15 Children’s Books that celebrate Diversity and Social Justice

People are different by race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, age, and socioeconomic status.  Children should not be sheltered from diversity and differences. They should know that people look different, believe different things, come from different places, and live different ways. They should not see differences as anything notable but rather just a lovely part of how the world is!

One of the best ways to help children learn about the world around them and to teach them how to empathize and relate is through reading! We have curated a list of children’s books about celebrating differences, accepting others, being friendly to those who are different, and about respecting each other’s differences. These books highlight diverse characters and storylines to present different perspectives and an outlet for children and parents to discuss issues of diversity and tolerance.

Here is our list of recommendations for children’s books that teach about diversity:-

Books for Ages 4-6

Exclamation Mark 

Author: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Exclamation Mark

The creators of Duck! Rabbit! return with another book filled with bold but simple illustrations. This book is about an exclamation point that is just trying to be like every other very stable period around him. He tries everything to be the same, but it just doesn’t work. He meets a question mark who is also very different, but he’s really bothered by all of her questions. So he yells at her to stop! Then he tries out other exclamations, realizing that he’s suddenly discovered exactly what he’s made for.  An immensely simple book, with the occasional zing of puns that keeps it from becoming stale. The illustrations are done on lined paper giving the entire book a cheery aspect. The message is delivered in a playful and light-hearted way!

Click here to watch a trailer video of this book!

“Skin Again”

Author: Chris Raschka

Skin Again

This is a book that discusses and positively reinforces the things that make us all different and unique. The book focuses on racial issues and personal identity. The book does not negate race or tell the reader to ignore it, but instead state that it is simply one part of a person. What one must really strive to do is to look deep into a person’s heart to truly see who they are. This book teaches us to look past the color of one’s skin and to see ourselves past the color of our skin. The message in this book offers an ownership to loving yourself and your heart.

Click here to watch a video about this book!

It’s Okay to be different

Author: Todd Parr

It's Okay to be different

It’s Okay to be Different is a bright and cheerful picture book. At once a self-esteem booster and a celebration of individuality, kids young and young at heart will love this book. Each page tells you it’s okay to be, have or do something and has cute illustrations. Whether it’s being okay to be a different color, talk about your feelings, Eat macaroni and cheese in the bathtub, have different Mums and Dads… this book includes lots of serious and seriously fun statements that will make you proud of being you. A reassuring book about being who you are, it cleverly delivers the important messages of acceptance, understanding, and confidence in an accessible, child-friendly format.

Click here to watch this book being read out!

My World, Your World

Author: Melanie Walsh

My world, your world

Pierre says ‘bonjour’. George says ‘hello’. But . . . they both say ‘achoo!’ when they sneeze. The world is full of all sorts of people, speaking different languages and living different kinds of lives, but deep down people are basically the same wherever they live. My World, Your World is a beautiful book full of bold and bright colors that celebrate different cultures the world over. This book with it’s simple but the eye-catching imagery is a great starting point to discuss differences at a young age. With a central message of solidarity, readers will love flipping through this uplifting story full of positive messages.

Books for Ages 5-9

We are one

Author: Param Patel and Pinky Mukhi

We are one

This is a story about Mintu, a Gujarati by origin. Mintu invites his friends Curio and Chirpy, home for dinner. He is unsure if his Mexican and Italian American friends would appreciate the yummy parathas he loves. Or would they find Mintu and his food strange?  The book addresses his questions regarding regional and cultural differences. This beautifully illustrated book is a great resource for preschools to teach children diversity and acceptance of our differences. We Are One is a delightful and charming storybook not only for children but also for parents, as it places a great emphasis on love that unites us, and gives value to the recognition of different cultures as well as teaching our children our own traditions and customs.

 The Colors of Us

Author: Karen Katz

The Colors of Us

This book talks about the colors of people’s skin in such a positive way and shares how we are all beautiful because we are different.  Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades.  Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people. It talks about diversity in the most positive way and helps kids realize that people are different but in good, sweet ways. Everyone’s skin tone is compared to something like chocolate or cinnamon or coffee or coconut or honey.

