Not too young to talk about race and social justice: Library programs and other resources for starting the discussion

Posted on September 10, 2020 at 6:00 am


In the video and slide presentation How Kids Learn About Race put together by EmbraceRace, they show that children learn about race from a variety of sources. This means that, whether we are prepared to discuss race or not, children of all ages are receiving messages from everywhere around them.

Children, even from a very young age, are taught to recognize patterns. They notice things like who lives in the largest and smallest houses and who drives the newest or oldest cars in their neighborhood. They also begin to recognize patterns in public places like which genders and races of people hold which jobs and whether the people in the bank or grocery store look and act like them.

For kids and teens who are already navigating pressures to fit in, figuring out their own biases and expectations for people who are different from them and recognizing when and how they buy in to those biases and expectations and what they should be recognizing instead can be extra challenging.

These can be difficult aspects for adults to recognize and address in ourselves as well. So, if kids and teens are going to continue to receive racialized messages, how can the adults in their lives—namely, we—help them navigate this?

There isn’t a single, perfect answer to this question. But there are ways to get started, and here are some offered by the library.


The library is hosting a community conversation:

Talking about Race with Kids
Wednesday, September 16, 7pm | REGISTER

This webinar is designed for adults, and we explore a variety of topics, including how to begin tough conversations with kids, how to help kids navigate “scary” things they might see on the news or in person, and how these types of conversations are important for our community.

Along with parents, anyone currently working with or taking care of children is welcome to attend, whether you’re a teacher, grandparent, or someone else who regularly cares for children. Registration is required and closes at 5pm on the day of the program. 

While it is ideal to begin conversations about race with children early, this topic is just as important to recognize and discuss with the teens in our lives. The library is also hosting a teen book discussion welcoming teenagers to be a part of, and even lead, the discussion.

Teen Book Discussion: All American Boys
Wednesday, Sep 23, Sep 30 & Oct 7, 7:30–8:30pm | REGISTER
(Registration closes at 5pm on Sep 22.)

During this three-week discussion, we’ll be reading All American Boys, by Brendan Kiely and Jason Reynolds. This powerful story is about two boys, one black teenager beaten by a white police officer and one white teenager who witnesses it. Written through alternating perspectives, the reader gets into the head of both boys, experiencing how this single event shakes the live of both boys and the community they live in. This book is recommended for teens ages 14 and up.

We invite all teens to sign up for this three-week book discussion to talk about the topics in the book together with other teens and youth librarians who have also read the book. The first two meetings focus on the first and last half of the book. The third meeting is for discussing how the themes from the book affect teens today.

We also highly encourage parents to read along and discuss this book with their teenagers at home. There are plenty of aspects about race and social justice to unpack and discuss! Parents and caregivers of registered teens are welcome to join the October 7 meeting along with their teen.


Starting family conversations about race, inequity, and social justice at home can be really difficult. So if you are unable to make it to the upcoming events, we offer you books as another way to step into the conversation.

Reading books aloud together and discussing them can be an easy way to begin breaking the ice about the topics of race inequity and social justice with kids. In June, librarian Sheri wrote a blog post providing some resources and suggesting books to read that help parents and caregivers start the conversation about race with kids.

Including these picture books and early reader books from Sheri’s blog post, the library offers plenty of titles to share and discuss the topics of race and social justice.

If you would like to read digitally, we offer curated eBook and audiobook recommendations on OverDrive for adults, teens, and kids:

Another great place to start reading is the 2020 Spokane Is Reading booklist featuring Diverse Voices. Most of these titles are for adult readers, and one is a young adult title. So this list can help mature readers think about and see race inequity and social justice from new perspectives.

If you are looking for books on a more specific topic regarding race and social justice, you can call your local library to get help locating titles or use our new Book Butler service to request books as well.


Librarian Molly Moore

A Gonzaga graduate, Molly Moore is happy to be back in Zags territory and serving the community as an Education and Enrichment librarian with Spokane County Library District! Some of her favorite free time activities include reading (not surprising given her career choice), playing in salt water, walking around, and watching the TV show Parks and Recreation ad nauseam.

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