Every child deserves to see themselves reflected in picture books, and every child deserves to see their neighborhood diversity in books, as well! I've put together this list of diverse books for preschoolers, which is great to either get you started or give you a new resource for your continued reading! I know you will love reading these diverse and multicultural books to your preschool aged children.
No list can be comprehensive, but I've tried my best and I've included a mix of books. Some of these books directly address diversity and celebrate differences and similarities, others show a diversity of protagonists in everyday situations, and a few teach children about specific cultures and traditions.
These diverse picture books are all appropriate for children ages 3, 4 and 5 but of course they can be read to children of all ages! You can use the list any way you like! You can read one a day for 30 days, or you can spread it out. I've divided the list up into 6 weeks of 5 days each to make it equally convenient for teachers and other caregivers. The weeks don't have a particular theme and you can mix and match as you see fit.
Since you will no doubt want to continue reading books reflecting the joyous diversity of life to your preschoolers, I've linked to a handful of lists a the bottom of this post to help you continue on your journey and you can always check out the index of all our children's book lists. (Note: book covers and titles are affiliate links.)
More in this series:
Why Am I Me? by Paige Britt, illustrated by Selina Alko and Sean Qualls. I love this brand new book in which children ponder their sense of self. It was a question I vividly remember asking myself during my childhood, and I think most adults will recognize themselves in it. But ultimately this is a book for children and reflect how they see themselves and the people around them. The text is spare and the illustrations are dynamic in this mindful book that teaches about empathy, self-reflection and community. Highly recommended.
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.
Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez. I read this book when it first came out and I've been itching to put it on a list ever since. There are few children's books with Afro-Latino families and this one is absolutely delightful. A boy is looking for his missing stuffed toy and he asks everyone around him for help. The answers are sprinkled with Spanish words and the decor of the house reflects the cultural background of the family. Preschoolers will love spotting the clues as to whom the real culprit of Bongo's disappearance is.
Puddle by Hyewon Yum. There are a surprising number of picture books about the joys of rain and puddles and this book is a fun twist on the usual fare. A boy is upset that he can't go outside in the rain—or rather he thinks he can't go outside since he can't play ball or ride his bike. His very savvy mother starts to draw a picture of a rainy scene and result is charming—and ends with a big splash!
The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Rafael López. This lively, cumulative tale in the vein of The House that Jack Built that begins with a single cooking pot and ends with a feast. Spanish words are worked into the rhyme and the illustrations dance off the page.
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen and Heidi Y. Stemple, illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin. The rhyming text and colorful illustrations depict a diversity of girls engaged in all sorts of activities, from farming to ball-playing, from fighting evil sorcerers to skipping in the mud. The one thing they all have in common is that they don't wear pink, but they do wear a sparkly crown. It's a great message: that there is nothing incongruous about girls engaging in rough-and-tumble activities while still loving a bit of sparkle.
I Love Saturdays y Domingos by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Elivia Savadie is a wonderfully uplifting story about a girl who spends Saturdays with her English-speaking grandparents and Sundays with her Spanish-speaking abuelos. She describes the joys of each visit and the reader instantly sees the parallels and how much the family loves one another. In the end, everyone comes together for the little girl’s birthday. There are a lot of Spanish words and phrases sprinkled throughout.
When's My Birthday? by Julie Fogliano, illustrated by Christian Robinson. This exuberant book reflects the extreme enthusiasm of every preschooler (and maybe a few grown-ups, too!) as they look forward to their birthday. The bouncing narration is perfect for reading aloud and will elicit quite a few cheers from the crowd. I expect once you read this one, it will become a family or classroom tradition to read it during every birthday season.
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.
The Family Book by Todd Parr. This book celebrates all the different kinds of families, different ethnicities, different make-ups like single or same-sex parents, adopted or step-families and so forth. The message of the book is loud and clear: all families are unique, special and valuable.
Maria Had a Little Llama by Angela Dominguez. Preschoolers love to hear new takes on familiar stories and rhymes. This classic nursery rhyme has a Peruvian twist. The illustrations are delightful. Bilingual.
Max and the Tag-Along Moon by Floyd Cooper. The story of a boy watching the moon follow him home as he rides in the car reminds me of similar experiences I had as a child. Just like Max, I loved watching the moon "tag-along" over hills, through trees, behind clouds, until we finally arrived — together — at our destination.
Feel the Beat: Dance Poems that Zing from Salsa to Swing by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Kristi Valiant. I couldn't let a list go by without adding poetry! Children will love this collection of short snappy poems about dance. Each one hold the rhythm of the music and the book includes a variety of cultures and traditions. The text comes with a CD of music because no doubt the poems will make everyone want to get up and dance!
Wild Berries by Julie Flett. A boy and his grandmother collect blueberries in the word. Along the way, they observe wildlife from the ants to the elk to the birds. The overall feeling is one of calm mindfulness and the illustrations' deceptive simplicity adds to that feeling. The spare text is in English, but some of the words are accompanied by their Cree equivalent. A glossary and pronunciation guide is included.
Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. Another clever retelling of the Mary had a little lamb nursery rhyme. This time a girl with immense style shows her diverse classmates how it's done. The kids are inspired and everyone dresses in their finery and with flair. However when recess starts they are concerned about what to do. Fortunately Mary has a solution!
Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara. Counting books are always a hit with the preschool set and this book encourages children to think about how they can be an active participant in their community and a force for good, from working in the community garden, beautifying the sidewalks with chalk drawings to wearing safety gear when riding bicycles and promoting diversity. Preschoolers will enjoy hunting for the hidden duck throughout the book.
Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman. Casey loves all things that sparkle. Yes, he loves to play with trucks and blocks but when he sees sparkly skirts and jewelry he wants some for himself too. The grownups are all accepting and let Casey be himself, but his sister Jesse is skeptical and insists that sparkly stuff is not for boys. But one day at the library when another child teases him, Jesse stands up for her brother. This is a great book about not trying to box children into a single idea of who they should be.
One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck, illustrated by Yasmeen Ismail. Sophia’s one true desire is to get a giraffe for her birthday. She prepares elaborate, individualized presentations to argue her case before each family member: a judge, businessperson, lawyer and disciplinarian (grandma!). Can she win her case, and will she find just the right word to win her case and convince the jury? This book made us smile, especially since Sophia just would not give up!
Round is a Tortilla by Roseanne Greenfield Thong, illustrated by John Parra. These two concept books with Spanish words sprinkled throughout are perfect for preschoolers. Colorful, folksy illustrations and rhyming text make these great for story time.
Deep in the Sahara by Kelly Cunnane, illustrated by Hoda Hadadi. I love the wonderful, vibrant illustrations in this book about a Mauritanian girl who envies the malafa worn by the women around her. She longs for the day that she, too, can wear the colorful garment. She wonders about how the malafa will make her feel—will it make her feel beautiful or mysterious? Finally, when she understand the malafa's true purpose is one connected to faith, her mother lets her don the malafa.
Dumpling Soup by Jama Kim Rattigan, illustrated by Lillian Hsu. Marisa Yang lives in a multicultural household in Hawaii. Marisa is going to help make the dumplings for the New Year celebration but she worries that hers won't be as perfect as everyone else's. I love this joyful book and its portrayal of a large, loving family and the fun they have getting ready for the festivities.
One Day in the Eucalyptus, Eucalyptus Tree by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel. My son and I adored the rhythmic text of this book. A snake lies in wait for it’s next meal, gobbling up creatures as they cross his path. Little does he know that his meals and snacks are planning their escape from his stomach! Lots of fun and great for all ages.
I Hear a Pickle: and Smell, See, Touch, & Taste It, Too! by Rachel Isadora. Learning about the senses is a rite of passage for every preschooler! I adore this very funny take on kids experiencing the quirks of their five senses. After all, its hard to smell when you have a cold and if you are allergic to peanuts you taste just a jelly sandwich. A fun read aloud that will encourage kids to share their own sensory experiences.
Susan Laughs by Jeanne Willis. Simple text, such as “Susan swings… Susan swims … Susan reads…” etc. is accompanied by the appropriate picture depicting Susan enjoying everyday life activities. We are given the entire book to learn about Susan and to identify with her, seeing her as “just like us”. The image of Susan in a wheelchair at the end reinforces that living with a disability does not … well… disable someone.
Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns: A Muslim Book of Colors by Hena Khan, illustrated by Mehrdokht Amini. Absolutely gorgeous illustrations take children on a tour of the Muslim world in this celebration to colors. The family depicted in the book appears to live in a Western country, while Islamic items such as the mother's blue hijab, or the father's red prayer mat provide the color inspiration. I like this juxtaposition, which allows children to see different traditions living side by side. A glossary of terms is included.
Pet Show by Jack Ezra Keats. All the kids bring animals to the neighborhood contest in the hopes of winning a prize. What I like best about this story is the gentle understanding shown by the adult judges towards a group of kids; they give just the right award to each eager child.
Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia. A charming, rhyming depiction of a diverse community taking care of each other forms the basis of this appealing story book. A vibrant city is host to children and parents of all colors, religions, abilities and ethnicities. There is an emphasis on the sense of touch—tickles, skinned knees, and hugs, just to name a few—and a celebration, as the title would suggest, of the skin we are in.
Here Is the World: A Year of Jewish Holidays by Lesléa Newman, illustrated by Susan Gal. Marvelous, colorful illustrations accompany this book that is perfect for preschoolers whether or not they are familiar with the Jewish holidays. The traditions of everything from naming ceremonies to the high holy days and everything in between are the subject of the poetic text that evokes the sensory and communal experience of Jewish traditions. The end of the book also includes activities for the holidays.
Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho, illustrated by Holly Meade. I love this book so much. After a mom puts her baby to sleep in a hammock she has to hush to sounds around her. Author Minfong Ho writes each animal's onomatopoetic sound and I like that they are unusual. For example, the lizard says "tuk-ghaa", the pig says, "uut-uut." The gentle, rhythmic text creates such a lovely lullaby.
Thanks to the Animals by Allen Sockabasin, illustrated by Rebekah Raye. During his Passamaquoddy family's move to their winter home in what is rural Maine, Little Zoo Sap falls off the sled. The local animals care for the frightened boy and keep him warm. When his father, Joo Tum, notices his son is missing, he determinedly searches for the boy. When he finds Little Zoo Sap he takes the time to thank each animal for their protection. Utterly charming and the perfect conclusion to our 30 days of diverse preschool books!
Is it day 31 already? Pick something from one of these lists to continue reading to your preschooler about the diverse world we live in:
- Picture books about diversity
- 21 Picture books with diverse characters in everyday situations
- Picture books about children with special needs
- Picture Books featuring multiracial families
- Children's books that challenge gender stereotypes
- Or, peruse all my diverse and multicultural book lists!