AUSTIN (KXAN) — A local mother hopes to create conversations within family households about a topic that’s not so black-and-white for children — racial justice.

Ausin-based entrepreneur Kelli Mason is the daughter of a Black mother and a white father. She grew up aware of race from an early age.

Kelli Mason with her kids (Courtesy: Ripple Reads)

Now, as a mother of two, Mason sees a need and responsibility to engage not only her children but others’ about topics like slavery, segregation, and systemic racism, etc.

“You start to talk and understand it’s such a social construct, right? The color of your skin… doesn’t actually mean anything to who you are and to the opportunities that you should have,” she said, “but at the same time I know that my sons who have fair skin and blonde hair, one of them has blue eyes – they’re gonna be treated differently by police and by teachers and by perspective employers than my nephews who are darker skin and present as Black and are Black.”

Conversations about racial justice can be difficult to have.

“You as a parent or a caregiver want to know that you’re gonna have an answer when your kid asks you, ‘What’s segregation? Why did that happen?'”

What is racial justice?

“Racial justice means being able to stand up for everyone being equal. Everyone having equal opportunity, equal access, actually equal, right? Not just the nice message. But when you see that Black people are pulled over by the cops more often than white people in Austin, what can we do about it? How do we bring justice to that situation?” Mason said.

She launched her startup book club Ripple Reads during the summer of 2020 in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing and the current movement that followed.

“There was all of a sudden this national conversation about race and institutional racism and very deeply a lot of parents felt, ‘How do I talk to my kids about this?’ How do I have conversations with 7-year-olds, 10-year-olds, 5-year-olds – they know something’s going on but they really can’t grasp the depth of what’s going on in our country when it comes to racial justice,” Mason said.

Local bookstore owners and the Austin Public Library are also addressing such conversations about race through literature.

About the book club

A father reads to his kid (Courtesy Christina S. Murray/UT College of Education)

The monthly book club is a research-based subscription service that includes age-appropriate books about racial justice and expert-crafted discussion guides to engage families on race and empathy.

The subscription costs $19.95 per delivery. You can sign up to receive books every month or every other month.

Some of the topics addressed include:

  • Appreciating differences
  • Interracial friendships
  • Racial justice
  • Standing up to discrimination

Austin-based Notley funded Ripple Reads’ launch. The impact investment organization is a catalyst for innovative people and organizations making positive change in the world, like Mason. As a partner at Notley, she focuses on creating and supporting innovative ideas to advance racial justice.

You can learn more about Mason’s story and the book club on her website.

Local partners

Dr. Keffrelyn Brown and Dr. Anthony Brown (Courtesy: Christina S. Murrey)

Ripple Reads partnered with Dr. Keffrelyn Brown and Dr. Anthony Brown at the University of Texas. The Browns are co-directors of the Center for Innovation in Race, Teaching, and Curriculum at the university’s College of Education.

“They teach teachers how to have meaningful and honest conversations with kids about race in the classroom,” Mason said.

The Browns apply decades of research to the book club experience. They curate books and create compelling in-home discussion guides for families. Subscribers will get to read into the Browns’ deep knowledge of best practices for discussing race with children.

“It is important that children learn about race when they are young. Planting these seeds early will cultivate fearless, justice-minded adults who recognize racism and will address it squarely without ignorance, shame, or fear,” Dr. Keffrelyn Brown said in a press release.

Beyond the books

Ripple Reads members and partners can sponsor subscriptions for children and families living in poverty through a scholarship fund. Austin-based designer and business owner Kendra Scott supported the launch of the fund. The book club partnered with nonprofit Friends of the Children to distribute the free subscriptions.

Mason is hoping to launch an online community in the future where parents can connect with each other and have real-time conversations and talk about pressing issues going on.