I’ve had to realise that a huge part of raising a conscious kid is confronting the racism in my beloved childhood books. Many authors I read as a child and through school have not withstood present day scrutiny, which is a very good thing. The most recent writer of children’s books to receive this assessment is Dr Seuss.
A quick Google search using the terms ‘Dr Seuss racist’ shows us this topic is not new. Theodore Geisel (AKA Dr Seuss) published Orientalism propaganda supporting internment of Japanese Americans, he wrote and performed minstrel shows and drew cartoons celebrating them, and brought this racism and white supremacy into his books.
As this was slowly coming to light, in 2018 the American ‘Read Across America Day’ quietly updated its logo to remove the Cat in the Hat, but the books are still prolific, even in popular culture. We have several Dr Seuss books on our son’s bookshelf and he particularly loves Fox in Socks.
As our family continues to decolonise our toddler’s library, we’ve made an effort to bring books in that serve the same purpose as Dr Seuss books: alliteration, rhyming, counting, or just silliness.
Below are a handful of anti-racist books we all love in our house. Another incredible list can be found on Teach For the Change. Tell me what you’re reading to your little ones! We love getting more anti-racist book recommendations.
A is for Activist, Innosanto Nagara
A is for Awesome!, Eva Chen
Counting on Community, Innosanto Nagara
Dream Big, Little One: Bold Women in Black History, Vashti Harrison
Little Feminist board book set, Emily Kleinman & Lydia Ortiz
Little People, Big Dreams: Jean Michel Basquiat, Maria Isobel Sánchez Vegara
Little People, Big Dreams: Rosa Parks, Maria Isobel Sánchez Vegara
Little People, Big Dreams: Harriet Tubman, Maria Isobel Sánchez Vegara
NB. A word of caution as you seek to diversify your children’s books: it is important to research the authorship of books not specifically labeled by Black writers. I purchased a few books celebrating aspects of popular culture, only to realise they were egregious examples of cultural appropriation.