Books About Diversity and Celebrating Differences

Have you heard the metaphor of books being like mirrors, windows, and doors? Like a mirror, they allow children to see themselves reflected in the characters. Like a window, stories can provide children with a view into another experience. And like a door, books can create an opening to step through and visit different worlds.

Because stories can hold so much power for children, it is crucial that we share books that celebrate diversity. Here is a list of books that will hopefully help children find a representation of themselves, expand their world view, and promote inclusivity.

NOTE: This list currently focuses mostly on racial and cultural diversity, but I look forward to expanding it in the future to include even more representation.

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Shades of People by Shelley Rotner and Sheila M. Kelly

(Ages 2 – 5)

Minimal text and cheerful photographs feature a myriad of diverse children in this delightful book. Smiling faces adorn the pages and children receive the clear message that skin can appear in a variety of shades and most importantly “you can’t tell what someone is like from the color of their skin.” This is an excellent resource for introducing racial and ethnic diversity to young children.

Buy It Here

 

Happy In Our Skin by Fran Manushkin; illustrated by Lauren Tobia

(Ages 2 – 5)

Upbeat rhymes explain several functions of skin and celebrate how beautiful and different everyone’s skin can be while lively illustrations follow a mixed-race family at the park, swimming, and playing.

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Lovely by Jess Hong

(Ages 3 and up)

Although the text is simple, the message is powerful. “Lovely is different, weird, and wonderful.” Engaging illustrations feature a myriad of people with different skin colors, body shapes, and interests highlighting how everyone is beautiful in their own way.

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Mommy’s Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow; illustrated by Ebony Glenn

(Ages 3 – 7)

Bright illustrations bring a little girl’s imagination to life as she expresses her delight in wearing her mother’s beautiful khimar. This joyful story eloquently captures the love between a daughter and mother and celebrates family and community.

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All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold; illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

(Ages 4 and up)

Poignant language paired with colorful illustrations featuring a diverse group of students drive home the message that school is an inclusive and welcoming place to ALL. This is sure to become a classic classroom read aloud that is reread every year.

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The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

(Ages 3 – 7)

A mother and daughter admire the skin color of their friends, family, and neighbors and compare them to some of their favorite foods.

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A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O’Leary; illustrated by Qin Leng

(Ages 3 – 7)

When a group of diverse students share what makes their families special, they realize each family is different and unique. Free from labels, a variety of family situations are presented in a tender and positive light leaving children with the understanding that a family is a family no matter what the configuration. 

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Princess Hair by Sharee Miller

(Ages 3 – 7)

This delightful book is a welcome tribute to the variety of ways girls can wear their hair. Cheerful illustrations showcase girls as they show off their hairstyles including puffs, twist outs, dreadlocks, kinks, etc. all while performing a variety of activities.

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Mixed Me by Taye Diggs; illustrated by Shaye Evans

(Ages 3 – 8)

Mike is a biracial child who is proud of the way he looks. Upbeat rhymes share his infectious confidence making this an excellent affirming story that celebrates mixed-races.

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Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin; illustrated by Ebony Glenn

(Ages 4 – 10)

Tameika is a born star. She lights up the stage with her innate ability to sing, dance, and act. After auditioning for the role of Snow White, however, she overhears other students complaining that she can’t play the part because of the color of her skin and the shape of her body. With encouragement from her parents, she shows everyone what a true princess is made of.

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Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

(Ages 4 – 7)

Elliot and Kailash are pen pals who discover that even though the countries they live in are very different, the two boys still have a lot in common. Colorful illustrations and simple text will help children see how to appreciate differences and how friendships can be formed by finding similar interests.

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Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian And Storyteller Pura Belpré by Anika Aldamuy Denise; illustrations by Paola Escobar

(Ages 4 and up)

This picture book biography shares the inspiring story Pura Belpré who enriched children’s literature with her enchanting Puerto Rican folktales. She was a pioneer, creating the first mainstream Latinx storybooks in America.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Her dream of planting seeds of stories across the United States is beautifully embodied by the gorgeous illustrations adorned with flowers. The vivid pictures paired with the engaging text that effortlessly weaves in Spanish vocabulary makes this an excellent read aloud.

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Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez; illustrated by Jaime Kim

(Ages 4 – 8)

When a young girl is asked where she is from, she turns to her grandfather for an answer. Lyrical language and rich illustrations adorn the pages as the grandpa describes the history of their ancestors. When the girl presses him further, he replies, “from my love and the love of all those before us.” With themes of identity and belonging, this is a powerful and comforting story that is sure to resonate with many.

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A Normal Pig by K-Fai Steele

(Ages 4 and up)

Pip feels like a normal pig until a new pig comes to school and makes her question the things she likes. This engaging story takes a realistic scenario and helps reinforce in children the importance of celebrating differences and individuality.

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The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by Rafael López

(Ages 5 and up)

At some point in our lives just about everyone feels like they don’t belong. This complex feeling can be especially confusing and scary for children. The Day You Begin is a powerful book that encourages children to celebrate their uniqueness and share their stories. In doing so, they will often find commonalities with others. With moving text and beautiful illustrations, this special story will resonate with a number of age groups.

