Over the past few years, there's been an encouraging uptick in diverse representation in children's picture books. The books on this list share stories of multiculturalism at the local and global level.
Use the books to start meaningul conversations with your kids about what it means to live in a diverse world, why inclusion is important, how multiculturalism benefits everyone, and what is means to appreciate differences.
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One World, One Day 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 amusing 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
A 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
This is a great book to turn the 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.
I'm New Here by Anne Sibley O'Brien
Every child knows what it is like to walk into a room and not know anyone. Compound that with not being able to speak the language, or not being familiar with the culture and it can lead to some anxiety indeed and a real fear of not being included. Three children—from Guatemala, Korea, and Somalia—tell their stories of what it is like to be the new kid from a distant land. I'm so delighted that now there is a second book, Someone New, that tells the stories from the "old" students' points of view!
This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe
The book follows seven children from different countries: Italy, Japan, Uganda, Russia, India, Peru and Iran. Each child describes their home, school, family, food and daily life. This is a great starting point for conversations about the differences and similarities between life in different countries, but also how children in the same country don't all live the same way. At the end, photographs reveal the actual families depicted in in the book. I love the large size of the book, and how the illustrations invite a lengthly perusal. Also read Lamonthe's book, All about U.S.: A Look at the Lives of 50 Real Kids from Across the United States.
Every Month Is a New Year: Celebrations Around the World by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Susan L. Roth
This is a fantastic poetry collection which introduces readers to global new year holidays. Most western children know about January 1, the Lunar New Year and Rosh Hashanah, but there are 9 more! Singer shares a poem for each month to celebrate a different new year tradition.
Same Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
This picture book is about two children, 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
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 anti-bias, anti-racist book for getting kids to talk directly about how feeling like they are a part of a certain community influences their personal story. Ages 5 and up.
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 its hustle and bustle. Kids will enjoy comparing Granny's experience with their own memories of visiting outdoor farmers' or flea markets. Plus, the folk art inspired illustrations are just plain fun.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers, illustrated by Marla Frazee
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.