Imagine a world in which all children can see themselves in the pages of a book. For example, my family is multiracial. Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t be able to find a children’s book that portrayed our uniqueness. Even just five years ago in 2015, 73.3% of children’s books depicted white characters. That percentage decreased to 50% by 2018, but since 27% instead featured animals or inanimate objects as characters, that meant only 23% of children’s books published depicted non-white human characters. Those numbers are dismal, and not at all reflective of our children. We need more diversity!
Luckily, the tides are changing. More and more children’s books are being published that feature beautifully diverse characters and families! This list is just a sampling of some of my recent favorites that I find myself recommending over and over again to friends. I’ve also included some resources at the end of this post to help you continue to diversify your child’s at-home library.
Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
Discover a school where—no matter what—young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated. Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.
Be Who You Are by Todd Parr
Who better than Todd Parr to remind kids that their unique traits are what makes them so special? With his signature silly and accessible style, Parr encourages readers to embrace all their unique qualities.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Jacqueline Woodson and Rafael López have teamed up to create a heartening book about finding the courage to connect, even when you feel scared and alone.
Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley
A beautiful book that brings Bob Marley’s beloved song, “Three Little Birds” to life for a new generation. This is a universal story of a boy who won’t let anything get him down, as long as he has the help of three special little birds.
I am Enough by Grace Byers
This is a gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Pena
This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share.
Little Humans by Brandon Stanton
A 40-page photographic picture book for young children combined with original narrative from Brandon Stanton becomes a heartwarming ode to little humans everywhere.
Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison
This beautifully illustrated board book showcases 18 trailblazing black women in American history.
Love Makes a Family by Sophie Beer
This fun, inclusive board book celebrates the one thing that makes every family a family … and that’s LOVE.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
A powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.
Follow one day in the real lives of seven kids from around the world—Italy, Japan, Iran, India, Peru, Uganda, and Russia. This genuine exchange provides a window into traditions that may be different from our own as well as mirrors reflecting our common experiences.
We Are Family by Patricia Hegarty
Through illness and health, in celebration and disappointment, families stick together. Some families are made up of many people, and some are much smaller. Sometimes family members look like each other, and sometimes they don’t! But even though every family is different, the love is all the same
What Makes Us Unique?: Our First Talk about Diversity by Jillian Roberts
When it comes to explaining physical, cultural, and religious differences to children, it can be difficult to know where to begin. What Makes Us Unique? provides an accessible introduction to the concept of diversity, teaching children how to respect and celebrate people’s differences and that ultimately, we are all much more alike than we are different
Who We Are!: All About Being the Same and Being Different by Robie H. Harris
This book is geared towards helping preschoolers understand what makes us who we are — from our height to our hair, from the shade of our skin to our eyesight.
This comprehensive bibliography is being updated constantly with hundreds of children’s books read cover to cover and cataloged for your perusal. Thanks to a handful of librarians at the University of Central Florida, you can easily locate books featuring a variety of family relationships, racial diversity, cultures & ethnicities, disabilities & health topics, as well as LGBTQ+!
This list may take you some time to read through, but it is a motherlode of updated recommendations for representation. The non-profit organization, We Need Diverse Books, is a huge advocate in the publishing world in the push toward producing and promoting literature that reflects and honors the lives of all young people.