When discussing diversity and inclusion, many people do not know that the best time to start teaching individuals about these values is when children are young. Growing up in an environment where there is a constant conversation about equality, kindness, and respect, children are more likely to become adults that treat others with kindness and respect. This conversation can start in the classroom by incorporating diverse materials into the learning objectives. There are many ways to integrate more inclusive materials in the classroom as an educator or childcare provider. You could have toys or objects from different cultures or even find books or other educational materials to educate children about diversity. To promote this, we decided to make a list of some of our favorite children’s books that promote diversity and inclusion:
Children’s Books That Promote Diversity and Inclusion:
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold and illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman.
This book shows a group of diverse children at their school who share their cultures through food, music, art, and stories. Children from different cultures, races, and differing abilities appear throughout this book.
Princesses Save the World by Savannah Guthrie and Allison Oppenheim.
This book is a story of friendship, teamwork, empowerment, and strength. The young girls in this story face a problem they need to solve. Princesses Save the World is a classic story of girl power and is perfect for young readers.
Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw.
This book is about young two pen pals from different world areas that write about what they have in common (pets, living with their families, taking the bus to school, etc.) and learning where they differ. However, they celebrate their differences as they are taught not to let differences be a barrier to friendships.
Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley.
Mary Edwards Walker was a suffragist and doctor who was given a Medal of Honor in the Civil War. The book follows the story of how she refused to wear dresses and be like all of the women around her. Mary’s determination in the face of criticism leaves young readers a feeling of empowerment.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi.
This book follows the story of a little girl named Unhei, who moved to America from Korea and is going to an American school. She feels that she should pick an “American” name, so her classmates fill up a glass jar with suggestions. However, Unhei soon realizes that she does not have to change her name to fit in and find friendships.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’ O and illustrated by Vashti Harrison.
Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’ o (famous for her work in Marvel’s Black Panther) tells a story about a young girl’s journey with colorism, self-esteem, and acceptance. It is a beautiful story that shows true beauty comes from within.
Looking After Louis by Lesley Ely and illustrated by Polly Dunbar.
Looking After Louis tells Louis’s story, a young boy with Autism who does not speak on his own or participate in class. When his classmates decide to befriend Louis, they learn a bit more about communication, joy, kindness, and stereotypes. This book perfectly illustrates how inclusive classrooms are better for both disabled and non-disabled children.
Everyone Matters by Pat Thomas.
This book teaches preschool-aged children that everyone is deserving of kindness and respect. Perhaps the best part of this book is that it teaches children about kindness to everyone in kid-friendly language. The book is complete with a guide for parents on how to continue the conversation with their children.
Mae Among The Stars by Roda Ahmed and illustrated by Stasia Burrington.
Mae Jemison is an American engineer, physician, professor, public speaker, women in STEM advocate, and former NASA astronaut. This picture book follows her life as the first African American woman to travel in space.
Hands & Hearts by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Amy Bates.
Donna Jo Napoli is an award-winning children’s book author. She is also a linguist who specializes in sign language and activism for deaf children. This book tells the beautiful story of a mother and daughter having a fun day at the beach. The book is completed with words in American Sign Language and promotes understanding and acceptance.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers and Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo.
I Am Enough is a beautiful poem about feeling complete and enough. The young girl telling the story compares herself to nature. She leaves readers feeling inspired and empowered to know that all humans, all colors, all genders, all cultures, from all backgrounds of life, are beautiful and valuable.
King For A Day by Rukhsana Khan and illustrated by Christiane Kromer.
This picture book is about children competing in kite battles during a festival. The story features disabled characters being bullied and overcoming obstacles in a story that teaches children their disability does not define them.
Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison.
This bedtime book is inspiring and empowering as it teaches children that they can dream big and do amazing things, regardless of their skin color. Dream Big, Little One is a book that all children should read, not only for themselves but for teaching them to treat everyone with respect and kindness.
It is essential to start promoting diversity and inclusion when children are young to grow up with values that teach them to treat everyone with kindness and respect to make the world a better place. If you are looking for more reasons why promoting diversity and inclusion in the classroom is essential, the Michigan Association for Infant Mental Health has a fantastic blog with helpful resources and tips.