Diversifying a bookshelf means choosing books that feature different cultures, types of people, and stories. Adults and children can both benefit from a diversified bookshelf. However, reading books about, and featuring, diversity is especially important for children because they are still figuring out the world. If you provide them with multicultural stories, then they will have a wider perspective and more empathy as they grow up.
At Sawyer, our goal is to help children discover their own love of learning. Part of doing this is by making recommendations and sharing our knowledge with families (the other part is by connecting families with wonderful educators in their neighborhood and online). In this article, we have outlined our favorite children’s books about diversity, including multicultural picture books for little ones and chapter books about diversity for older children. Let’s explore together!
Children’s books about diversity
- Multicultural books for preschoolers
- ~Board books about diversity
- ~Multicultural picture books
- Multicultural children’s books
- Chapter books about diversity
Multicultural books for preschoolers
Starting with our youngest “readers”, offering multicultural picture books and board books is a great way to let your child explore. Offering up this expanded worldview when your child is young can help them grow into empathetic people. Plus, knowing that not everyone looks like them, celebrates the same holidays, and speaks the same language will help them as they meet peers and make friends in daycare, preschool, camp, and beyond.
Board books about diversity
Little ones love to be involved, even if they can’t read just yet. Board books are thick enough for even babies to pick up, hold, and turn the pages. Here are some of our favorite board books about diversity for the youngest children in your life.
- Antiracist Baby by Ibram X Kendi. This board book features bold art and playful but informative text. Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and their adults to the concept and power of antiracism.
- Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara. A follow-up to another great board book about diversity, A is for Activist, Counting on Community is a counting book that helps children learn their numbers and the joy of having a diverse community around them.
- An ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing. This board book introduces complicated concepts surrounding social justice to the youngest of children through engaging imagery and simple explanations.
- My Heart Fills with Happiness by Monique Gray Smith. Written in both English and Anishinaabemowin, or Ojibwe, My Heart Fills with Happiness is a beautiful board book that teaches young children and adults to look around and find joy in the little things.
- Pride Colors by Robin Stevenson. Nothing beats a rhyming board book! Pride Colors teaches young children the colors of the Pride flag, while celebrating the love and devotion of parents and caregivers.
Check out more of the best books for infants, including board books and sensory books.
Multicultural picture books
Toddlers and preschoolers love picture books. They are typically bigger in size and longer in page length than board books so they can often tell a more complete story. Showcasing multicultural picture books - ones that feature characters of color, various cultures, family styles, and holidays, and differently abled people - are important for young children to explore. Here are some of our favorite multicultural picture books to get you started.
- Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali. This heartwarming picture book tells the story of four kindergarten students from different backgrounds who meet on the first day of school and become best friends throughout the year. They learn all about each one’s different culture, holidays, and more as they realize being different doesn’t mean they can’t be friends!
- Speak Up by Miranda Paul. Follow a diverse group of elementary students as they stand up and speak up during school. When something matters, it is important to use your voice and make your opinions known.
- I Believe I Can by Grace Byers. Written by actress and activist Grace Byers, I Believe I Can is an affirmation for boys and girls of every background to love and believe in themselves.
- Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. While riding the subway, Julian and his abuela see three women dressed up in beautiful dresses. He can’t stop thinking about the magic of those outfits and wants to dress up that way, too. In this beautiful picture book, Julian explores self-love and celebrates individuality.
- Hurry Up! A Book about Slowing Down by Kate Dopirak. This picture book follows one busy boy and his dog who learn the power of slowing down. Once they take a breath, they can look around and see and appreciate all of the beautiful things in their midst.
Check out more of the best books for toddlers in our guide!
Multicultural children’s books
Elementary aged children still enjoy picture books and often, it is a good opportunity for them to practice reading on their own. For older children, they can explore chapter books with diverse characters and storylines so they can continue to expand their perspectives and worldview as they get older.
- Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy. This beautiful poem and picture book reflects on the meaning of being Black. It is a powerful anthem about a people, a culture, a history, and a legacy that should be celebrated by all.
- Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow. In Your Name is a Song, a little girl walks home from school with her mother and tells her how frustrated she is that no one can pronounce her name. To help her see the beauty and power of her name, her mother talks about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names.
- Grandmother School by Rina Singh. In this moving story about family, women, and the power of education, a young girl walks her grandmother to “grandmother school”, where the older women in the village of Phangane, India learn each day.
- A Journey Toward Hope by Victor Hinojosa. Four unaccompanied migrant children come together along the arduous journey north through Mexico to the United States border in this powerful story of hope and connection even in the face of uncertainty and fear.
- Dare to Dream Big by Lorna Gutierrez. This inspirational picture book encourages children everywhere to dare to dream big, to help others, and speak out for what is right, but also take time for simple joys and to be comfortable in their own skin.
Chapter books about diversity
Older children (and adults!) need to continue to remember the importance of diversifying their bookshelves. There are so many young adult chapter books featuring multicultural characters and storylines and they deserve to be read and enjoyed. Plus, as children grow older, it is more and more essential to see characters that look like themselves or have similar experiences. Here are some of our favorite chapter books about diversity that older children and teens can enjoy.
- Alvin Ho (series) by Lenore Look. This series of chapter books follows Alvin as he faces his fears and embraces new experiences. Not only is Alvin an Asian-American main character, but children with social anxiety can also relate strongly to this story and the situations within it.
- Dyamonde Daniel (series) by Nikki Grimes. The main character of this series of chapter books is Dyamonde Daniel, a Black third grader with wild hair and a seriously impressive brain. When a new student arrives in class, Dyamonde takes a minute to realize that this is a great opportunity to make a new friend.
- Izzy Bar, Running Star by Claudia Mills. This chapter book follows Izzy, a star runner with a blended family. In the story, Izzy’s father seems to show more attention to her half brother than to her. When he realizes how important her races are, he gathers everyone in the family to watch her run.
- Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami. Yasmin lives in India and everyday, she borrows a book from Book Uncle who runs a lending library for free. Then, one day she finds out that Book Uncle can’t run his library without a permit, which he can’t afford. Yasmin bands together with her community to help Book Uncle so he can continue sharing knowledge and books to the town.
- Lola Levine is Not Mean by Monica Brown. This chapter book follows Lola Levine, a Jewish/Puruvian young child who loves to play soccer. One day at recess, she competes too fiercely and accidentally hurts one of her peers. With the help of her family, she has to right the wrong.
Check out more best books for teens to read for inspiration! We’ve also outlined even more books for middle schoolers so that you can find the perfect books for holiday gifts this year. And if you are not sure how to get your child to fall in love with reading, check out our guide for proven tips. Cheers to all of our current and future bookworms!