Race relations and protests are difficult topics to explain to children. Books detailing the momentous events of the 1960s can be the vehicle to help those discussions. The following award-winning books use historical background and distinctive viewpoints to aid understanding of significant events and news. Here are four children’s books at different reading levels that explore identity, racism, protest, and justice.
The Other Side written by Jacqueline Woodson and illustrated by E.B. Lewis, an audiobook for ages 5-9
A fence divides both racial sides of an unnamed small town. Both girls, Clover and Annie, wonder about this and take the halting steps towards friendship despite adult rules. The story ends with both girls and their friends sitting on the top of the fence together. A moving and thoughtful story of children making choices and changes.
One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia, historical fiction for ages 10+
Three sisters are sent from their Brooklyn home with their grandmother to spend a month with their estranged mother in 1968 Oakland. During that month, their mother places them in a Black Panther day camp, and the girls absorb ideas of identity, black community, and revolution in their distinctly individual ways. The themes of the times are quietly explored, as well as family issues.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963, by Christopher Paul Curtis, historical fiction for ages 10+
This book is both funny when describing the sibling antics in the loving Watson family, and very serious and moving about the infamous church bombing that they encounter in Birmingham on a visit to their grandmother. Told from the viewpoint of 10-year-old brother Kenny, the family journey brings sudden hatred and violence in juxtaposition to family dynamics.
Let the Children March written by Monica Clark-Robinson and illustrated by Frank Morrison, a historical fiction picture book for ages 6+
The inspiring and shivery events of the Children’s Crusade of 1963 are described through the eyes of two siblings who participate in this moving story of resistance and courage. Children had volunteered to march in protest against segregation laws in the south, and were then arrested and jailed. This story brings out the fear and hatred they encounter, and the effects that their march had in the broader Civil Rights Movement.