This month, MAR explores the theme of Reparations. Many think of reparations just in terms of financial compensation but reparations is really about repairing relationships. Repairing relationships with oppressed peoples. Repairing relationships with the land. Repairing relationships with ourselves. The foundation of reparations, and the ability to take accountability for our actions, starts when we are first learning to say "I'm sorry".
This month’s book list has been compiled as a group effort by our MAR volunteers and addresses themes of Reparations including saying sorry, making amends, taking accountability and what we need to be making reparations for. Next month we will be exploring the Indigenous experience on Turtle Island where we will continue our conversation of the need for reparations. Here are 25+ titles ranging from children's board books to Adult non-fiction relating to Reparations that you can add to your library today.
"In our home, we do not make our children say sorry to each other."
MAR Recommends: 25 Books on Reparations.
Reparations, as defined by the dictionary, means the act of making amends, offering expiation, or giving satisfaction for a wrong or injury. You will notice it does NOT mention apologies, or sending thoughts and prayers.
This is because reparations is more than just words; it is an act. There needs to be action.
In our home, we do not make our children say sorry to each other. Forcing a child to say sorry does not help them understand the injury they caused or how to take personal ownership. What they ARE taught are just the words they need to say to get out of trouble.
Instead, we practice reparations. If my daughter breaks her brother’s Lego creation, our focus is helping her find out how she can make it better with him. This may look like helping him rebuild it or her rebuilding it on her own. It may look like her sharing something of hers with him. It could actually be just a “sorry” and a hug. But it is not up to her to decide. She asks her brother what he needs for this wrong to be righted. Often he wants to be heard, have his upset feelings validated, and some help fixing what she broke. Through this process there is a greater sense of ownership and responsibility over their interaction. There is increased empathy and understanding for each other. And the amends that are made are authentic and genuine.
As adults, when we are talking about Reparations for Indigenous genocide, Black slavery, and continuing systemic racism, we are talking about what ACTIONS can you take to make it better for, and with, racialized people?
Educating yourself is great, but that action is for you, not for me.
Being a member of an anti-racism group or committee is great, but if you aren’t DOING anything, that action is for you, not for me.
Sharing a bunch of information on your Facebook or Instagram is great, but if you aren’t also pushing the dialogue in all your spaces, that action is for you, not for me.
Reparations can take many forms. From small acts, like being active contributors to conversations versus passive consumers, to large acts like giving land back.
Reparations is NOT, an eye for an eye. Black people are not looking to enslave white people and Indigenous people are not looking to run white settlers out of their homes and decimate their communities. Reparations is more mindful, more intentional, and does not seek to punish. Reparations seeks to repair, to heal, to mend - to make life fair, and just, and equitable for everyone.
To bring the practice of reparations into our homes and to instill this value in our children, we need to start with how we "relationship" with others. Are we givers or takers? Do we listen to understand or listen to respond? Do we practice empathy? These are all skills we can build in ourselves and in our children starting from babies when we treat them as people to be listened to and not controlled, to young adults when we help them take accountability and responsibility for their actions.
We hope this book list helps to give you a new perspective on reparations, gives you pause for reflection, and inspires you to seek out those areas when you can be making reparations.
*This month's list includes several titles by white authors. These books are denoted with an asterisk (*) in the title.
**We always recommend pre-reading books prior to reading them with, or giving them to, your children.
Board Books, Babies, Preschool
When We Are Kind by Monique Gray Smith
“When We Are Kind celebrates simple acts of everyday kindness and encourages children to explore how they feel when they initiate and receive acts of kindness in their lives. Celebrated author Monique Gray Smith has written many books on the topics of resilience and reconciliation and communicates an important message through carefully chosen words for readers of all ages. Beautifully illustrated by artist Nicole Neidhardt, this book encourages children to be kind to others and to themselves.” - Orca Books
I was Born Precious and Sacred by Francis Dick
"...and this I need to know." With this refrain, Indigenous children are invited to re-learn their ancestral teachings about the Little People in their communities. With simple language and natural photographs, I Was Born Precious and Sacred acknowledges culturally integral concepts that promote the sacredness of life, the building of positive self-esteem, and an awareness of children's rights to be safe, loved and respected. Readers and listeners of all ages will be reminded that every aspect of a child is sacred and valuable and that each of us must work to preserve and nurture their minds, bodies, spirits and hearts.” - Strong Nations
Start with Sorry by P.T. Finch
In Start With Sorry, Three-year-old Luna loves to spend time with her older brother, Asher, and she wants to do everything he does. But when they sit down to draw pictures together, Luna feels upset that she can’t do everything he can do. When she reacts in anger, Asher is sad and doesn’t want to color with her anymore. With Mommy’s help, Luna learns how to make amends for hurting her brother’s feelings. Kids love this story, written by PT Finch, and adults appreciate the valuable lesson it teaches about empathy for others. - Literary Mango
*The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld
“Author/illustrator Doerrfeld gives children a model for how to process difficult events and provide meaningful support to friends who need it...Despite the obvious takeaway, this story doesn’t feel overly moralizing or didactic. Keeping the focus on the small tragedy of tumbled blocks makes it young-child–appropriate, with opportunities for deeper connections with an older audience. This appealing work is an excellent addition to any emotional-intelligence shelf.” - Kirkus Review
*Peace is an Offering by Annette LeBox
“A list of small lessons that, when added up, have a great impact.
