Best books to teach your children about diversity

Best books to teach children about diversity

by Stephanie Spencer |
Updated on

Books to teach your children about diversity have always been a great way to teach children. The best children's books can transport your child to different worlds and see things from another's perspective. From Peter Rabbit to Jack and the Beanstalk. We learn to see the world from someone else's perspective.

And this is why is a brilliant idea to add some diverse children's books to your little one's book collection. Not only will they learn about other cultures, religions and traditions such as Diwali and Eid, but it will also allow you to talk to your child about race, equality and diversity and the history behind celebrations such as Black History Month. These anti-racism books will help shape your child more understanding person.

Best at a glance:

Anti-racism is pro-actively taught in all UK schools with many of the UK's schools opting to sign up for a more diverse and anti-racist curriculum. When your child starts school they will be learning about other races. However, you can also approach the subject at home.

Best for traditions

Follow a group of diverse children through a day at their school, where everyone is welcome. Children wear patkas, hijabs, baseball caps and yarmulkes and play side by side. Throughout the story, the children grow and learn from each other's traditions to see that diversity is a strength.

One reviewer said: "Highly recommended and perfect for our daughters collection. It’s perfect for explaining different types of people your child may meet at school and discusses great topics like having different foods in packed lunches. Great for discussing cultures and encouraging acceptance of diversity, inclusion and acknowledgment of peoples differences."

Pros

  • Uplifting, inclusive and full of colourful illustrations.
  • Illustrations make this book a must for every child's bookshelf.

Cons

  • Not a lot left in stock.

Best for illustrations

Separate Is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
Price: $9.99

Based on a true story of discrimination of hispanics in American schools, this is a must have for schools and homes, that will help teach your kids about segregation through a little-known story about Sylvia Mendez and her family struggles.

One reviewer said: "Bought this to read to my 6 year old, and it's such a great story. It is a bit lengthy- my son has the patience and attention span for it. It's a great story, and teaches an important lesson especially given current events. It's a great way to promote discussion on these topics, particularly for children like mine who have had it pretty dang easy in life."

Pros

  • Great pictures to tell the story.
  • Straightforward narrative.

Cons

  • Not suitable for toddlers.

Best for culture

Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan-Petrolino
Price: $14.69

All about the various forms of head attire different religious people wear, it teaches children about the name of the 'hat' with the phonetic pronunciation and a description of the person who may wear it. Children will learn that many Muslim women wear a Hijab (He-jaab) and the cap typically worn by Jewish boys and men is called a Kippah (Ki’pa) for example.

One reviewer said: "What a beautiful look, I bought this as I am a childminder and wanted to promote cultural diversity for my younger children. The illustrations are beautiful and each page celebrates a religious hat/head wear with a pronunciation and sentence explaining who might wear the item. Shows a wide choice of religions and made of thick quality board."

Pros

  • Helps educate and prepare young children and their parents for our culturally diverse modern world.
  • Beautifully illustrated children's board book.

Cons

  • Suitable for 2 - 6 year olds.

Best for friendship

If you want to encourage your kids on how to value true frienships, this is for you. Celeb-mum Rochelle recently brought out her own book to try and teach children about the differences between two friends and their natural hair.

One reviewer said: "My daughter absolutely loved this book. We are learning about friendships and how friends treat each other. This is the perfect book to illustrate that. Could read over and over again. Beware though Mums, try to hold back the tears!"

Pros

  • Your little one will learn about friendships and how friends treat each other. 
  • Good pictures.

Cons

  • Paperback book.

Best for history

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison

Rrp: $11.99

Price: $11.05

Among these inspiring black women from history, your children will learn about heroes, role models, and the everyday women who did extraordinary things to make the world better place for generations of girls and women to come.

One reviewer said: "Another book that I brought for my daughter before she was 1 years old at the time she wasn't really interested in sitting while I read now she's 2 years old and loves this book. We talk about other women of colour that have achieved amazing things from all over the world so we have a few books like this definitely would recommend."

Pros

  • Educates and inspires.
  • Relates true stories of women who broke boundaries and exceeded all expectations.

Cons

  • Only suitable from 2 - 8 years old.

