15+ Children’s Books that Teach Diversity and Tolerance
After pouring through many children’s books about diversity and tolerance, I listed 15+ best kids’ books for birth through 10 years old.
Children are very curious about the world and the people around them. It is important to make them feel safe asking questions about differences and similarities.
Kids realize there are differences among us at a very early age. That is why it is crucial to address these issues at an early age.
First, as a former educator and librarian, I wanted to give you some resources on how to address the issue of race, diversity, and tolerance.
Arnold-Ratliff, Katie. (Updated June 2020). Anti-Racism for Kids: An Age-by-Age Guide to Fighting Hate. Parents.
CNN/Sesame Street Town Hall Meeting about Racism Some of Sesame Street’s favorite characters address the issue of racism for young children and parents.
Teaching Tolerance– https://www.tolerance.org/ These resources help educators and parents how to teach tolerance.
I found Beyond the Golden Rule publication (PDF) super helpful. It addresses how to talk to children from preschool to high school. I was impressed with the section about the importance of evaluating your own bias before presenting the lessons.
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15+ Kids’ Books that Highlight Tolerance & Diversity
1) Whoever You Are Written by: Mem Fox Illustrated by: Leslie Staub
Whoever You Are uses easy words and ideas for young children to understand the differences and similarities of people and cultures all around the world. The vibrant illustrations bring this important message to life.
Awards/Recognitions: Reading Rainbow Book
2) All the Colors We Are: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color/ Todos los colores de nuestra piel: La historia de pour que temenos diferentes colores de piel Written by: Katie Kissinger Photographs by: Chris Bohnhoff
All the Colors We Are is a bilingual (English and Spanish) nonfiction (factual) book about the role melanin and ancestry plays in our skin color. The scientific explanation is broken down, so even young children can understand the concepts.
This is a great way to dispel myths about skin color, and the Spanish translations are a plus.
Skin Like Mine explores the different shades of skin people have by using food analogies. These illustrations and easy text make this book relatable for young kids.
We’re Different, We’re the Same is a book that features Sesame Street characters and people to show how we are all different but have many overall likenesses. This is an important lesson when teaching diversity.
5) Same, Same but Different by: Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw
Same, Same but Different is a look at two pen pals that live in two different parts of the world. Elliot describes his everyday activities living in America in his letters to Kailash who live in India. Although the two boys engage in similar activities, their environments look completely different. The vivid drawings make this book come to life.
Awards/Recognitions: Ezra Jack Keats Book Award
6) The Family Book by: Todd Parr
The Family Book shows all the different ways to make a family. This includes single parent, adoption, interracial families, same-gender parents, divorced couples…
Bright and playful drawings show how families come in many different forms. However, families experience sadness when there is a loss, celebrations for special occasions, and support each other.
Awards/Recognitions: Todd Parr is a New York Times Bestselling Author
7) Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns by: Richard Van Camp
Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns is a gentle First Americans lullaby with photographs of diverse babies.
This is a beautiful way to introduce diversity. The lyrics are soothing and rhythmic.
Awards/Recognitions: Richard Van Camp is a renowned Storyteller and bestselling author who features First Americans from the North West Territories of Canada.
8) We are Grateful Otsaliheliga Written by: Traci Sorell Illustrated by: Frane Lessac
We are Grateful Otsaliheligo follows a Cherokee family and their community throughout the seasons of the year. This book is a wonderful way for children to learn some Cherokee words through the vocabulary that is phonetically and syllabary represented.
I am so excited to share this book with you because I have studied children’s literature for years. I have had a hard time finding quality children’s books that depict Native Americans in a positive modern light.
Awards/Recognitions: Sibert Honor Book, Orbis Pictus Honor Book, Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Book, American Indian Youth Literature Award Honor Book, NPR’s Guide to 2018’s Great Reads, Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2018, School Library Journal Best Books of 2018
9) Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave Be You Written by Sonia Sotomayor Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
Just Ask! was written by Sonia Sotomayer who is also the first Latina Supreme Court Justice.
In this inclusive book, she illustrates how some kids feel different because of the diverse medical challenges they face. Sotomayor reveals her own challenges being diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes as a child.
She sends a heartfelt message to kids who are dealing with medical issues, and others that are curious but afraid to ask. I love the fact that she talks about medical challenges you can and cannot see.
Sotomayer ask the children readers some poignant questions associated with the medical issues presented in this book.
Parents/ Teachers Activities: When I taught second grade, the students in my class expressed an interest in sharing and answering questions about their own medical issues.
