Teaching children to accept others and fight unconscious biases they may pick up is an essential part of educating young ones. The earlier you can instill values of inclusivity, the better!
To that end, we’ve picked out five of our favorite children’s books about diversity that convey lessons about cooperation, acceptance, and coexistence. While this post is primarily aimed at recommending new reads to parents, kindergarten and elementary school teachers can use these books just as well in the classroom.
1. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold, illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
For ages: 3+ years old, or any child heading to school for the first time
Follow a schoolteacher and his class through a school day where everyone, no matter their differences, is treated with the same attention and respect. A great picture book for kids about to attend school for the first time or a resource for teachers to use in the classroom, All Are Welcome is perfect for introducing concepts of diversity and inclusion to kids just getting out into the big, wide world.
2. Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
For ages: 4-7 years old
Elliot and Kailash, from the U.S. and India respectively, keep in touch as pen pals and discover they have a lot of interests in common. Though their daily lives might look different and they’re on opposite sides of the world, their friendship doesn’t waver! This is a touching and insightful look at developing friends from other cultures, which can help kids cultivate an interest in perspectives and lifestyles that differ from their own.
3. Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Stéphane Jorisch
For ages: 4-8 years old
Suki’s kimono, a gift from her obachan (grandmother), is her pride and joy — and she refused to be dissuaded from wearing it on her first day of school. While other kids gave her some trouble at first, Suki holds firm, and eventually the other kids come around to thinking Suki’s kimono is just as cool as she does. A sweet lesson in standing up for oneself and one’s cultural heritage, Suki’s Kimono has morals for any BIPOC student in the minority who might feel embarrassed or ostracized about things they do differently — and for non-BIPOC kids about the importance and value of different cultural traditions.
4. A Different Pond by Bao Phi, illustrated by Thi Bui
For ages: 6-8 years old and up
A more sobering tale, but arguably even more valuable, A Different Pond follows Bao Phi’s childhood story of fishing at a local Minneapolis pond in the early hours of the morning — not for sport, but for food. While they fish, Bao’s father tells him about a similar pond he remembers from growing up in Vietnam. A Different Pond is a Caldecott Honor winner, and a truly deserved and powerful one at that. Phi never sugarcoats reality in it, instead teaching kids a real lesson about ethnic as well as socioeconomic diversity.
5. See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng
For ages: 10-14+ years old
Finally, for more advanced readers, Jack Cheng’s See You in the Cosmos is a great choice for audiences around the 5th grade reading level. A bittersweet story about a boy’s obsession with space travel and how to hold onto your dreams despite what life throws your way, any child will likely find some inspiration — and life lessons — tucked away inside an engaging plot.
We hope you enjoyed this list of some of the best children’s books about diversity and inclusion! If you want to find more books to read with your children or young students, Red Clover Reader’s selection of interactive children’s books has you covered.