5 Great Kids’ Books that Highlight Diversity

By Rebecca Bauer

Are you tired of reading the same book to your child night after night? It’s time to shake things up and introduce new stories, characters and cultures into your child’s book collection. Expand your child’s horizons by focusing on books that explore diversity.

Despite improvements in recent years, characters of color are still significantly underrepresented in children’s books. This is an issue that affects all children. Children of color need to see themselves and people who look like them on the pages of the stories that they read, while white children will benefit from the opportunity to learn about, appreciate and honor other cultures. When children encounter diversity through books, they can learn to be empathetic, informed members of their communities who fight back against racism and other injustices.

So where can you start? Check out the recommendations below and head to your local library!

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

Description: To Marisol, seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol—can’t she just choose one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her! [Bilingual English/Spanish].

Why we love it:

  • With English on one page and Spanish on the other, it’s a great skill-building opportunity for children learning either language.
  • The story is inspired by the author’s own experiences growing up as a Peruvian American.
  • The message encourages readers to be who they are and not worry too much about what others think.
  • The silly “mismatches” and fun tone make it an enjoyable read for all!

When Aidan Became a Brother, by Kyle Lukoff

Description: Winner of the Stonewall Book Award, this sweet #OwnVoices picture book celebrates the changes in a transgender boy’s life, from his initial coming-out to becoming a big brother.

Why we love it:

  • The characters talk about gender using positive language and easy to understand examples.
  • The message emphasizes the importance of loving people for who they are.
  • The author is a transgender man offering an authentic perspective on the topic.
  • The story is relatable for any child preparing for a new sibling!

Under My Hijab by Hena Khan

Description: Winner of the Amelia Bloomer Book List, at the American Library Association, this story shows a young girl as she observes women in her life who each wear the hijab in a unique way, and imagines how she may someday express her personality through her hijab.

Why we love it:

  • The story shows Muslim women in different settings and shows how hijabs can be worn in many different styles.
  • At the end of the story, there’s an additional information page that shares more details about the religion of Islam, and the practice of wearing hijabs.
  • The brightly illustrated, rhyming story is a fun read for kids and families!

Benji, the Bad Day, and Me by Sally J. Pla

Description: Sammy is having the absolute rottenest, worst day ever. His little brother, Benji, knows exactly what that’s like. In this tender story about siblings, author Sally J. Pla shares her experience of raising sons with different personality traits and needs.

Why we love it:

  • The story introduces readers to an autistic character and demonstrates both how his family supports him and how he supports his family.
  • The message highlights how all of us want to feel seen and be comforted sometimes.
  • The author’s note at the end shares more about autism and how autistic kids are all different and have unique needs.
  • The story is relatable for anyone who has ever had a bad day!

Little Melba and Her Big Trombone by Katheryn Russell-Brown

Description: Winner of the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award Honor, this biography celebrates African American jazz virtuoso Melba Doretta Liston, a pioneering twentieth-century trombone player, composer, and music arranger at a time when few women, of any race, were part of the jazz scene. 

Why we love it:

  • The story celebrates a real-life trailblazer and the message will inspire kids to follow their dreams.
  • The story incorporates elements of the civil rights movement, introducing readers to an important part of our country’s history.
  • The music comes alive in the story with fun sound effects – sure to be a favorite for any music lover!

Rebecca Bauer is the family engagement specialist for the National PTA Center for Family Engagement. The book descriptions for this article were provided by our partners at Lee & Low Books!

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