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Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña; illustrated by Christian Robinson

(Ages 5 and up)

This award winner is the exceptional story of a boy named C.J. and his grandmother traveling through the city on a bus. On their journey, they meet a group of diverse people and the grandmother teaches C.J. what it means to be part of a community, be grateful, and to find beauty in everything around him.

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I’m New Here and Someone New by Anne Sibley O’Brien are powerful tools to teach children empathy, point of view, and acceptance.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

I’m New Here follows three immigrant children who are starting school for the first time in America. They initially struggle, but over time and through hard work, they make new friends and become more confident and happy in their new surroundings.

The companion book, Someone New shows the same story from three American students’ perspectives. At first, they are not sure how to react to their new classmates. They want to welcome them, but have a difficult time communicating without speaking the same language. Through small acts of kindness, they find common ground and build friendships.

Buy I’m New Here     Buy Somone New Here

 

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad; illustrated by Hatem Aly

(Ages 5 and up)

Faizah could not be prouder of her sister as she wears her beautiful new hijab on the first day of school. She begins to doubt herself, however, when her sister faces unkind comments from other students. This book expertly weaves in themes of family, acceptance, fostering empathy, and finding inner confidence making it a real standout.

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This is How We Do It: One Day in the Lives of Seven Kids from Around the World by Matt Lamothe

(Ages 5 – 10)

This brief glimpse into the life of seven children from countries including Uganda, Italy, Japan, India, Russia, Peru, and Iran provides readers with insight into how other people may live. The book follows the children as they prepare for a typical day starting with what their homes and families are like, what they eat for meals, an overview of their school day, and how they play.

The book ends with one final spread featuring the moon and the stars with the simple text, “This is my night sky” signifying that no matter how different our lives may be, we all have something in common.  Photographs of the real families the book is based on appear in the back along with a glossary of words in different languages and a map of where the children live.

This is a fascinating book that gives children more of a global perspective.

Buy It Here

 

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

(Ages 5 and up)

When Unhei moves from Korea to the United States, her new classmates tease her about her name. She decides to change it to a more American name and the other students fill a jar with suggestions. When a new friend realizes her name has special meaning, her classmates encourage her to keep her Korean name and teach them the correct pronunciation. This sweet story is perfect for discussing cultural diversity.

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Leila in Saffron by Rukhsanna Guidroz; illustrated by Dinara Mirtalipova

(Ages 5 – 10)

Lavish illustrations fill the pages of this gorgeous picture book celebrating family and one little girl’s journey to find her identity.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

When Leila looks in the mirror she sees a girl with skinny arms and knobby knees. During a family dinner at her grandmother’s house, however, she discovers that the things she loves about her family’s heritage and traditions are part of who she is too. Feeling more self-confident after spending time with her loved ones, Leila returns to the mirror and smiles at her reflection. She realizes that she is more than what people can see and that “each and every part of me comes together to make me who I am.”

Buy It Here

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Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

(Ages 5 and up)

Filled with stunning illustrations and sparse text, Yuyi Morales creates both a captivating immigration story and a love letter to libraries and books. The striking dreamlike illustrations beautifully weave in Mexican symbols highlighting the excitement and fear Morales felt as she acclimated to a new culture. The spreads of her and her son discovering the power of books are simply awe inspiring. The book is enhanced by an author’s note in the back giving more detail to Morale’s immigration and a list of books that are meaningful to her.

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A Different Pond by Bao Phi; illustrated by Thi Bui

(Ages 5 and up)

This enchanting story of a boy who wakes before dawn to fish with his father, is a rare view into the lives of an immigrant Vietnamese family. The boy’s parents have to work several jobs and fish for their food. During these early morning fishing trips, the boy learns of his father’s childhood in Vietnam and the war that brought them to America. This multilayered coming-of-age story is poignant and powerful.

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The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson; illustrated by E.B. Lewis

(Ages 5 and up)

A fence serving as a racial divide in a town functions as both a metaphor and the setting in this compelling story. When two children of opposite races become friends, they don’t understand the animosity between the grown-ups in their town. The children continue to play together and while sitting atop the fence remark, “Someday somebody’s going to come along and knock this old fence down.” This is such a beautiful story about friendship and hope that it is no wonder it is a staple in most libraries.

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Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

(Ages 6 and up)

This nonfiction book uses eye-catching illustrations inspired by Mexican artwork to inform readers of the courageous Mendez family who fought to integrate the schools in their town in California in the 1940’s. Extensive back matter including an author’s note, glossary, bibliography, and index are included to provide more information on this important event.

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Just Ask! by Sonia Sotomayor; illustrated by Rafael Lopez, 2019

(Ages 6 and up)

Inspired by her own experience with juvenile diabetes,  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has created a vibrant picture book encouraging children to ask questions and learn more about people’s differences to better understand and embrace them.

This is a beautiful book that raises awareness on conditions that many children face such dyslexia, autism, Tourrette’s syndrome, ADHD, and several others. Questions are posed to the reader creating an interactive element that allows children to connect with the characters in the book and learn that even though we all may be different, we also share commonalities. Using a garden as a metaphor, Sonia Sotomayor shares the important message that just like plants “each of us has unique powers to share with the world and make it more interesting and richer.”

Buy It Here

 

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