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15 Children’s Books to Support Conversations on Race and Diversity


In a time where dialogue on race, racial inequities and systemic racism permeate conversations happening in our homes, in the news media and across social media platforms, now is the time to break the taboo of having conversations with our children about race, and to fully engage them in lessons on tolerance and diversity. 

EmbraceRace says that by 6 months of age babies are noticing racial differences; by age 4, children have begun to show signs of racial bias. 

There are critical opportunities for us to teach children to become tolerant of differences from an early age. Talking about differences with infants and toddlers by pointing out diversity in books is a great way to begin. Mention different genders, shades of skin, hairstyles, and other forms of “variation” among humans with the goal to “normalize” human differences. 

Check out this diverse multicultural book selection and get to reading.

Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer (baby-3) 

Love is baking a special cake. Love is lending a helping hand. Love is reading one more book. In this exuberant board book, many different families are shown in happy activity, from an early-morning wake-up to a kiss before bed. Whether a child has two moms, two dads, one parent, or one of each, this simple preschool read-aloud demonstrates that what's most important in each family's life is the love the family members share. 

When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner, illustrated by David Catrow (baby-3) 

From early on, children are looking to discover their place in the world and longing to understand how their personalities, traits, and talents fit in. The assurance that they are deeply loved and a unique creation in our big universe is certain to help them spread their wings and fly.  

Through playful, charming rhyme and vivid, fantastical illustrations, When God Made You inspires young readers to learn about their own special gifts and how they fit into God’s divine plan as they grow, explore, and begin to create for themselves. 

Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison (baby-3) 

A board book version of the best selling Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History, this is a perfect, simple book to introduce babies and toddlers to trail blazing women who have accomplished greatness in their respective fields.  

Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra (baby-3) 

Oh, I simply adore this book, that uses Mexican American culture to explore colors! With its vibrant illustrations, bilingual text, and snappy rhyme, this fabulous book has universal appeal. It’s a perfect read aloud for babies and toddlers. Even better, the glossary in the back of the book explains any vocabulary you don’t already know! 

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini (baby-3) 

This diverse baby book is exquisitely gorgeous, and such a beautiful one to use to teach your kids their colors! Celebrate Islam’s beautiful traditions, from red prayer rugs to blue hijabs, with the help of a Muslim child as narrator. Such a perfect way to learn about world religions and cultures! 

We're Different, We're the Same by Bobbi Kates, illustrated by Joe Mathieu (3-8) 

Nothing like Sesame Street to teach us the big lessons. Elmo and friends teach us that our insides feelings, needs, desires are the same for all of us, even if we look differently on the outside. The tag of this book rings true: "We're All Wonderful!"

 

Young Water Protectors: A Story About Standing Rock by Aslan and Kelly Tudor (3-8) 

At the not-so-tender age of 8, Aslan arrived in North Dakota to help stop a pipeline. A few months later he returned — and saw the whole world watching. Read about his inspiring experiences in the Oceti Sakowin Camp at Standing Rock. Learn about what exactly happened there, and why. Be inspired by Aslan’s story of the daily life of Standing Rock’s young water protectors. Mni Wiconi … Water is Life. Ages 3–8. 

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López (4-8) 

A heartening book about finding courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone. There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you. There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it. Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway. 

Happy In Our Skin by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia (4-6) 

This book celebrates the skin—not just in its variety of colors, but also in how it serves the body, how it keeps us together. It's a lesson in the beauty and power of the skin, and teaching kids to love the skin they're in will teach them to love the skin of others, as well as give them confidence when their body makes them feel different (whether that's because of color, acne, body type, or ability level). 

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o, illustrated by Vashtie Harrison (4-8) 

A stunningly illustrated book written by Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong'o about a young girl's journey with colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within. 

I Am Enough  by Grace Byers, illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo (4-8) 

This beautiful poem should just be required reading for everyone. Our natural-haired protagonist compares herself to nature "like the sun, I'm here to shine" and tells readers that she and WE are complete and enough, as-is. Close this book feeling empowered and knowing your kids are getting the message that all humans are lovely and valuable. 

My Hair is a Garden by Cozbi A. Cabrera (5-8) 

After a day of being taunted by classmates about her unruly hair, Mackenzie can’t take any more and she seeks guidance from her wise and comforting neighbor, Miss Tillie. Using the beautiful garden in the backyard as a metaphor, Miss Tillie shows Mackenzie that maintaining healthy hair is not a chore nor is it something to fear. Most importantly, Mackenzie learns that natural Black hair is beautiful. Ages 5–8. 

Malcolm Little: The Boy Who Grew Up to Become Malcolm X by Ilyasah Shabazz, illustrated by AG Ford (6-10) 

Malcolm X grew to be one of America’s most influential figures. But first, he was a boy named Malcolm Little. Written by his daughter, this inspiring picture book biography celebrates a vision of freedom and justice. Bolstered by the love and wisdom of his large, warm family, young Malcolm Little was a natural born leader. But when confronted with intolerance and a series of tragedies, Malcolm’s optimism and faith were threatened. He had to learn how to be strong and how to hold on to his individuality. He had to learn self-reliance. Ilyasah Shabazz gives us a unique glimpse into the childhood of her father, Malcolm X, with a lyrical story that carries a message that resonates still today — that we must all strive to live to our highest potential.  

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh (6-9) 

Almost 10 years before Brown v. Board of Education, Sylvia Mendez and her parents helped end school segregation in California. Mendez, an American citizen of Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, was denied enrollment to a “whites only” school. Her parents took action by organizing the Latinx community and filing a lawsuit in federal district court. Their success eventually brought an end to the era of segregated education in California. 

Shining Star: The Anna May Wong Story by Paula Yoo, illustrated by Lin Wang (6-11) 

Born in 1905, Anna May Wong spent her childhood working in her family’s laundry in Los Angeles’s Chinatown. Anna May struggled to pursue an acting career in Hollywood in the 1930s. There were very few roles for Asian Americans, and many were demeaning and stereotypical. Finally, after years of unfulfilling roles, Anna May began crusading for more meaningful opportunities for herself and other Asian American actors and refused to play stereotypical roles. As the first Chinese American movie star, she took a stand against racial discrimination in the film industry and was a pioneer of the cinema.  

I believe that it’s vital that we help our children (and ourselves) walk and talk in a way that clears that air and breathes new life into these conversations and our world. 

 


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