We’ve compiled a list of 15 picture books about diversity for kids. Books are our secret weapon when it comes to teaching children about diversity and inclusion. Perfect for teachers or home school families. Teach your kids to celebrate diversity and build community.
As teachers we want to create an inclusive environment for our kids. There are so many ways that students can find themselves excluded. They might be
- Teased because of the way they looked.
- Shunned for neurodivergent behavior
- Face physical challenges that make it difficult to navigate the school.
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What do we mean by diversity?
First things first. Let’s explain what we mean by diversity. Diversity is the understanding that every individual is unique. And celebrating those differences. In the classroom these can include differences in
- physical abilities
- cognitive abilities
- likes and dislikes
- sensory challenges
- race, ethnicity
- socio-economic status
- sexual orientation
What is diversity in the classroom?
In an ideal world every student would accept their peers, but of course that is not always the case. Children in Kindergarten are starting to notice the differences. Sometimes those differences can cause social isolation.
As a teachers we can encouraging our student’s acceptance of others. That active encouragement is a powerful thing. Did you know that between the ages of 4 and 7 the brain is a critical stage of development? At this point children’s brains are very open to two things. Learning new information and developing psychological habits (positive and negative).
And of course, our Kinders are slap bang in the middle of that development window. Also studies indicate that things like kindness can be actively taught. This has a huge impact on the development of Kinders.
So, what is the takeaway from this?
According to a report by Harvard researchers kids at this age need to
- Have strong moral role models and mentors. That’s us!
- Continually hear from us that kindness is important,
- Have opportunities to practice accepting and caring for others
- Expand their circle of concern. This means they need help to learn to care about someone that is different. As well as those outside of their circle of family and friends.
- Be actively encouraged to consider the perspective and struggles of others.
That seems like quite the list. But we have a secret weapon that covers so many points. And that is good picture books about diversity. Let’s face it an engaging story is far more effective than lectures when it comes to encouraging caring and acceptance.
Why is diversity important in children’s literature?
Reading picture books about diversity and then talking about them
- Introduces students to a wide variety of people from different religions, customs, lifestyles, and races.
- Shows them kids with dealing with physical challenges and the difficulties of living with special needs.
- Delivers the message that all these differences are something to celebrate.
- Gives our students an opportunity to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.
So to help you we’ve put together a list of picture books about diversity books. Our list focuses on books that celebrate diversity and build community. Some of the books teach this explicitly, and some are more subtle. All have powerful messages for our students.
15 Picture Books About Diversity For Kinders
Are you ready to celebrate diversity with great books for active learners?
Picture Books about diversity that celebrate differences
- Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
Get ready for a trip around the world in this sweet book. Children will discover that there are kids like them living in many different places. While there are differences in the way we live, we still have much in common. The text is accompanied by wonderful illustrations and is a wonderful celebration of diversity.
- A Rainbow of Friends by P.K. Hallinan.
Our friends come in all colors and sizes. They can be good at different things like music or sports. Some are serious and others are funny. But no matter the differences we are all special. This book reminds us to celebrate the uniqueness of each person.
- The Colors of Us by Karen Katz.
A little girl decides to paint a self portrait. She intends to use brown paint to depict her skin. But a walk through the neighbourhood reveals that brown comes in many shades. This is a delightful story of a little girl and the love of her mother. This is another book that celebrates the similarities and differences that connect humankind.
- Lovely by Jessica Hong
This is one of my favorite books. The book begins by asking, “What is lovely?” Then answers the question by showcasing many of the fabulous differences in the world. The simple text and illustrations highlight opposites in people. But they do it in unexpected and intriguing ways. A woman wearing black clothes is described as black and a woman of color with white hair is under the category of white. I love that sporty is depicted as someone with a prosthetic and a person in a wheelchair. The inclusion of gender nonconforming people is a plus.
Picture Books about diversity that celebrate different families
- A Family Is a Family Is a Family by Sara O’Leary
A Teacher asks her students to describe what makes their families special. One child knows that her family is very different. How will she ever explain? But one by one her classmates talk about their families. One has two dads and another is living with his grandmother. Some live in blended families and others just welcomed a new baby. The message is that families come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common – love!
- The Family Book by Todd Parr
This book is a celebration of the love we feel for our families. The brightly colored pictures explore many of the different kinds of families. It doesn’t matter is your family is big or small; clean or messy. The book reminds us that every family is special in its own unique way. I love the message that we come in all shapes, sizes, or colors. We are all different and we all belong.
Picture Books that talk about being different
- Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
This is a gentle story about a blue crayon in a wrapper labeled “Red.” Our poor hero finds himself failing over and over. All the other crayons suggest fixes that do not work and make Red feel worse. Then one day a new crayon asks Red to paint a blue sea. Only then does Red realise that he Is not red and everything else falls into place. This is a lovely story about being true to your inner self and not judging others based on their labels.
8. The Egg by Kevin Henkes
This simple story begins with four little eggs are in a nest. Three little birds hatch, and nothing happens to the last egg. The three chicks peck the fourth egg to help it hatch, but discover the hatchling isn’t a bird after all. Their first instinct is to fly away from the weird animal. But eventually they come back to the lonely hatchling and become friends.
9. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
Gerald is a tall giraffe with crooked knees and skinny legs. He longs to join the other animals at the Jungle Dance, but the other animals make fun of him. Gerald meets a wise cricket who encourages him to discover his own way of moving. Children love the end of the story when Gerald dances triumphantly and pulls off a backwards somersault.
10. What I Like About Me by Allia Zobel
We are all unique and different. How wonderful that our differences are also what make us special. In this book we meet many different children celebrating their individuality. I love that the readers are invited to think about and name the things that make them special too
Books Talking About Racial Differences
11. Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena
Every Sunday CJ and his grandma take the bus to the shelter and serve food to the people living there. One day, CJ wonders why they have to go part of town that is dirty. Nana encourages him to look past the dirt and find the things that are beautiful. She models how to accept and celebrate everyone.
12. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
Unhei has just moved from Korea to America. The kids at school can’t say her name correctly and some of them even make fun of it. Unhei decides she needs an American name. Her classmates fill a name jar with suggestions. But nothing fits. One of her new friends overhears her using her real name and convinces her to keep it. After all it is the perfect name for her. This is a lovely book about the struggles of being a new immigrant and the difference one kind friend can make.
Books About Kids With Special Needs
13. All My Stripes by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer
Zane has autism stripes and knows that he is different from his classmates. The other children start to notice some of the things that make him different, so Zane feels misunderstood and lonely. With the help of his mother, Zane comes to appreciate the strengths that make him special.
15. Not So Different by Shane Burcaw
Shane Burcaw answers the 10 questions that kids continually ask about his disability, spinal muscular atrophy. The questions range from, “What’s wrong with you?” to “How do you eat?” The answers are delivered with blunt clarity and humor, so it really appeals to kids. Readers will learn a lot about what it is like to live with a disability.
16. Yes I Can! A Girl and Her Wheelchair by Kendra Barrett
Meet Carolyn a lively first grader in a wheelchair. Carolyn uses a wheelchair, but that doesn’t stop her from joining in. She can participate in everything. It doesn’t matter if she is at school, at a party or at home. I liked the way the book highlights some of the struggles a disabled child has to overcome and the need for support. This book was written by a physical therapist and is designed to promote awareness, inclusion, and kindness.
How do you celebrate diversity in your classroom? What picture books about diversity would you add to our list?