Best for little princes

Little Leaders: Exceptional Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison
Price: $16.46

Another book from the Little Leaders collection comes a book about amazing black men from history including Diplomat Kofi Annan and musician Prince. Learn all about how they broke boundaries and fought injustice to make the world a better place.

One reviewer said: "Great book, it's so nice to see other black hero's that are left out of the history books.
Very interesting for both adults and children. I absolutely love the illustrations also. My daughter is 3 and says 'He's black and beautiful like me!'"

Pros

  • Learn all about the exceptional black men who broke barriers and fought injustice to realise their dreams and make the world a better place. 
  • Great pictures.

Cons

  • Does not give all heros their own pages.

Best for change

Happy in Our Skin by Fran Manushkin

Rrp: $8.95

Price: $3.18

Millie Doesn't Mind follows the journey of Millie as she navigates in a new neighbourhood where no one looks like her. This book is great for teaching children how to embrace differences.

One reviewer said: "My daughter absolutely loves this book, looking forward to many more stories about Millie."

Pros

  • The perfect book to bring about awareness and inclusion.
  • Great illustrations.

Cons

  • Not much left in stock.

Best for religion

From Olympic medallist Ibtihaj Muhammad comes this inspiring story of one girls first day of wearing a hijab and how she learnt to be proud of who she is.

One reviewer said: "My toddler enjoys the rich colours and images and I love the inclusive story of love, faith and family. Excellent to teach EYFS about identity and belonging."

Pros

  • A ground-breaking picture book about religion, sisterhood and identity.
  • A book that celebrate sibling bond and a powerful story of resilience and being proud of who you are

Cons

  • Bright colours.

Best for uniqueness

Saturday by Oge Mora

Rrp: $18.99

Price: $14.99

Perfect for mothers and daughters to read together, this sweet story tells the tale of a little girl's Saturday day out with her mum that doesn't go to plan.

One reviewer said: "My four year old daughter loved this book. It's such a unique story, so beautiful, touching, and interesting. Would love to see more from this author. The illustrations are so original too."

Pros

  • Focuses on mother and daughter bond.
  • Teaches you how to value one another.

Cons

  • Only suitable for 4 to 8 year olds.

Best for colour

AntiRacist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi
Price: $13.95

With glossy illustrations and meaningful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism.

One reviewer said: "Excellent writing, simple enough for babies but leaves the conversation open for more discussion with older children (or even adults!). Illustrations are beautiful and give more to discuss. Important stuff!"

Pros

  • With bold illustrations and thoughtful, yet playful, text.
  • Prompts to help readers recognise and reflect on bias in their daily lives.

Cons

  • A mismatch between the title/illustrations and the language used in the book.

Best for discovery

A book that explores the lives remarkable people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved great things, yet each began life as a child with a dream. If you would like your child to read and to learn more about Martin Luther king, and discover how he grew to become an inspirational civil rights activist, then you'll enjoy this.

One reviewer said: "I really love reading all of these books with my children. I would highly recommend to anyone looking for some different books to read with their children."

Pros

  • Offers inspiring messages to children of all ages, in a range of formats. 
  • Explores the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. 

Cons

  • A short book.

Best for values

The Girls by Lauren Ace
Price: $11.06

A great book about four little girls who meet under an apple tree and form a bond that grows as they share secrets, aspirations, worries and schemes. A heart-warming tale of a friendship which follows their lives as they grow-up.

One reviewer said: "Beautiful book. One of the few children's books with all girls and each takes a different route in life so respectful to a variety of life choices! Good for discussions about different skills and each person bringing their own attributes to each situation. Not as overtly feminist as some of the other books out there but does a good job with the same messages."

Pros

  • A celebration of kindness and scraped knees.
  • A wonderful message of friendship through the years and through life changes 

Cons

  • Suitable from 3 to 5 year olds.

Best for teaching

The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist

Rrp: $17.99

Price: $11.44

Meet the youngest known child to be arrested for a civil rights protest in Birmingham, Alabama, 1963, in this moving picture book that proves you're never too little to make a difference.

One reviewer said: "I felt like this was an excellent book while teaching my 4 year old of the world. I did have to explain bits to her but overall the visuals really got her mind thinking about how “not nice” it is to act certain ways. The main character is spunky which keeps the heavy topic of the story moving and more upbeat for children. I’m very happy we have this book and recommend it to my friends!"