Click here to watch a video of this book.

Why Are You Afraid To Hold My Hand?

Author: Sheila Dhir

Why are you afraid to hold my hand

 

Why are you afraid to hold my hand? is a book that deals with society’s attitude towards people with disabilities. A starkly simple cover that takes nothing away from the question being raised; the one who is asking the question is boldly illustrated. This book is written in verse with illustrations, describes the attitudes, reactions, and misconceptions of people on children with disabilities. It’s a book about attitudes. The child in the book has cerebral palsy, and this is the child’s silent dialogue with society. It also describes the reactions of people, their questions and misconceptions, their doubts, fears and preconceived notions. The child responds in verse – simple and straight from the heart. A simply written book that will offer an opportunity to well up compassion and support and subdue the mean-ness and hurt that is normally traded merely from not knowing how to deal with a situation.

What Is A girl? What Is A Boy?

Author: Kamla Bhasin. Illustrated by Bindia Thapar

What is a boy? What is a girl?

What is  Girl? What is a Boy? is a children’s book by Kamla Bhasin that talks about gender, society, and patriarchy. This book doubles as a language learning aid while teaching children important concepts about socially constructed personal identities.  The society tells us what’s right for a girl to do, what not a girl/boy should do and to follow the rules is considered a norm. This book helps you explain to your little ones what and how discrimination is and is prevailing in the society and how we as parents, can help change that scenario and stop gender stereotyping and gender discrimination.

Mukand And Riaz

Author: Nina Sabnani

Mukand and Riaz

This book talks about religious discrimination. The story is set against the background of the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. But the friendship between children knows no barbed wire fencing: All children play games, enjoy ice-cream and feel the loss of friends. This is the story of a friendship that goes beyond different faiths. Set during the partition of India, this is a true story as experienced by the author’s father, Mukand Sabnani. He was a boy then, and Riaz was his closest friend. Until the partition came along, and Mukand’s family, being Hindus, had to flee. At a time when people on both sides were massacring each other, it was Riaz and his family who saw that the Sabnanis got away safely.

Click here to watch a video of the story.

Kali and The Rat Snake

Author: Zai Whitaker. Illustrated by Srividya Natarajan

Kali and the rat snake

This book tells the tale of a boy who is struggling with the lack of acceptance of his classmates in regards to his unusual background. Children taunt the young Kali and although some children might have bad intentions, Kali only dreams of being accepted by his peers. He is loved by his teacher and otherwise living a happy life, but being new to the school and having trouble making friends is forming a very unhappy side to Kali’s life.

A moment of crisis changes the course of his future when a snake appears in the schoolroom threatening Kali, his teacher, and his classmates. Being the son of a snake catcher, Kali takes immediate action by securing the snake without much effort. Classmates are instantly thankful to Kali for knowing how to capture the potentially dangerous wild snake. Classmate’s respect opens the door for Kali to make new friendships and almost ensures his acceptance with other students. Kali’s difference finally makes him belong!

Click here to watch a video of this story.

Chuskit Goes To School

Author: Sujatha Padmanabhan. Illustrated by Madhuvanti Anantharajan

Chuskit goes to school

This book is based on a true story of a young girl called Chuskit, who is unable to go to school because she has a disability and she cannot walk. It is based in Ladakh, and adds local flavor such as ‘Ama-ley’ for ‘Mum’ and ‘Aba-ley’ for Dad. This story shows the way in which community differs in different cultures. Nine-year-old Chuskit longs to go to school like her brother. It is almost impossible for her in her hometown of Ladakh, as she cannot walk, and has to use the wheelchair to go anywhere. How would it be possible for her to cross the rocky, hilly terrain over the river and up the hill to the school? It becomes possible only because her friend Abdul recognizes her need, and ropes in the school and all the children to build a leveled road up to the school.

A cheerful story about recognizing and doing what the society needs to do to make life easier for those differently-abled. This book is inspiring as it highlights the importance of being aware of many social factors that may affect children’s perceptions of disability and cultural difference. This book will enable children to understand that different cultures have different attitudes towards education. In addition to this, it shows that everyone has the right to an education, regardless of ability and disability!

