I love books! Books can teach us so many things, open our eyes to new worlds and new prospective and it’s a feeling I love sharing with my kids too. Before bedtime, I’ll read to them, taking them on their own wild adventure.
I’ve come to realize that there are certain books my kids and I keep coming back to that are special not just for their quality, but also because they act as inspiration in a less subtle, more direct way. These are books that champion inclusivity and diversity and serve as phenomenal educational tools, tailored almost exactly to my children. I’ve already shared some of my favorite books for Black History Month, and also some fantastic books that highlight people of all abilities, but you know–There’s always new books coming out and new favorites of ours to share!
Below is a list of these 16 wonderful and charming children’s books that champion diversity and are a perfect way to show your loved ones the beauty of our multi-colored and multicultural planet. Especially in times like these when things feel so divisive, these books remind me that we all have something special to offer, and there are unifying themes in this life that bring us together.
One of my best memories from the past two years was reading Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o – one of the books below – at my kids’ school just before lockdown. I was touched by the conversation it spurred among the kids. Six and seven-year-olds spontaneously started discussing race in a healthy way. That’s the power of words and storytelling at work. I can’t recommend these titles enough.
Why Diversity and Inclusion Books Are So Important
Representation matters. Until society reflects everyone, there will always be people asking questions like, ‘do I belong here?’ I never want my kids to grow up feeling excluded from certain hobbies, interests, sports or careers because they don’t look, sound and behave like the kinds of people they see on television or in the media.
It’s why there is such an uproar about things like the Oscars snubbing non-white actors, producers and directors. This isn’t because people want to exclude white adults or stop white kids having opportunities and dreams, far from it. The fact that a young child can identify with their heroes and aim to emulate them is precious. And just it’s important for people to see others who are different than them. And for us to see the world for the beautifully diverse place it is. But, as a Black parent to three mixed-race kids, I sometimes worry my children may not aim for the stars like other kids because they don’t see someone who looks like them already out there doing it.
And that is one reason diversity and inclusion books for kids are so important. They have main characters that my children can identify with, and others that we can explore. They’re developed heroes rather than side characters. When I read to my kids before bed, they feel represented.
My 16 Favorite Diversity and Inclusion Books for Kids
I am so in love with this book. When I read it to Ty’s class, all the kids were captivated. From the Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, Sulwe’s skin is the color of midnight. It’s darker than anyone else’s in her family or at her school. She begins to feel like an outcast, all she wants is to be like everyone else. Then a magical journey opens her eyes and changes everything.
A brilliant story about pride in our skin and pride in our hair. Keyana has her hair combed every night before bed, but no matter how gently Mama pulls, it still hurts. Keyana thinks she’s unlucky, even punished to have frizzy hair, a feeling I know I felt growing up. But Mama shows Keyana all the ways her hair is awesome and how it can be fixed to look beautiful. I love this book!
Diversity and inclusion is about more than just race. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and award-winning artist Rafael Lopez have teamed up to create the perfect book that reminds us that our differences are what make us unique. Using her own experience as a child who was diagnosed with diabetes, Justice Sotomayor writes about children with all sorts of challenges–and looks at the special powers those kids have. A must-have in your collection of diversity and inclusion books for kids.
Another charming read about curls, kinks and coils. Based on the Oscar-winning short film, Daddy needs to give Zuri an extra-special hairstyle, but he’s got a lot to learn! A brilliant tale of owning your natural looks and that special Daddy-daughter bond.
Based on an inspiring true story, and another great book that’s been turned into a film, Emmanuel is a boy born in Ghana, with one deformed leg. He was dismissed by most, but not by his mother, who taught him to reach for his dreams. He used to hop two miles to school every day, but in 2001 he cycled an incredible 400 miles to prove he can do anything he puts his mind to.
Tristan Strong doesn’t feel too strong after failing to save his friend in an accident. In frustration, he opens up a portal to a new world where he finds himself in the middle of a battle that has left black-American gods John Henry and Brer Rabbit exhausted. Tristan must save this new world before time runs out. This is a series of captivating novels I’m currently enjoying so much with my kids. Great for older kiddos.
I feel like this book is such a touching and raw account of slavery. But it’s also accessible for a young child learning about the horrors of the era for the first time. Told through the point of view of a one-hundred-year-old African-American female narrator, this book demonstrates that in gaining their freedom and equal rights, African-Americans helped our country achieve its promise of liberty and justice.
Another inspiring Southern folktale. Blanche, following the instructions of an old witch, gains riches, while her greedy sister makes fun of the old woman and is taught a valuable lesson. This is another one of my favorite stories to read to an elementary school class.
NBA champion LeBron James’ picture book inspired by his foundation’s I PROMISE program is the perfect motivator for children everywhere to always strive for greatness. It’s illustrated by the incredible artist Nina Mata and the book serves as the perfect tool to get your kids dreaming.
I love this story, it’s such an amazing concept. Actress and producer Kristen Bell and creative director Benjamin Hart want their readers to become purple people by embracing what makes them special while finding common ground with those around them.
So fun and imaginative, a local pet club won’t admit a boy and his tiny pet elephant, so he hatches up a plan that will teach them that animals come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends.
Follow one day in the shoes of different kids around the world in Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia. This is the perfect book to get your kids learning about different countries and cultures and help them recognize our similarities and differences.
When something truly matters and will make a difference, it’s important to speak up. This picture book brilliantly highlights this message, while celebrating diversity, uniting people and encouraging the reader to take action when things need to be fixed.
Again, a poignant message told simply and beautifully. Skin like mine is a must-read for all kids – no matter their race – and encourages them to celebrate their uniqueness and unite despite their differences.
This is another great diversity and inclusion book for kids that tells us to embrace our distinctness whether it’s our eye color, height, abilities and much more. As author Charity Michelle Harris puts it, “What kind of world would we be living in if everyone looked the same and did the same things? – A boring one!”
And finally, a brilliant Mother-daughter read by Empire actor and activist Grace Byers. We are all here for a purpose, we are more than enough, we just need to believe it. Illustrated by the fabulous artist Keturah A. Bobo, this touching read has another, beautiful message.
Do you have any diversity and inclusion books for kids that you want to share? Let me know if the comments, I’d love to discover some new treasures to share with my kids!