Help your students respond to discrimination aimed at themselves or others by using diverse picture books. They present a powerful starting point for challenging prejudice, racism and intolerance. They are suitable for children with different levels of understanding and experience.
Why Read Diverse Picture Books?
Discrimination is everywhere, so raising tolerant and open-minded children is vital. As educators, we can support children to respond to discrimination, whether aimed at themselves or others. This could involve standing up for people unfairly treated and not following the crowd displaying negative behaviour.
We can use diverse books to discuss prejudice and inequality starting in pre-school. A safe, non-judgemental classroom supports students in communicating their questions, fears and confusions. We don’t have all the answers, but we can work with our students to better understand intolerance. While discussions about racism, prejudice, and tolerance are challenging, they must be ongoing.
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Open-Minded & Diverse Picture Books
The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name by Sandhya Parappukkaran
When Zimdalamishkermishkada starts school, he feels self-conscious about his long name. He decides to go by Zim, but it doesn't feel right. His mother explains the significance of his name, and he recognises the importance of accepting it. He returns to school and lets everyone know he will be known as Zimdalamashkermishkada, not Zim.
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
This is the first of two diverse picture books by Jacqueline Woodson. The Day You Begin considers the difficulty of entering a room where you don’t know anyone. We are “an only” until we share our personal stories in these situations. Woodson reminds us that we are all outsiders, and it takes courage to be ourselves.
Drawn Together by Minh Lê
A young boy and his grandfather lack a common language and struggle to communicate, leading to confusing, frustrating and silent meetings. When they discover their love of art they communicate with each other through art rather than words.
Freedom Soup by Tami Charles
Freedom soup is an important part of the Haitian Independence Day celebrations. Ti Gran and Belle dance and clap in the kitchen as Belle learns about the traditions of Haiti and the soup, including the history of Haitian slavery and freedom.
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
Zuri loves her curly hair even though it has a mind of its own. Her daddy has a lot to learn when he styles it for a special occasion, but he will do anything to make Zuri and her hair happy.
Hands Up! by Breanna J. McDaniel
A young girl lifts her hands toward the sun, to reach for a book, get a high five and dance, among many other joyful activities. As she ages, she joins in community protest marches, lifting her hand for change.
Hot Day on Abbott Avenue by Karen English
On a humid summer’s day, two girls, Kishi and Renée, sit on their separate front porches. It is best-friends-breakup day. While they wait for each other to apologise, they hear the sounds of other children playing in the street. They soon forget about being mad at each other and join in a game of jump rope.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
I Am Every Good Thing celebrates and affirms young, black boys. The young, black narrator confidently tells us he is creative, smart, funny, adventurous, and a good friend. We learn how he sometimes fails, but always gets back up. He’s afraid when people misunderstand him and call him names.
The King of Kindergarten by Derrick Barnes
A young boy is ready for Kindergarten. He meets new friends and takes part in many new experiences. He enthusiastically tells his parents about his day and how he can’t wait for the next day.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
A grumpy CJ and his nana ride a city bus full of wonderful characters. He wonders aloud why he doesn’t have the things his friends do and why they have to volunteer at the soup kitchen every week. His nana’s straightforward and positive responses help CJ see and appreciate what he has and can give.
Mama's Saris by Pooja Makhijan
A young girl longs to wear one of her mother's saris, but she is too young to wear the complicated outfit. Her mother realises how important it is for her, so she wraps her in a blue sari, and the girl is thrilled to be just like her mother.
A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang
Paj Ntaub, a Hmong girl, moves across the street from an elderly couple, Ruth and Bob. As the seasons pass, Ruth dies. The young girl wants to help Bob, so she draws a map into the world for Bob in his driveway. It shows him he can find kindness and support at Paj Ntaub's home.
Masai and I by Virginia Kroll
At school, Linda learns about the Masai people who live in East Africa. She wonders what her life would be like if she were a Masai. “Would I live in an apartment building the way I do now? Would I have a pet hamster or a new pair of sneakers? What would my family be like if I were Masai?”
My Two Grannies by Floella Benjamin
When Alvina’s parents go on holiday, her two grannies look after her. Grannie Vero is from Trinidad, and Grannie Rose is from the north of England. They eat different food, tell different stories and play different games, leading to some tension. Alvina comes up with an idea to help her grannies compromise.
The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson
This is the second of two diverse picture books by Jacqueline Woodson. Jacqueline Woodson addresses race relations with two young girls, one black and one white. A fence segregates their homes, but they slowly get to know each other by sitting on this barrier.
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad
On the first day of school, sisters, Asiya and Faizah walk hand in hand. Asiya is wearing a hijab for the first time, representing being strong. Faizah admires her sister's beautiful blue scarf but hears other children making fun of her. The sisters follow their mother's advice about being strong and true to themselves in the face of bullying.
Sarah Rising by Ty Chapman
Sarah Rising is inspired by the protests during the Minneapolis Uprising after the police killing of George Floyd. Sarah tells the reader about attending a demonstration with her father and what it is like to protest racial injustice.
Smoky Night by Eve Bunting
Daniel and his mother watch the LA riots happening in their neighbourhood. After going to bed, they learn their building was on fire. Daniel hesitates as they evacuate because he cannot find his cat, but a firefighter later finds it.
Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
A teacher helps a young girl see beyond her scary feeling for her neighbourhood. She looks for beauty in her community with the help of her neighbours. Her beautiful journey helps her feel happy and hopeful.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o
Sulwe’s skin is darker than everyone in her family and at school. She wants to lighten her skin, the colour of midnight, so she is no longer teased. Her mama empowers Sulwe by telling her a story that helps her love and accept who she is and dismisses the negative opinions of others.
Under My Hijab by Hena Khan
Under My Hijab illustrates the cultural and religious importance of the hijab through the eyes of a young girl. She watches how the contemporary Muslim women in her family wear their hijab in different ways. She dreams about her future and how she can express herself through her hijab.
There is much more diversity in children's books. However, there is still a long way to go for all children to feel represented in books. Let me know your favourite diverse picture books in the comments.
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