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress

Author: Christine Baldacchino, illustrated by Isabelle Malenfant

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine dress

This is about a boy who wears a dress to school and his classmates tease him. This book really delves into gender identity and also what it means to be “masculine” in today’s society. Morris chooses to put on his favorite tangerine dress every day when he gets to school because it makes him happy. Without being preachy, overly complex or theoretical, this book manages to communicate that Morris’ gender expression is okay, and just one part of who he is. If the other children want to go on Morris’ awesome pretend space adventures, they better accept the dress. Morris Micklewhite… avoids labels about sexuality and gender that most children probably aren’t ready for. When little Becky tells Morris that “boys don’t wear dresses,” he says, “this boy does.” And that’s that!

Click here to watch a video of this story.

We are all born free

Author: Various Artists

We are all born free

Everyone on this planet is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was signed on 10th December 1948. It was compiled after World War Two to declare and protect the rights of all people from all countries. This beautiful collection, published 60 years on, celebrates each declaration with an illustration by an internationally-renowned artist or illustrator and is the perfect gift for children and adults alike. Published in association with Amnesty International, with a foreword by David Tennant and John Boyne. Includes artwork contributions from Axel Scheffler, Peter Sis, Satoshi Kitamura, Alan Lee, Polly Dunbar, Jackie Morris, Debi Gliori, Chris Riddell, Catherine and Laurence Anholt and many more!

Last Stop on Market Street

Author: Matt de la Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson

Last stop on market street

Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don’t own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn’t he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.  This energetic ride through a bustling city highlights the wonderful perspective only grandparent and grandchild can share and comes to life through Matt de la Pena’s vibrant text and Christian Robinson’s radiant illustrations.

This book can create a lot of conversation on many levels. As you’re reading the book, you wonder where the main characters are going to go — and you might be wrong about what you guess. It makes us adults think of our own biases and opens up the child to understand the stereotypes the boy and the grandma see in the book.

Winner of the 2016 Newbery Medal
A 2016 Caldecott Honor Book
A 2016 Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
New York Times Book Review Notable Children’s Book of 2015
Wall Street Journal Best Children’s Book of 2015

Click here to watch a read aloud video of this book.

Books for Ages 8-12

The Journey

Author: Francesca Sanna

The Journey

In light of what is happening now [with refugees], this story really captures the feeling of what it is like to escape a war-torn region, and the reader will feel a lot of empathy toward the characters. It’s from the point of view of a child having to leave their country and flee to a country they perceive to be safe, but there is a lot of uncertainty. This is a fine and moving work for children. The insight they can gain about the situations in the world that affect children of other nations, other cultures, are valuable in itself. The narrative is very simple, but the illustrations are
effective and moving, and provide the sense of context that the short bits of narrative need for emotional impact. Parents can sit with their young readers and discuss the concerns aroused by the story in a thoughtful way. A wonderful read to cultivate empathy.

Click here to watch a video of this book.

Turning The Pot, Tilling The Land

Author: Kancha Ilaiah. Illustrated by Durgabai Vyam

Turning the Pot, Tilling the Land

A candid and outspoken book about discrimination based on caste, socio-economic class, and gender. It speaks about the indigent artisans, farmers, labourers, and workers that are a backbone of our society yet are considered lowly and backward. The author speaks eloquently about the necessity of dignity of labour, which alone can take a nation forward. In this book, Kancha Ilaiah throws light on the science, art, and skill of Adivasis, cattle-rearers, leatherworkers, potters, farmers, weavers, dhobis and barbers. The book documents the contributions to the betterment of human life by castes and communities despised as ‘lowly’ and ‘backward’.  This book—with stunning illustrations by Durgabai Vyam—is the first ever attempt to inculcate a sense of dignity of labour among India’s children. Though complex in its reach, the book is lucidly written, and can easily be read/ or read with and understood by 8-12-year-olds.


Diversity is one true thing we have in common. Celebrate it every day! – Anonymous


 

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