Pros

  • Honest and open discussions about race, tolerance, and acceptance from a very early age.
  • Contains a lot of historical changes.

Cons

  • Not so much a standard kids story as a kids version of real history 

Best for acceptance

Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Rrp: $18.99

Price: $10.29

There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you and sometimes feeling different and not fitting in can be hard. This story is all about feeling like outsiders and also how we can include different people.

One reviewer said: "I usually don't write reviews but I found myself tearing up reading this book to my two girls. The message of acceptance and love and strength in our differences really touched me! I love the subtle hints that we are all different but all have things in common. Absolutely beautiful boom!"

Pros

  • A bright jewel-toned palette and clever details.
  • A literal reflection of a better future, reveal hope and pride.

Cons

  • Hardback book.

Best for rights

Rosa Parks by Lisbeth Kaiser

Rrp: $9.99

Price: $5.99

Teach your children about the story of Rosa Parks who went on to become one of the most famous civil rights activists after she refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus in 1955.

One reviewer said: "This series never disappoints. I loved reading this to my little girl and teaching her about strong Women in history. Great short story, can’t wait to graduate to the paper book editions."

Pros

  • The board books are told in simple sentences, perfect for reading aloud to babies and toddlers. 
  • Explores the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. 

Cons

  • Cartoonish drawings when it comes to Rosa Parks and the Civil Rights movement.

Best for peace

The Smeds and the Smoos by Julia Donaldson
Price: $15.63

We love reading Julia Donaldson's brilliant books with our children, and The Smeds and the Smoos is no exception. This fun book sees a young Smed and Smoo fall in love, but their families strongly disapprove. However, peace is restored and love conquers all in this feel good book!

One reviewer said: "Nice story with the usual underlying meaning about caring and acceptance- our daughters not old enough to get that, however she loves the rhymes and finishing the last line of each page, currently her favourite book!"

Pros

  • Encourages friendship, love, adventure and togetherness.
  • Brilliant response to brexit and kid loves it… the tv show is great too.

Cons

  • Not a lot left in stock.

Best for hope

Malalau0026#039;s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
Price: $12.14

This beautifully illustrated book tells Malala's inspirational tale, in her own words, for a younger audience to understand and shows them how she held on to hope and to made her voice heard even in the most difficult of times.

One reviewer said: "I bought this for the children in my class as they were really gripped by her experiences. They loved this book. Wonderful illustrations and story."

Pros

  • Beautifully illustrated picture book.
  • This is one of the best and rare books depicting plight of girls education in certain parts of the world.

Cons

  • May be hard for the younger ones to fully comprehend.

Best for positivity

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World by Kate Pankhurst
Price: $13.55

From the descendant of suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, this book is a child friendly story all about the amazing women who changed the world for the better.

One reviewer said: "This book was suggested to me by another trainee teacher and when I saw the price I thought it was a no brainer. The children in my Year 2 placement class were amazed by the stories of these highly influential women, they could not believe that Rosa Parks was asked to move because she was a person of colour. Reading these mini-stories tot he children and seeing their positive reactions filled me with happiness and pride that the next generation are so accepting of one another."

Pros

  • Lovely illustrations and easy to read book for your children.
  • Reading these mini-stories will teach your children how to live in positivity.

Cons

  • Quick narration changes.

Best for pictures

I Don't Want to be Small by Laura Ellen Anderson
Price: $14.42

This is a fun and inspiring tale about learning to love who we are, no matter what size we come in. It's a perfect picture book for little people who don't want to be so little!

One reviewer said: "This is a lovely story that is beautifully written. It is enjoyable to read out loud. Definitely will be recommending this to my friends! Embarrassingly it has taken the recent movement for me to ensure that my daughters’ book collections is diverse. This is a fantastic addition!!"

Pros

  • A fun and inspiring tale about learning to love who we are, no matter what size. 
  • A perfect picture book for little people who don't want to be so little.

Cons

  • Suitable from birth to 5 years old.

Best for simplistic

What About Adjoa by Rachael Buabeng
Price: $8.85

A brilliant book if you're about to welcome your second or third baby and their older siblings need some help coming to terms with having to share you with their brothers and sisters.

One reviewer said: "My two year old loved this book. It was written in a simplistic manner and she was able to identify our own family members with the characters of the book. As a parent I love the concept. It has now become bedtime story of the week."

Pros

  • Written in a simplistic manner and will encourage children to be able to identif their own family members with the characters of the book. 
  • Lovely story to get your child ready and excited for a sibling.

Cons

  • A short book.

Best for inspiration

Amazing Muslims Who Changed the World by Burhana Islam
Price: $23.09

Full of inspirational Muslims your little one can look up to, you'll find people you might know, like Malala Yousafzai, Sir Mo Farah and Muhammad Ali, as well as some you might not.

One reviewer said: "Gave it as a present for a friend's child over Ramadan - they both loved it! It's great to see such positive, inspirational representation in kids books."

Pros

  • Stunningly illustrated treasure trove of iconic and hidden amazing Muslim heroes.
  • The artwork and the design are beautiful and the range of figures covered is wonderful.

Cons

  • Reviewers say that some profiles were questionable.

Best for fairytale

Rapunzel by Chloe Perkins

Rrp: $8.99

Price: $8.22

This refreshing take on the classic tale Rapunzel has an Indian spin on the beloved fairy tale! You can also get a similar Little Mermaid version in this series.

One reviewer said: "These books are amazing. My daughter loves them and it’s so nice to be able to find diverse picture books for kids with traditional stories. We have bought them all!"

Pros

  • Diverse picture books for kids with traditional stories. 
  • Nice illustration and story with simple language.
  • Quick bed time story book.

Cons

  • Suitable from 2 to 4-year-olds.

Best for understanding loss

Recommended by The Miscarriage Association, Child Bereavement UK, Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and Marie Curie, this book helps children understand bereavement and loss. Written by mum Emma who tragically lost her baby girl Lydie nine years ago, this book is written for young children about childhood loss, as she aimed to help her own children through the loss of their sibling.

One reviewer said: "Oh how I wish this book had existed 35 years ago when my 8-week old son died of SIDS. I never could bring myself to explain what had happened to my then 2-year old daughter. This wonderful book would have been perfect and would have helped not just her but myself too. It tackles an unbearably painful situation and somehow turns it into a cause for celebration. The gloriously simple and colourful illustrations would really attract a child's attention and have enough detail to be able to talk about easier things too such as colours, dressing up and picnics."

Pros

  • The book is beautifully written, honest but in the best way and very relatable. 
  • A lovely book that will help you explain to your little one, if you have sadly experienced baby loss.

Cons

  • Bright pictures.

Best for empowerment

Gemma Hunt

Rrp: $13.99

Price: $10.99

See, Let's Be Me by Gemma Hunt is a beautifully written children's story book that talks about key life lessons, through storytelling. This book will not only encourage your little one how to be strong, but it will also help them identify and be in control of their emotions, while embracing their qualities and uniqueness.

Review: "A really reassuring book for children under ten. The themes that each chapter takes on are suitable for that age and are issues that little ones will be confronted with often - who hasn’t lost their mum’s ring while playing, or had to do something like queue up whilst a littler sibling is along to go off and play instead of waiting?
The art work is lovely and is diverse and welcoming, The words are clear and my little one loved being read this."

Pros

  • Great and bright illustrations. 
  • Teaches young children how to act and behave in tough situations.

Cons

  • Only suitable from 3 - 5 year olds.

Why are books about diversity important

Diversity describes differences in age, culture, family structures, disabilities, ethnicity, gender, religion and sexual orientation. The more experience children experience diversity the better equipped they will be to understand differences in the wider society.

The world is full of people from different walks of life. More than likely, your child will make friends with people from different backgrounds. So, whilst it may feel like a challenging topic to approach, there are lots great diversity books that encourage healthy conversation. These books will help you educate your child on the importance of inclusivity, self-acceptance and embracing all cultures.

How to explain diversity to a child

The Early Years Provider guide, written by the government explains, "From an early age children have formed attitudes towards children different from themselves. Support children to be curious about people around them, to see and understand similarities and differences." It is a great idea to use children's books to open up honest conversations and discussions.

We've rounded up some of the best children's books about race, diversity and equality to read to your children.

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