More than ever, it’s important for teachers (and for parents) to help children understand that ALL people should be celebrated.
Whether the person looks like us, lives in our neighborhood, or shares the same religion or not, the books that we share as well as the conversations we have can help children not only value themselves but to respect and appreciate all people.
As Rudine Sims Bishop famously said, books can be mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.
We know representation matters and when children see characters in picture books who look, live, or act like they do, they feel validated. These books are the mirrors.
Some books are windows and help kids learn about other people. These books can help kids have a deeper understanding and an appreciation for other people.
Other books are sliding glass doors, that allow kids to use their imagination to step into new worlds.
Here is a list of 20 diverse books. This is only a small collection, of course, from the vast number of wonderful books that are out there.
1. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
This book portrays a warm and welcoming school where everyone’s differences are loved and celebrated. I really like the way the story shows kids learning and playing side by side. This is a book I think that every classroom should have.
2. The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad
It’s the first day of school and Faizah’s older sister wears a beautiful blue hijab, but not everyone appreciates her hijab and the kids are unkind to her. This book isn’t just about the hijab or the Islam faith, though, it’s about siblings, family, and being strong in the face of bullies.
3. Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown
Marisol is Peruvian-Scottish American and is sometimes teased and corrected for her muiti-faceted heritage. She learns though to be true to herself and to appreciate the cultural differences that make her special.
4. Princess Hair by Sharee Miller
This book celebrates the beauty of black hair, from braids to blowouts. The illustrations are lots of fun and the message is all about hair positivity!
5. Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpre
This book highlights the inspiring life of Pura Belpre, who moved from Puerto Rico to New York and became a storyteller, puppeteer, and librarian. It also comes in a Spanish language version.
6. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
This is one of my favorite Back to School books but it is an amazing book for any time of the year. In this book, Unhei (Yoon-Hey) is a new student from Korea and wants to fit in, so she asks her classmates to help her choose a new name. I love the ending when she chooses her own Korean name and helps everyone pronounce it.
7. Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco
This true story is one of my favorites! It’s about Larnel and his neighbor, Mrs. Katz, who bond over a cat named Tush. Mrs. Katz shares stories and traditions from her Jewish heritage with Larnel and they discuss how their cultures have something in common.
8. The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah
Lily eats peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Salma eats hummus and pita sandwiches. The two girls are best friends until Lily blurts out that Salma’s lunch looks “yucky”. Eventually, the girls learn to be more open-minded and to accept each other’s differences.
9. The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson
This story is fascinating and powerful! It tells about nine-year-old Hendricks, who marched in the Civil Rights protests in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. When Hendricks grows up, she continues to take a stand against segregation laws.
10. Oliver Button Is a Sissy by Tomie dePaola
Oliver Button loves to dance, even though the boys at school bully him for liking it. After taking dance lessons “for the exercise”, he enters the Talent Show and performs well. I love how the book shows that you can stay true to yourself and do anything you set your mind on.
11. Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena
This story features CJ and his grandmother who take the bus across town on Sunday after church to serve at a soup kitchen. As they ride, CJ questions his grandmother about why they don’t have a car or have other things that he notices. The book has beautiful lessons of helping others and of finding beauty in the simple things in life.
12. Jalapeno Bagels by Natasha Wing
Pablo has a Mexican mother and a Jewish father. For his school’s International Day, he decides to make Jalapeno bagels to represent both sides of his family’s heritage.
13. The Colors of Us by Karen Katz
When seven-year-old Lena decides to paint a picture of herself, she wants to use brown for her skin tone. While mixing paint, she tells her mom that “brown is brown”. After she and her mother go on a neighborhood walk, Lena discovers all of the beautiful shades of brown that there really are!
14. Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Mallard
Food is such an important part of family traditions and heritage. This book describes part of Native American history and tells the story of how fry bread came to become important in Native American culture.
15. Drawn Together by Minh Le
When a young boy visits his Vietnamese grandfather, at first, they have very little to say. They finally make a connection when they learn that they share a love of drawing and art.
16. Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
When Grace’s class is putting on the Peter Pan play, Grace is determined to play Peter Pan, even though some of her classmates told her that she couldn’t since she was not only a girl but black! With encouragement from her mom and her grandma, Grace masterfully plays the role of Peter Pan!
17. Same, Same, But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Pen Pals, Elliot (from America) and Kailash (from India) find out that even though they have different cultures, they enjoy many of the same things and really aren’t that different after all.
18. Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh
This is the true story of how Sylvia Mendez, an American citizen with Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, was denied school enrollment in a “whites only” school in 1947 and how she and her parents helped end segregation in California 10 years before Brown vs. the Board of Education.
19. Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
In this book, Jeremy wants the “cool” shoes that everyone else has but his grandma reminds him that those shoes are a “want” and not a need. This book has a great message that teaches, without preaching, empathy and compassion.
20. Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds
Peter H. Reynolds is one of my favorite author/illustrators and this book does not disappoint! In this story, kids are encouraged to take action and to use their words and their voices to make a difference every day!
Hope you’ve found a few new titles here that you might like to share with your students or kids at home.
Thanks for stopping by!