10 Books To Talk About Skin Color

August 20, 2013 — 8 Comments

Here are 10 books to use as spring boards for discussions about skin color. They range from picture books to young adult titles. Hope they help.



The Skin You Live In_LargeThe Skin You Live In    By Michael Tyler, David Lee Csicsko, (Illustrator) Chicago Children Museum, 2005

This picture book uses rhyme to celebrate the range of skin color and the fact that children are simultaneously unique and similar.


skinagainSkin Again   By bell hooks, Chris Raschka (Illustrator) Jump at the Sun, 2004

Another good title to discuss differences in skin color but honor that what’s inside is what counts.


shadesofpeopleShades of people   By Shelley Rotner, Sheila M.Kelly Holiday House, 2010

Echoing the above titles in theme, this title uses photographs to show that skin is a covering that comes in all different shades, even within a family. Yet we have more in common when we move past these external differences.



daisyDaisy and the Doll   By Michael Medearis, Angela Shelf Medearis, Larry Johnson (Illustrator) University Press of New England, 2005

While this story is 100 year old Daisy Turner’s memory that she recounted about her experience growing up in Grafton Vermont in the 1890’s, the emotions and issues of what it feels like to be different and face racial prejudice are no different today. Click here to find fascinating information about Daisy’s experience on the Vermont Folklore Center’s website.



all the colorsAll the Colors we are: the story of how we get our skin color   By Katie Kissinger, Wernher Krutein (Photographer) Redleaf Press, 2002

A useful resource to teach children the environmental and hereditary aspects of melanin, or skin color.


skininracismThe Skin I’m In  By Pat Thomas, Lesley Harker (Illustrator) Barron’s Educational Series, 2003

This nonfiction title provides young children with examples of racist acts while encouraging children to embrace differences.


racism-pete-sanders-hardcover-cover-artRacism (Let’s Talk About) By Bruce Sanders Creative Co, 2005

As the title indicates, the book explains how skin color can be cause for unfair treatment. It also suggests that we can combat racism if we work together.



skinaminflakeThe Skin I’m In   By Sharon Flake Hyperion Books, 2007

This awarding YA title is great for older audiences. The thirteen-year-old heroine, Maleeka, doesn’t like being dark skinned because everyone at school makes it a problem. Befriending a bully doesn’t help. She has to learn to love herself and the skin she’s in.  Click here to see what one school has done with this profound text.


face relationsFace Relations: 11 Stories about seeing beyond Color Marilyn Singer (Editor) Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2004

This YA collection explores issues of diversity, racism and ways to move beyond with well known authors such as M.E Kerr and Joseph Bruchac.


blacklikemeBlack Like Me   By John Howard Griffin Wings Press, 2011

Though it is 50 years old, this adult or young adult title is not to be missed. It explores the issue of racial injustice after a white writer darkens his skin and spends time in the American South. Click here for Smithsonian’s view of how the book has stood the test of time.

8 responses to 10 Books To Talk About Skin Color


    Reblogged this on A Book of Healing: Practicing a Psychotherapy of Liberation with African-Americans and commented:
    Here are some positive efforts to open positive conversations with children on race…..


    Looking for a book that deals with how to explain to my very fair skin niece that it’s not her skin color but what is inside that matters. How to explain the misconception that she’s not better than her friends or even relatives because she’s lighter and build her self esteem at the same time.


      Looking for a book that deals with how to explain to my very fair skin niece that it’s not her skin color but what is inside that matters. How to explain the misconception that she’s better than her friends or even relatives because she’s lighter and build her self esteem at the same time.


        I like using Karen Katz’s book, Color of Us, as a spring board to talk about all shades of skin. The book is a celebration of a variety of brown shades and I use it as a conversation starter to compare the range of shades of skin with those with whom I am reading the book. I discuss how in my white family of four sisters and one brother we all have a variety of skin tones. Younger kids love to have names for the various shades, so I describe them with terms like peach, vanilla, alabaster, etc. Children immediately get excited and proud to name their own shade – sometimes with help. I then talk about how the shades come from melatonin and our need to be protected from the sun and how those who’s ancestors needed more sun protection have darker skin. These conversations I feel foster an understanding of facts about skin color while instilling some pride for oneself. Then there’s the more difficult job of how to discuss race as a social construct based on the obvious differences in skin tone has which has led to a historical pattern of mistreatment for those with darker pigments. So usually I talk about concrete things like does everyone deserve, food, water, happiness etc. Does everyone get them? No. Is this fair? No. Why not? And what can we do to change it? This is a concrete way for kids to try and gain empathy while tapping into their innate sense of fairness which then can be connected to how people are treated differently for arbitrary yet historically entrenched reasons and what could one do to behave differently. This is a very long winded answer when you were probably hoping for just one book title. I hope it helps and feel free if you want other books recommendations for complicated conversation starters, I’d be happy to see what I can do. Good luck, and know that kids take cues from the adults. What we can’t talk about teaches them what not to talk about.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Celebrating Black Future | howperfectlyremarkablystrange - February 4, 2015

    […] future of freedom. There are more books than there were. I own most of these and a few more. https://samkanescorner.wordpress.com/2013/08/20/10-books-to-talk-about-skin-color/ […]

  2. 3 Essential Tips to Help All Kids to Embrace Their Race and Ethnicity – Psychology Benefits Society - October 25, 2017

    […] with Black children, you might start with books or videos that highlight how all hair is good hair, skin comes in lots of wonderful shades, or that feature Black boys and Black girls as main characters. Sometimes it is easiest to simply […]

  3. Helping kids move past skin color — Good Parenting | Chesapeake Family - September 4, 2020

    […] Introduce differences through books. It can be less threatening to meet people who are different in a book. Introduce children to differences in: ethnicity, family composition, economic levels, physical and intellectual abilities, age, etc. Issues surrounding differences can be discussed in terms of the characters in the book. Then you can broaden the discussion to include people they know or have seen in the community. Here are some suggestions of books for toddlers and preschoolers: “The Colors of Us” by Karen Katz, “Shades of Black” by Sandra Pinkney, “Colors of Me” by Brynne Barnes, “Shades of People” by Shelley Rotner, “Skin Again” by bell hooks, and my personal favorite, “The Skin You Live In” by Michael Tyler. You will find brief reviews of some of these and a few others at Ten Books to Talk about Skin Color. […]

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