Skip to main content

Reading, Writing, and (Anti-)Racist Picturebooks: Reframing Literacy Engagements


The US student body is rapidly diversifying, but remains unmatched by the teachers who serve in their classrooms. There is a growing understanding that teachers, particularly White teachers, must explicitly and thoughtfully engage in anti-bias and anti-racist practices in their classrooms. Our nation, and correspondingly our schools, have witnessed or engaged in tide swells of social activism leading to increased awareness of how systems of oppression have broad-reaching impacts on our society broadly and our students specifically. It can feel difficult or uncomfortable to address issues like privilege, activism, and social justice with children, however, especially when this very concept is the topic of much political and legislative debate currently. Teachers of young children already engage in daily literacy learning, and these experiences provide the perfect opportunity to use carefully chosen picturebooks to scaffold students’ perspective taking, reflection, and thoughtful discourse, but these moments do not happen accidentally. In this thought piece, we describe some of the pivotal cultural moments over recent years, how children’s literature has responded to and amplified these moments, and strategies teachers can use to ground anti-bias/anti-racist learning opportunities within literacy learning using picturebooks highlighting diversity. We also provide links to instructional resources and culturally responsive book titles for educators to support their forays into anti-racist teaching in their early childhood classrooms.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


Children’s Literature Cited

  • Clark-Robinson, M. (2018). Let the children march. HMH Books for Young Readers.

  • Coles, R. (2010). The story of Ruby Bridges. Scholastic.

    Google Scholar 

  • Devenny, J. (2016). Race cars: A children’s book about white privilege. Self-published.

  • Dorros, A. (1997). Abuela. Puffin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Dreamers, Y. (2018). Dreamers. Neal Porter Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Higginbotham, A. (2018). Not my idea: A book about whiteness. AK Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Katz, K. (2002). The color of us. Henry Holt and Co.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kendi, I. X. (2020). Anti-racist baby board book. Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

  • Kissinger, K. (2014). All the colors We Are/Todos los colores de nuestra piel: The story of how we get our skin color, 20th anniversary. Redleaf Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Krull, K. (2003). Harvesting hope: The story of Cesar Chavez. HMH Books for Young Readers.

  • Latham, I., & Waters, C. (2019). Can I touch your hair?: Poems of race, mistakes, and friendship. Rock the Boat.

    Google Scholar 

  • Merger, J. (2020). No!: My first book of protest. Downtown Bookworks.

    Google Scholar 

  • Morton, C., & Morton, G. (2015). Why Johnny doesn’t flap: NT is OK! Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nagara, I. (2016). A is for activist. Seven Stories Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Penfold, A. (2018). All are welcome. Knopf.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rappaport, D. (2007). Martin’s big words: The life of Dr. Hyperion Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Roberts, J. (2018). On our street: Our first talk about poverty. Orca Book Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ruur, M. (2016). Stepping stones: A refugee family’s journey. Orca Book Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Tyler, M. (2016). The skin you live in. Chicago Children’s Museum.

  • Yin, M. (2003). Coolies. Puffin Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zhang, K. (2019). Amy Wu and the perfect bao. Simon and Schuster.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Annemarie Kaczmarczyk.

Additional information

Publisher's Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Springer Nature or its licensor (e.g. a society or other partner) holds exclusive rights to this article under a publishing agreement with the author(s) or other rightsholder(s); author self-archiving of the accepted manuscript version of this article is solely governed by the terms of such publishing agreement and applicable law.

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Kaczmarczyk, A., Allee, K. & Roberts, S.K. Reading, Writing, and (Anti-)Racist Picturebooks: Reframing Literacy Engagements. Early Childhood Educ J (2023).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • DOI: