18 Best Books For Diversity Update 05/2022

All of the best children’s books have helped kids put themselves into other people’s lives, from Laura Ingalls on the prairie to Harry Potter on a train. It was in that spirit that we put together our list of kids’ books about diversity. Because having a wide variety of books is important. In other words, unless you go out of your way to look for multicultural children’s books, chances are you don’t have them. In a recent survey by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, they found that “books about white children, talking bears, trucks, monsters, potatoes, etc. make up nearly three-quarters of all children’s and young adult books that were published in 2019.” People who were brown or black didn’t get as much attention in books as people who were vegetables, animals, monsters, and aliens.

As long as you believe that “you can’t be what you can’t see,” you’ll agree that it’s important for all kids to see diverse characters and storylines in books. This will help them learn, understand, connect, and feel at home in the world, and it will also help them grow as people. To come up with this list, we asked our book editors for suggestions, looked at “Best of” lists and starred reviews, and read a lot of books to our kids to get their thoughts. Check out our list, and while you’re putting together your library, don’t forget to check out the best nonfiction children’s books, as well as books about racism, LGBTQ books, and books by Black and Latinx authors.

Whose Knees Are These? by Jabari Asim

Between the ages of a baby and three years old

It was written in 2006 by poet, playwright, and author Jabari Asim and illustrated by New York Times best-selling artist LeUyen Pham. It has sweet stories, affirming rhymes, and characters from all over the world. It’s no wonder it has a lot of five-star reviews on Amazon. Looking for new ways to talk about race with your kids? Check out these ideas. People who care about race should listen to these shows.

No!: My First Book of Protest by Julie Merberg

Between the ages of a baby and three years old

It won’t be out until 2020. In My First Book of Protest, children learn about important people from history, like famous author Frederick Douglass and Pakistani activist Malala Yousufza, through vivid illustrations and stories about important protest movements. In this lesson, you will learn what anti-racism is and what it means to be anti-racist.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

Between the ages of a baby and three years old

Antiracist Baby, by National Book Award-winning author Ibram X. Kendi and illustrator Ashley Lukashevsky, will be released in 2020. It teaches anti-racism themes through colorful illustrations and nine steps that people can take. This diversity book for young children is a great gift. What are some early reading habits that help young kids learn to love books?

The Life Of/La Vida de Selena by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein

Between the ages of one and four:

Selena Quintanilla was one of the Hispanic women whose lives changed the world. This cute board book about her life is sure to get her bom-boming in no time. If you want your kids to learn about Selena’s life and also pick up some Spanish, this bright board book is for you! It was released in 2018. Bonus points if you play Selena’s music while you read more books about diversity to your kids.

Think Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

Between the ages of a baby and three years old

Vashti Harrison, a New York Times best-selling author, made this beautiful board book in 2018. It tells the stories of trailblazing women from all over the world, from world-renowned architect Zaha Hadid to environmental activist Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. This is going to be one of your and your baby’s favorite multicultural kids’ books. It’s also a great book to read together as a mother and daughter.

My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith

Between the ages of one and two:

They enjoy simple things like baking together and looking at the earth’s natural beauty in this beautiful and calming book. This simple celebration of family and culture came out in 2016. It feels like it’s more important now than ever.

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer

Age range: from baby to 3 years old

Joyful books like this one, which came out in 2018 (three years after the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage), show families of all kinds having fun and supporting each other. There are two moms, single parents, two dads, Muslims, and many more types of families in this book. Is love what makes a family? This book shows that it is.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

3 to 6 years

The Snowy Day was written and illustrated in 1962, and it shows multicultural city life and the innocence of a child looking at the first snow of the season. This children’s book won the Caldecott Medal, which is one of the most prestigious awards for picture books. It is also one of the best children’s books of all time.

Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder

3 to 5 years

Your kids will love the inclusive book, which will be out in 2021. It is a great way to start a conversation about anti-fat bias and how to love your body with them. It’s a book that makes you want to look at your body in a new way.

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

4 to 8 years

Julián, a young boy, falls in love with the idea of becoming a sparkling mermaid. His grandmother, who is always there to help him, is in love with the same idea. This beautiful 2018 book tells their story. The book is written very sparingly, and the illustrations by Jessica Love are stunning. It creates a magical world where kids can imagine things that don’t fit into gender roles. Learn more about how to be an ally to LGBTQIA people, like how to help them.

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

4 to 6 years

When Innosanto Nagara wrote this best-selling ABC board book for kids, she used it to teach them about civil rights, LGBTQIA rights, and more. A is for Activist is one of the best children’s books about diversity that parents should read to their kids. It has great reviews and a progressive message.

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The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

3 to 7 years

This book, written in 2003, tells the story of Unhei, a young girl who moves from Korea to the United States. It was written to help people understand what it’s like to be different. When you’re the new kid and no one can say your name, it’s even worse. When young Unhei learns how to love and respect who she is and where she came from in this sweet story, we can’t help but cheer her on.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

3 to 5 years

The story is told from the point of view of a little boy on the bus with his grandma on a Sunday afternoon. The beautifully illustrated and diverse picture book cleverly weaves messages about poverty, class, race, and ability into a delightful tapestry that is as fun for parents as it is for kids. Newbery Medal winner: Last Stop on Market Street came out in 2015 and won the award.

Skin Again by Bell Hooks

4 to 8 years

Bell Hooks, a well-known Black author, wrote and illustrated Skin Again, which came out in 2004. It’s a simple book that encourages people to look past race and appearance and get to know people for who they really are. When someone says, “I don’t see color,” they should stop.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry

4 to 8 years

Stephen, a Black father, has to step in and learn how to do his daughter Zuri’s hair right before a big event. This is a sweet story. Love Letter to Natural Hair is written by filmmaker and Academy Award winner Matthew A. Cherry, and illustrated by Vashti Harrison. The book is a love letter to natural hair, and it has important representation on the pages. Also, the two of them made an animated short film with the same name. It won the Best Animated Short Film award at the Oscars in 2020. It’s a must-see, like these old family movies.

Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald No Combina by Monica Brown

Age: 4 to 8

Mara McDonald is a red-headed Peruvian and Scottish American who can’t be put in a box. She’s also very unique. She likes to mix and match things like clothes and food, like PB&J burritos. In 2011, a bilingual book about diversity that talks about the biracial experience came out. It’s a fun and happy read that helps kids celebrate all of their unique traits and skills.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

Age: 4 to 8

This amazing book tells the story of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, from when she was a child on the Lower East Side of Manhattan to when she became the first Jewish woman on the Supreme Court. It’s a great read. A lot of hard things, like losing a parent and being judged, are dealt with well in this book. In a way that is both thoughtful and tender, it talks about these things.

Sofia Valdez, Furture Prez by Andrea Beaty

Age: 5 to 7

Sofia Valdez is a dreamer and a doer who lives with her favorite grandma. This 2019 New York Times best seller is part of the Questioneers series of children’s books, which also includes beloved characters like Ada Twist and Iggy Peck. Sofia bravely decides to ask her town to build a park instead of a landfill after her grandfather gets hurt when he slips and falls on a pile of trash. It is a fun book that will help your kids be more confident.

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