Talking with students about the beauty of diversity is one of the many topics I cover as a school counselor. To simplify such a complex topic for 4-12 year olds, I always explain that diversity is like all the amazing flavors of ice cream. We live in a world with more options than just vanilla and it’s beautiful. Just like we live in a world with people from all over who look different and act differently and it’s beautiful. Then, I like to share a book and have students write what makes them diverse and share.
One thing I noticed as a counselor that I didn’t always see as a teacher, kids always look for themselves in the books I read aloud. Every time I share a book they say “that looks like so-in-so” or “I’m her!” or “he looks like me!” I make it a priority to find books that represent my entire population, so every kid can have that experience.
With everything going on in the United States with the #blacklivesmatter movement, it’s vital to find books that not only represent the populations of the United States, but open up the line of communication about diversity.
Helpful Tip: Before you sit down and read any book with your child or class, preview it. Make sure you understand the subject and are ready to answer questions they may have. Don’t make the first time you read it with them.
Many of these books are out of stock (YAY!! People are buying and sharing with their kids. I am including links anyways for when they are back in stock, or for you to read more about each one).
A Kid’s Book About Racism
Written by Jelani Memory. Perfect for all ages/elementary grades. This book is simple, but important, and uses age-appropriate language to define racism for children. (I am adding this and several of the other “A Kid’s Book About ….” books to my library).
The Colors of Us
Written by Karen Katz. This is a great book for younger ages/grades. It celebrates the differences that make us beautiful, and gives beautiful descriptions to the variety of skin tones of the world.
Written by Ibram X Kendi and will be released June 16. This is a board book that can be shared with your baby all the way through starting school. I just heard about this book yesterday while listening to Ibram X Kendi speak on the latest episode of Brené Brown’s podcast and pre-ordered it right away. The book goes through 9 steps for “building a more equitable world.”
Written by Bell Hooks. It’s short and great for younger elementary students (PK-1st). The author stresses the importance of looking on the inside of people and getting to know who they are and not making a judgement on someone based on the color of their skin.
The Day You Begin
Written by Jacqueline Woodson. Great for ages 5-9 (kinder through 3rd). Every book by Jacqueline Woodson should be on this list (see below), but this one is a beautiful story about having the courage to be who you are even when you may feel out of place.
Something Happened in Our Town, A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice
Written by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard. This is a good book for middle elementary (2nd-4th grade). I am not going to sugarcoat it, this book is difficult, but also necessary. Fortunately, it includes an extensive note to parents/caregivers with helpful guidelines as well as educator materials and discussion questions.
Not My Idea: A book about whiteness
Written by Anastasia Higginbothom. Perfect for middle elementary (2nd-4th grade). This is a great explanation of white privilege for children. Although it was written 2 years ago, it’s, unfortunately, still appropriate for today.
Other great books…
In addition to books that target racism and diversity, it’s important for your library (public, school, home, or classroom) to have main characters from all different backgrounds. Diversify your home library with books about different races, sexual orientation, religions, and abilities.
If children are only exposed to books with main characters that look just like them, they will have a hard time understanding the diversity of the world.Jessica Bradshaw, M.Ed. Professional School Counselor
Literally EVERYTHING by Jacqueline Woodson (Each Kindness is my absolute favorite book to read to 4th grade and has caused many students to cry). Check out her books here.
A Kid’s Book About Disabilities by Kristine Napper
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagar
All are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson
Hannah’s Way by Linda Glaser
Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan
Howie Helps Himself by Joan Fassler
I am Enough by Grace Byers
I am Human: A book of empathy by Susan Verde
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafazai
Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer
She Persisted: 13 American women who changed the world by Chelsea Clinton
The Girl Who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
Uniquely Wired by Julia Cook
Wonder by R.J. Palacio
This is not an all-inclusive list, but a starting point for diversifying your library. Click here for links to purchase all or some of the books listed.
What are your favorite children’s books on diversity? Leave me a comment below.