Peace is so abstract that it’s a difficult concept to grasp. LeBox tries to make it concrete, encouraging children to practice small acts of giving, sharing and understanding every day. She follows a diverse group of friends as they find tiny moments of peace in the world around them.” - Kirkus Review
R is for Reparations by Global Afrikan Congress - Nova Scotia Chapter
“This book is drawn from the voices of the children who participated in the Book-in-a-Day event and rode on an imaginary Underground Railroad Freedom ride, equipped with Elders who served as “conductors” and “station” stops. Their words address the tragedy and resulting political, social, and economic damage caused to African People by the slave trade, slavery, colonialism, poverty and anti-Black racism. Their reactions and reflections lead the contributions for this compelling, one-of-a-kind Alphabet Book suitable for all ages.” - Fernwood Publishing
Little Afeni and the Cause for Reparations by Nora Wittmann, Robert Ras Kahleb Gordon
"This illustrated children's book on Reparations is the key that opens the door, to children worldwide, on a hidden topic." - Keturah Cecilia Babb "Truly another masterpiece from Power of the Trinity Publishers!" - Esther Stanford Xosei, Pan-Afrikan Reparations Coalition in Europe (PARCOE)
Stolen Words by Melanie Florence
“The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared.” - Strong Nations
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson
“Warning: This picture book for young children does not have a happy ending. And therein is the power and beauty of the story. When a group of children ostracize a new child who is poor, they do not realize how hurtful they are being until it is too late to make amends. As the teacher talks to the children about the ripples of our actions, we as readers learn that it is up to each of us to create a happy ending in our own encounters.” - Social Justice Books
Feast of Peas by Kashmira Sheth
“Collaborators Sheth and Ebbeler offer a lyrical fable set in India about Jiva, a man who tends to his vegetable garden daily and holds a special fondness for his peas. A rapid cycle of anticipation and disappointment repeats until the thief’s unavoidable unmasking and fairness restored through a feast: peas shelled and boiled, “steamed and simmered,” “fried and spiced.” Sheth spins a yarn about greed and forgiveness in well-paced, poetic narration accompanied by Ebbeler’s expressive acrylic illustrations.” - Publishers Weekly
Bonus Picture Books:
All Because You Matter by Tami Charles
“Two accomplished creators invite Black children to take up their spaces in the world. Charles’ lyrical text addresses “you, dear child,” in the voice of a loving caregiver, recounting how the world anticipated and prepared for the child’s existence...The universe made room for “you, / your people, / their dreams, / your future,” Charles assures the child. The protesters (“take a breath, / take a stand, / take a knee”) and victims of racist violence (“Trayvon, / Tamir, / Philando”) are mentioned explicitly without becoming the focus; the journey from beginning to end of the book sends a message that is nurturing, nourishing, loving, and reassuring, expanding and deepening the words of the movement it echoes.” - Kirkus Reviews
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
“Last Stop on Market Street reveals the creative potential of a powerful cross-cultural author-illustrator partnership. In words and pictures, it embraces substantive diversity in children’s literature, diversity that not only helps us see ourselves and one another, but that also asks that we make our world anew.” - Social Justice Books
*I am Human: A Book of Empathy by Susan Verde
“When the child chooses kindness, compassion, listening, and saying sorry, they find that they are connected to everyone, and they resolve to keep trying, because “I am full of hope. I am human.” Reynolds’ simple line drawings with bursts of color have become iconic, and they serve the simple, affirming text with their own vision of the emotions and possibilities we humans have in this wide world. He depicts the protagonist with brown skin and black, curly hair amid a multiracial gathering of other children and adults. An author’s note guides readers through a loving-kindness meditation as an example of how one can choose to improve one’s relationships with others.” - Kirkus Reviews
“This fun and empowering guide to making the world a better place is packed with inspiring ideas and tips for kids who want to know how to make a difference.
Full of positive encouragement to find something you're passionate about and how to get started on making a big difference through small actions, this brilliant fact book for kids is a treasure trove of information and great advice.” - Toppsta
Lucy & Lola by Monique Gray Smith