I thought this was great because I knew their classmates had concerns and questions. This group of students was very observant and curious. I spoke with the parents of students that wanted to share prior to sharing day to ensure their approval and to make sure there would be no privacy violations. This was a wonderful bonding experience for all of us!
Just Ask! is the perfect springboard book to start an open positive conversation.
10) The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson and Illustrated by Rafael Lopez
The Day You Begin is the sweet story of a young girl named Angelina. She is anxious about meeting her new classmates.
At first Angelina, is apprehensive because she notices all the differences between her fellow classmates. They have different skin colors, hair, eat different foods, come from different countries, have different experiences…
Until, Rigoberto, from Venezuela, points out she has the same name as his sister.
Then, we can learn about each other’s differences and still be friends with many similarities.
Awards/Recognitions: New York Times Bestseller
This author has won numerous prestigious awards.
11) And Tango Makes Three by: Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell Illustrated by Henry Cole
And Tango Makes Three is the true story about two male chinstrap penguins that hatch and raise a baby penguin named Tango at the Central Park Zoo.
This adorable story shows us that families can come in many different forms.
Awards/Recognitions: The ASPCA Henry Bergh Children’s Book Award
12) The Name Jar by: Yangsook Choi
Unhei moves with her family from Korea to the United States. So she is faced with a new culture and a new school.
Parents/Teachers Activities: Click HERE to get activities.
Awards/Recognitions: Reading Rainbow Book, One of Chicago Public Library’s Children and Young Adult Services Best of the Best
13) One Leaf Rides the Wind by: Celeste Mannis Pictures by: Susan Kathleen Hartung
One Leaf Rides the Wind is a beautiful book that teaches numbers and the Japanese culture through the art of Haiku poems.
Parents/Teachers Activities– Teach children how to create their own Haiku poems. Kids can create drawings to accompany their poems.
Awards/Recognitions: Parents’ Choice Award, Los Angeles Times Best-seller, Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Celebrations are a fun way to explore other cultures and foster tolerance and inclusion. Having different traditions does not make one culture better or worse than another.
Ideally, it would be great if another parent, coworker, or child in the class/that you know, to represent the customs and traditions of other countries and celebrations.
They might: come in traditional dress, bring in traditional food to share, engage others in some of the games (dreidel) or rituals (make Chinese dragons), read a preapproved children’s story (one of these) about the traditions, answer questions…
These experiences also broaden children’s horizons and bring an awareness of the world around them.
The following books are my recommendations for children’s books about other cultures’ celebrations. They provide a balance between facts and entertainment.
14) Bringing in the New Year by: Grace Lin
Bringing in the New Year follows Mei Mei and her Chinese American family as they prepare for the Chinese New Year. Learn about the customs and beliefs behind the Chinese New Year.
At the end of the book, the author elaborates on the Chinese New Year’s importance.
Awards/Recognitions: Reading Rainbow Book, from Newberry Honor Winner Grace Lin
15) Hanukkah Bear by: Eric Kimmel and Mike Wohnoutka
Hanukkah Bear is a humorous story about an Old Bear visiting an elderly Bubba Brayna, but she mistakes the bear for her Rabbi. See what kind of hijinks ensue.
The story is a sweet children’s book that covers the major elements of a Hanukkah celebration.
There is a page after the story that tells the story of the festival of lights.
Parents/Teachers Activity: Play the Dreidel game.
I was lucky enough to have a parent and a colleague who celebrated Hanukah, and they had made latkes to share with the students as they talked about the holiday.
Awards/Recognitions: National Jewish Book Award Winner
16) Under the Ramadan Moon by: Sylvia Whitman & Sue Williams
Under the Ramadan Moon illustrates with simple words and expressive pictures, what happens during Ramadan.
There is also a more in-depth explanation of Ramadan at the end of the book.
Activities for Parents/Teachers: Giving to charity is a part of Ramadan according to this book.
Give the children an opportunity to do so charitable work. Do a fundraiser. Look within your community. I worked as a long-term substitute at a school, and they raised money for the local animal shelter. This was student-generated.
Also, I will not name the name, but the bigger charity they raised money for in the past, had so many rules and regulations, it sucked the enthusiasm right out of everyone.
17) Together for Kwanzaa by: Juwanda Ford Illustrated by Shelly Hehenberger
Together for Kwanzaa is a charming and informative kid’s story about the celebration of Kwanzaa came about. This book includes terminology and the reasons for the customs during Kwanzaa.
Kayla is a young girl who hopes that her brother is able to make the family celebration despite a few obstacles.
Parents/Teachers Activities: If you have a parent, colleague, friend, who celebrates Kwanzaa, it would be great if they could come in and bring a Kinara, and explain the meanings behind each candle.