Shop the post: No. 1 The Day You Begin // No. 2 The King of Kindergarten // No. 3 What Can a Citizen Do? // No. 4 Let the Children March // No. 5 Same Same But Different // No. 6 Ada Twist, Scientist // No. 7 When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop // No. 8 Dream Big, Little One // No. 9 The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family // No. 10 All Are Welcome // No. 11 Woke Baby // No. 12 Strictly No Elephants
My favorite kinds of children’s books are the ones that express the deepest human emotions and life lessons in a way that’s so simple, but incredibly powerful. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been reading a book to the boys before bed and gotten a little emotional because the words and illustrations felt so poignant to what we were experiencing as a family at that time. Can any other moms relate? It’s just so amazing when a book speaks to both you as a parent and your kids and it always gets me!
Jack and Charlie are little sponges soaking up everything they hear, see, and do right now, and I know that the stories we share with them will have a huge impact as they start to develop and expand their worldviews. It’s my responsibility as a parent to show them characters that celebrate differences and highlight all kinds of races, ethnicities, cultures, environments, and abilities. Of course, simply reading books that feature diversity isn’t the total solution, but my goal is to use these books to inspire bigger conversations.
Here are a few books that we’ve recently read/ordered to read as a family, and I’d love to hear if you have any favorites of your own!
Twelve Children’s Books that Celebrate Diversity
The Day You Begin: 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. 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.
The King of Kindergarten: Starting kindergarten is a big milestone—and the hero of this story is ready to make his mark! The day will be jam-packed, but he’s up to the challenge, taking new experiences in stride with his infectious enthusiasm!
What Can a Citizen Do?: Across the course of several seemingly unrelated but ultimately connected actions by different children, we watch how kids turn a lonely island into a community–and watch a journey from what the world should be to what the world could be.
Let the Children March: In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world. Frank Morrison’s emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson’s moving and poetic words document this remarkable time.
Same Same But Different: Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India. They are pen pals. By exchanging letters and pictures, they learn that they both love to climb trees, have pets, and go to school. Their worlds might look different, but they are actually similar. Same, same. But different!
Ada Twist, Scientist: Inspired by real-life makers Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, this beloved #1 bestseller champions STEM, girl power and women scientists in a rollicking celebration of curiosity, the power of perseverance, and the importance of asking “Why?”
When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop: Before there was hip hop, there was DJ Kool Herc. From his childhood in Jamaica to his youth in the Bronx, Laban Carrick Hill’s book tells how Kool Herc came to be a DJ and how the music he invented went on to define a culture and transform the world.
Dream Big, Little One: Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History. Among these women, you’ll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things—bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come.
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family: With her new backpack and light-up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and, best of all, it’s her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab—a hijab of beautiful blue fabric, like the ocean waving to the sky. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful, and in the face of hurtful, confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong. By Olympic medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad!
All Are Welcome: Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where kids in patkas, hijabs, and yarmulkes play side-by-side with friends in baseball caps. A school where students grow and learn from each other’s traditions and the whole community gathers to celebrate the Lunar New Year. All Are Welcome lets young children know that no matter what, they have a place, they have a space, they are welcome in their school.
Woke Baby: Woke babies are up early. Woke babies raise their fists in the air. Woke babies cry out for justice. Woke babies grow up to change the world. With bright playful art, Woke Baby is an anthem of hope in a world where the only limit to a skyscraper is more blue.
Strictly No Elephants: Today is Pet Club day. There will be cats and dogs and fish, but strictly no elephants are allowed. The Pet Club doesn’t understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends. Now it is time for a boy and his tiny pet elephant to show them what it means to be a true friend.
I found all of these books at Semicolon Bookstore & Gallery, a Black woman-owned bookshop based here in Chicago, but I encourage you to shop at local, minority and BIPOC-owned bookstores in your own city!