations, citizenship)


Missing are books on gay/lesbian families. I can only say that the above listed books are those that I have personally enjoyed with my kids. I know *of* two books at least: Heather Has Two Mommies by Leslea Newman and also Emma and Meesha My Boy: A Two Mom Story by Kaitlyn Taylor Considine. I can't vouch for the illustrations or the stories though, since I've only heard of them and haven't read them.

For grown up reading on the power of children's literature to shape children's ideas on prejudice, racism, etc., try Should We Burn Babar by Herbert Kohl.

Should We Burn Babar? Essays on Children's Literature and the Power of Stories

What else have you got? Let me know in the comments!


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