When looking for a list of children’s books about diversity, you may have a specific topic in mind. You may want books about ethnic diversity, or books that address specific social or gender issues, or perhaps you only want books which include diverse characters in everyday situations with no mention of social issues at all. I’ve curated many multicultural and diverse kids book lists on a number of different topics, and for this book list I am focusing on picture books that focus on diversity in general sense. It goes without saying that diverse books are for all kids, not just children of color.
How to use this list of books about diversity:
Although the books on this list are great general books that address diversity on a local and global level, I’ve noted related links for further reading throughout. Of course, You will want to delve deeper into the subject with your children! Including a healthy dose of multicultural picture books in your kids’ reading diets by exploring the highlighted lists will help you do that.
As always, if you find this list useful, please share it with your fellow parents and educators—the kids will thank you. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
One Day One World by Barbara Kerley. Absolutely stunning photographs take you on a trip around the world as children in diverse locales get ready in the morning, go to school, play, do chores and end their days. Your kids will love seeing kids around the world doing the same things they do every day, only in a vastly different way.
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox, illustrated by Leslie Staub. Using rhyme and lovely, stylized illustrations, this book is a wonderful introduction to the beauty of a diverse world and is particularly appropriate for toddlers and preschoolers. The message is one that is repeated in a lot of books about diversity for children: we may be different on the outside, but on the inside we are the same.
Two Eggs, Please by Sarah Weeks, illustrated by Betsy Lewin. This book takes a fun approach to the diversity issue. One at a time, Lewin’s comic, anthropomorphic animal characters walk into a city diner and order eggs. No two animals are the same and no two egg orders are the same. Behind the scenes we see the cook who uses brown eggs and white eggs, which may look different on the outside, but as every harried parent has told her picky eaters, “They are the same on the inside!”
In Our Mothers’ House by Patricia Polacco. I’ve mentioned before that you can always count on finding a book to suit your needs if you turn to Polacco’s enormous oeuvre. In this story, young black girl narrates her happy familial existence. She has two moms and a multicultural, adopted family. They have loving traditions and a warm, affectionate home life. Unfortunately a neighbor directly confronts the family to tell them she doesn’t approve of their family! Use this book to talk to your kids about others are afraid of what they do not understand (a wise lesson that one of the mothers in the book teaches her child) and challenge your kids to think about how we can overcome prejudice and open people’s hearts.
It’s Okay to be Different by Todd Parr. You can always count on author Todd Parr to have a book related to an issue about feeling good about yourself. If you are looking for children’s books about being different, this is a great book to start with. With his trademark colorful illustrations, he shows that it’s not just okay to be different, but it’s awesome to have so many different kinds of people in the world.
Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora is a great book to turn the diversity focus on your own neighborhood. Carmelita walks her dog in the neighborhood, greeting all her neighbors. Each neighbor in turn answers “Hello!” in his or her own language. My kids probably hear 4 or 5 different languages every day just by being outside in NYC so it’s nice to have a book that recognizes that reality. After you read this to your kids, talk about if they ever hear different languages spoken in their own nabe.
People by Peter Spier is a classic and wonderfully oversized book which contains meticulously detailed illustrations just waiting for your kids to delve into. Spier takes readers around the world, to places they may never see in a lifetime, introducing parents and kids alike to interesting people and cultures vastly different from their own. I actually have mixed thoughts about recommending this book. It was written in 1988 and so you will want to have a conversation with your kids about how they would choose to update some of the representations. I would pair it with a more contemporary book, like One World, One Day, which I think would be a great learning experience.
Same Same but Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw is about two kids, one in America and one in India, who are pen pals. The two boys like to do lots of the same activities, even though their countries have very different cultures. This is a great book for teachers and parents to use to talk to their kids about universal experiences and values.
He’s Got the Whole World in his Hands by Kadir Nelson. The classic Sunday School song is brilliantly illustrated by Kadir Nelson and will get you singing in no time. Perfect for preschoolers and toddlers, too!
Let’s Talk About Race by Julius Lester, illustrated by Karen Barbour. The title says it all. This book focuses on helping kids tell their own story and including their race as an integral, but only one part of their personal history. Lester begins by describing his own story and including, “Oh, and … I’m black.” His narrative then asks kids to think about how people are the same, as well as how they are different. This is a really useful book for getting kids to talk directly about how being of a certain race influences their personal story.
My Granny Went to Market by Stella Blackstone, illustrated by Christopher Corr. Granny gets to do what we all dream of—take a magic carpet ride around the world! On her trip she buys special souvenirs from interesting and culturally diverse markets. I particularly like this book because there is something so appealing about the marketplace with all it’s hustle and bustle and kids will be able to compare Granny’s experience with their own sensory memories of visiting outdoor farmers’ or flea markets. Plus, the folk art inspired illustrations are just plain fun.
Everywhere Babies. Meyers’ book celebrates the diversity of babies all over the world and how babies might sleep, eat, play and live differently but are all loved equally. The variety of facial expressions on all the babies are terrific. Frazee does a great job of including people from all different walks of life in her illustrations. I loved the contrast between the “older” parents and the younger ones. That made me giggle a bit.
As long time readers know, I try to ensure all my book lists are as diverse as possible, no matter what the subject. You will find the catalog all my book lists here.