Here’s the thing about “diverse” children’s books: some of them… not so great. You know, the books about Native Americans that lump them together, idealize them, put everybody in teepees, get the history wrong, and more. Books about Asian Americans in which everyone’s an alike-looking, broken-English-speaking foreigner. And the huge disproportion of books about black and Latino families in which everyone’s poor and life’s a never-ending struggle! Many are good, quite good. But the near single-storying of black and brown people also feeds harmful stereotypes and denies the diversity of our experiences and the fullness of our humanity.
And then there’s this: many parents confirm and kids report that too many “multicultural” offerings are straight-up boring.
All to say: yep, We Need Diverse Books AND we might need help distinguishing the wheat from the chaff in what we already have. Let’s do this!
- Please use this link to suggest books or book lists and to submit your own race-conscious reviews to EmbraceRace. Review a book with your children or students or on your own. Use Teaching for Change’s anti-bias guide or other framework to help your analysis. You can also submit books to suggest the EmbraceRace community review.
- Below, find suggestions for racially and otherwise diverse children’s books to read or review among the following evolving list of resources, including the first of many EmbraceRace reviews.
Diverse Children’s Books Lists
- We Need Diverse Books: A portal to children’s books sites featuring various categories of diversity such as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion and and culture.
- Teaching for Change Books: This reputed site vets multicultural and social justice books providing booklists organized into race and other identity categories as well as by age and by theme.
- EmbraceRace booklist featuring Kids of Color Being Themselves. Because that’s enough: An EmbraceRace community crowdsourced list that keeps growing.
- 14 Children’s Picture Books Exploring Race and Racism: The Institute for Human Education suggests books that show kids explicitly interacting with questions of race and issues that they run into involving their skin color.
- 45 Books to Teach Children About Black History: For Harriet, an online community for supporting Women of African Ancestry, gives a list that introduces children to historical and inspiring stories of black people from around the world.
- Books featuring American Indians and First Nations: The American Indians in Children’s Literature highlights best books vetted by Native readers.
- 25 Books That Diversify Kids’ Reading Lists This Summer: The MindShift blog from KQED gives a list that features protagonists of color from around the world.
- 10 Books that Empower Kids to Stand Up and Speak Out: This activism themed list comes from Brightly author Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich, who has a few other great themed lists on her blogger page.
- 25 Empowering Books for Little Black Girls and 28 Books That Affirm Black Boys. Have a young Black person in your life that you want to support? These books shows kids loving and learning to love the skin they’re in.
- Latinx in Kid Lit: This site recommends and reviews diverse books across youth age categories that feature Latinx characters of a wide range of identities and experiences. Check out these Pura Belpre prize winners.
- 10 Must Have Books for Muslim Children: Some lovely picks “chosen for their tales, illustrations, facts and beautiful insight into Islam.”
- 30 Asian & Asian American Children’s Books for ages 0 to 18: A nice, ambitious list with some great picks.
- 6 Racially Diverse and LGBTQ Positive Children’s Books: The VillageQ combines race and LGBTQ topics into a great intersectional list.
- Top 10 Best Multicultural Easy Readers from Pragmatic Mom Blog
- Recommended books for People and Children of Color, White Allies, and Progressive Families: a list from Blood Orange Press, “a literary home for diverse readers.”
- Raising Race Conscious Children’s List: A picture book list with links to blog posts that model using each book in race and diversity conversations with kids.
EmbraceRace Children’s Book Reviews/Articles
A super short list that will grow — with your submissions!
A Black princess who saves herself and exposes princess culture? Kids and adults say “Yes!” Princeless comic book compilation series, Writer Jeremy Whitley, Illustrators Various. Recommended for ages 8 to 12
Reading Mike Jung’s Unidentified Suburban Object with My Kids, Part I. In which we talk about confronting “weird questions” (or racial microagressions) with a little help from … an alien. And Part II. In which an alien inspires reflections on transracial adoption. Unidentified Flying Object by Mike Jung. Recommended for ages 8 to 12
How to think about diversity in kids books
Looking to create an anti-bias library or evaluate/review books yourself? These articles and frameworks about evaluating representation in children’s literature can help you think about bias in children’s books and other media.
- A Guide for Selecting Anti-Bias Children’s Books: Excellent step-by-step advice from an anti-bias hero.
- Kids & books, windows & mirrors… MAGIC!: EmbraceRace talks with an expert about multicultural children’s books, diversity, and developing critical reading skills in kids.
- Two Rules for My Daughter’s Library: Mia Birdsong discusses her experience only giving her daughter books without white characters or authors.
- Oyate’s Resources on Native people’s children’s literature — which books to Avoid and How to Tell the Difference: Super resource for American Indian, First Nations literature and resources, including these evaluation tips.
- Unmaking the White Default: Kirkus Reviews on writing race conscious book reviews.
- Beware the Bigoted Subtext of Children’s Literature: A discussion of the horrible outcomes from the lack of diverse books for people of all ages.
- EmbraceRace Co-Founder Andrew Grant-Thomas on NPR about reading racist books with kids: Some great tips on how to decide what your kids are ready for.
- Teacher tool to use to create a diverse home or class library: Learn how to evaluate and improve your own library or collection.
Submit your recommendation and/or review.
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Thank you to Nora May for all the thinking she contributed to this list!