Hendricks said that packaging the topic of the white experience versus the Black experience as “right or wrong” is a bad start. Instead, he suggests emphasizing the fact that everyone, no matter their race, is inextricably linked to history, even in the present day.
“Not a single kid in this world caused racism and engaged in enslaving people. However, it is important for them to understand how they are impacted by those things,” Hendricks said. “Having that full picture is, I think, the most important way for a kid to understand truly what we mean when we talk about the Black experience and can help them in understanding their own experience as well.”
If you’re wondering whether historically accurate discussions are appropriate for younger children, Angela Moody, a children’s school teacher with the online online education platform, Outschool, pointed out that “Black children aren’t afforded the privilege of only hearing what’s comfortable and palatable. If they can handle certain topics, so can other children.”
Juneteenth is intended to commemorate Black liberation from enslavement in the United States, but it certainly wasn’t the ending of racism in this country. Hendricks says the children’s books you choose should stray away from being overly white-centered or overly celebratory from the Black perspective.
“Look for books that paint the picture so a child can really see and feel what it’s like in order to become more appreciative of different people. Then they can jump into some of those more direct conversations, or maybe they will even need them less because they just get it,” he said.
The bridge between clumsy discussions and acknowledging an existing system seeped in inequities is difficult to cross, but it’s not impossible.
“If parents normalize these kinds of conversations early, it can actually make them less uncomfortable. It will also create a more understanding and empathetic world,” Moody said.
You can keep scrolling to see some of Moody’s Juneteenth book suggestions for kids as well as some other top picks by Black educators, just in time to commemorate the ending of enslavement in America and the beginning of a greater understanding.
HuffPost may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Every item is independently selected by the HuffPost Shopping team. Prices and availability are subject to change.