Book Review: The 10 Best Children's Books to Teach Diversity
We can’t buy culture or diversity. We can’t buy kindness or empathy. We can’t buy respect, honesty, integrity, or compassion. We can’t buy the important qualities and characteristics we want our kids to develop…
But we can buy books. And that’s the next best thing.
Reading and exploring books is one of the best ways our kids can exercise their brains. Reading improves their concentration and problem solving skills, increases their language comprehension and verbal expression, and stimulates their imagination and creativity, to name a few of the benefits I know we’ve already heard a lot about.
Last week I shared ten ways we can teach our kids about the world without actually traveling the world, and one of those ways was by surrounding them with lots and lots of books. Through reading about people, places, and events outside of their own experiences, our kids learn about the world around them and in turn, learn to connect and empathize with those in situations other than their own.
If you’ve ever been to the library or bookstore (or Amazon) then you know there’s a million different children’s books to choose from, and you may not necessarily have the time to screen each one for the specific topic or message you want to communicate to your little. Let me help with that!
It was no easy task, but I scoured the internet and library and found what, I think, is a pretty solid list of the best children’s books to teach diversity to our kids. I read them all myself and tested them out on my own little. There were so many strong contenders out there that narrowing the field down to just ten almost seemed unfair, but I squeezed in some honorable mentions at the end.
Books are windows to the world. Open them!
Based off of seven real families from around the world, this book outlines a day in the life of children from Italy, Japan, Uganda, Russia, India, Peru, and Iran. Learn about where they live, where they go to school, what meals they eat, what their community responsibilities are, and even how they spell their names and games they like to play. Illustrations are realistic, culturally accurate, and diverse in their representations of different genders, family structures, and physical attributes. This book has a wonderful message of unity at the end, as well as pictures of the real families portrayed in the book.
Pink Is for Boys turns gender norms and stereotypes upside down with a fun, lighthearted twist. Not only does this book address how boys can like colors other than blue and girls can like colors other than pink, but it also does a beautiful job of mixing up the typical male and female-dominated hobbies and preferences. Children of all diversities are represented and children with special needs are incorporated throughout in an inclusive, natural way. Pink Is for Boys is a celebration of every girl, every boy, and the colors of the rainbow that belong to everyone.
This book is a soothing story to help children become mindful of the beautiful, caring people in their world. Good People Everywhere contains endearing, colorful examples of the different jobs and responsibilities of community members, from carpenters, cooks, and teachers to doctors, farmers, and delivery drivers. Highlighting that everyone has an important role to play, this book does a great job of building empathy, gratitude, and kindness.
True to its name, this book celebrates all kinds of family structures, from a child’s perspective. From two dads or grandparents to blended families, shared custody, and everything else in between, this story affirms that even when families are different, they’re equally special in their own unique ways.
Most People does an incredibly effective job of discussing very adult topics in a very childlike way. The book’s message is simple, yet so powerful and provocative, especially to the adult readers who’ve become jaded by the world (i.e. all of us): Yes, there are meanies in the world, but they are vastly outnumbered because most people are good. Most people want to help. Most people want to do their best. Most people have good hearts and most people love, just like you and me, even the person with the mohawk and tattoos.
Clean homes, messy homes, tall homes, short homes. Home lovingly pays tribute to all the different kinds of, you guessed it, homes. This book is a great opportunity for children to learn that some people live in houses, some live in apartments, some live in boats, and some live in palaces or wigwams. The earthy, realistic illustrations are diverse and unifying all at the same time. Everyone has a home, and this book even invites the reader to share about their own.
What I like most about this book is its outside-looking-in perspective and subtle invitation to consider what’s going in the world around you. As the town settles in for the night, windows light up one by one and each holds a glimpse into a life that is not yours, if you’re willing to consider it. Windows is at once a special story about the idea of home and magic of curiosity, but also about the sense of safety, love, and belonging to which every child is entitled.
Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with opens arms no matter their race, religion, or background. With vividly detailed illustrations and a gently reassuring text, the author celebrates kindness, inclusion, and diversity in a way that’s easy and fun to read, too.
This little gem is 32 pages long but under a hundred words, and that’s because the red umbrella is the life of the story. The umbrella gets bigger and bigger as the story continues, fitting underneath it anyone and everyone who needs protection and shelter, no matter where they’re from or what they look like. Even when some worry there are those who won’t fit, there is always room underneath the big umbrella.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales – The true story of a mother and child who cross into another country to find better opportunity. Though they struggle to acclimate and adjust to their new world, ultimately they find success in making their dreams come true.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers – An inspiring lyrical ode to love who you are, respect others, and be kind to one another.
Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller – This moving and thoughtful story explores what kindness is, and how any act, bit or small, can make a difference.
I Am Human by Susan Verde – A celebration of the human family that affirms how we can make good choices by acting with compassion and having empathy for others and ourselves.
Lovely by Jess Hong – Big, small, curly, straight, loud, quiet, smooth, wrinkly. Lovely explores a world of differences that all add up to the same thing: we are all lovely!
Come With Me by Holly McGhee – A powerful and timely story of kindness, bravery, and friendship in the face of intolerance and uncertainty.