Resources to Help You Talk to Kids about Race & Racism

Shipley’s Mission commits us to helping students develop the empathy and critical thinking it takes to be compassionately engaged global citizens. That work begins in our own community, and in times like these, it’s our duty to provide children with opportunities to feel heard, to listen to others, and to learn to engage meaningfully with the world. It’s also important for parents to talk with their children about racial injustice and racism. Here are some resources to help you have those difficult conversations, as well as some information about why it’s so important to begin this work at a young age.

Talking to Children after Racial Incidents
Howard Stevenson is a clinical psychologist at Penn Graduate School of Education who studies racial literacy and racial trauma. He argues that talking to young children about racial incidents is critical to reducing their negative effects on health and well-being. In  this Q&A he provides a useful framework and tips for having difficult conversations with children.

George Floyd. Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. What do we tell our children?
“Racism persists, experts say, because many parents avoid difficult conversations,” says Alia E. Dastagir in this USA Today article, which provides advice on how to address specific questions from children and how to approach your conversations with children of different ages. 

Kojo For Kids: Jason Reynolds Talks About Racism And The Protests 
This podcast episode features young adult author Jason Reynolds, who takes questions from kids from 8 -18 years old about why people are angry and what can be done about racism.

Anti-Racism For Kids 101: Starting To Talk About Race
Ashia Ray, author of the websites Raising Luminaries & Books for Littles, provides a list of books to help parents begin teaching their children how to be anti-racist. Ray advocates for celebrating differences among people and how that can strengthen communities. She also provides guidance on what lessons to draw from each book.

How to Cope With Race-Based Trauma
“Viewing police killings or distressing news towards one’s racial-ethnic group is connected to worsened mental health. Yes, videos create awareness. However, we have to be mindful about the negative mental health impact of seeing a senseless killing play out right in front of our eyes,” says author Jor-El Caraballo. His article offers reassurance to older children on the coping process, which looks different for everyone.

CNN & Sesame Street to Host Town Hall Addressing Racism
The 60-minute special "Coming Together: Standing Up to Racism" will air on Saturday, June 6, at 10:00 a.m. ET. The show will talk to kids about racism, the recent nationwide protests, embracing diversity and being more empathetic and understanding. Tune in with your young children.

How to Talk to Your kids about Racism and the Protests
“Whether you regularly talk with your child about race and injustice or you have struggled to find the words, how can you help your kids make sense of what’s happening today?” Author Grace Dickinson says parents should let their kids guide the conversation and offers practical advice for different age groups.

31 Children's Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism and Resistance
“Experts recommend acknowledging and naming race and racism with children as early and as often as possible. Children’s books are one of the most effective and practical tools for initiating these critical conversations; and they can also be used to model what it means to resist and dismantle oppression,” say the folks at EmbraceRace. Help guide your conversation with this list they’ve compiled.

75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice
For older children who want to channel their feelings into actionable efforts, this list provides ideas of things people young and old can do to make a positive impact in the area of racial justice.

How White Parents Can Use Media to Raise Anti-Racist Kids
“Movies, TV, and books can be powerful teaching tools when it comes to helping kids understand race, racism, and a history of racial oppression,” says author Sierra Filucci. She provides practical advice on how white parents can begin to have these essential conversations about race with their older children.

There are many curated lists of resources that will be helpful in navigating conversations about race and racism with your children. Here are two more:

Your Kids Aren't Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup

Anti-Racism Resources

Shipley’s Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion shared some tips for teachers engaging with their students in these important conversations, which we are encouraging in assemblies, affinity groups, classes, and advisory meetings.

  1. No one has all of the answers. But it is important for kids to hear that and to hear that there is no right or wrong way to feel.
  2. In conversations, you and students should avoid making generalizations about any particular group of people. Each person has an individual story and each individual makes up our collective story. 
  3. While we want spaces where students can better understand and gain awareness towards making an impact, it is important to remember that students are still processing all of this information in different ways. Depending on a student’s culture and identity, they will receive and potentially respond to context very differently. It’s important to give all kids space to process and know that their opinions are valued and heard, within the parameters defined in Shipley's Community Commitment. Lean on these in your conversations.

About the Author


The Shipley School is an independent, coeducational day school in Bryn Mawr for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students. Through our commitment to educational excellence, we develop within each student a love of learning and a desire for compassionate participation in the world. Through a strong college-preparatory curriculum in the humanities and sciences, our school encourages curiosity, creativity, and respect for intellectual effort. Shipley upholds and promotes moral integrity, a sense of personal achievement and worth, and concern for others at school and in the larger community.