Children's Books- Teaching Diversity

As the results of the election continue to percolate and hurt, my husband and I have talked about things we can actually do, as opposed to just complaining (granted we're just getting warmed up, I'm sure). We've talked about how we can use our jobs as vehicles to spread tolerance (he is in advertising and me, as a teacher, can ensure that my classroom is a safe place and that my students know I am open-minded and accepting, whether they are undocumented, homosexual, etc...), allocate our charitable contributions towards places that may be in jeopardy (or up the amounts for ones we already give to that need it), and, most importantly, do everything we can to raise a son that does not discriminate against those of different nationalities and ethnicities, understands that women are equal and have a right to do what they please with their bodies, acknowledges gender fluidity and same sex marriages, and is conscientious of the environment (and lots of other things). Obviously the best way to teach this is by owning it and living it ourselves. But conversations do need to happen- you can't expect that your child is a complete sponge. We also know that Sawyer has his own brain and will make his own decisions. But the fundamental rights of others to exist safely and fairly, and the need for our earth to be protected, are non-negotiable. 

He is only two-and-a-half right now, so sitting him down to watch TED Talks or engaging in discussions in the car about Obamacare and the Lilly Ledbetter Act are sort of unrealistic right now. But I truly believe that it's never too early to start the conversation, so that's why, in a semi-knee-jerk reaction to the election that I don't regret at all, I ordered many, many children's books that promote diversity and awareness of important issues. This is my first kid, after all- I am not exactly an expert on explaining greenhouse emissions or homosexuality to a small child. Here's what we will be reading and talking about:


This story is about a young boy who can't get the cool shoes that all the other kids are getting; he feels left out and his grandmother feels guilty. When he does track down a pair at a thrift store they are too small but he decides to give to his friend who was the only person that didn't make fun of him.


I love this board book! It goes through the alphabet and brings up some extensive activism vocabulary ("Z is for zapatista"), has a picture of a mom breastfeeding (implied though, no boobage), and covers a wide range of topics from solar power, to democracy, to feminism, to healthy food.

Environmental Awareness

This story tells the tale of a young girl who lives in the Arctic and notices some polar bear cubs separated from their mother one day while she is out on a boat with her father. He uses this as an opportunity to talk about greenhouse emissions and the melting glaciers. It's cute, quick, and to the point. I also love that there are some kid-friendly tips on how to help the environment at the end.


The author, Andrea Beatty, has written a couple of other great books that show kids doing great things (and being allowed to do so). I chose this book because it's an African American little girl who is the budding scientist- not her brother, not her white friend that she's helping, but her and her alone. The message is great (not just boys, but girls too can observe, ask questions, persist), the story is fun, and the illustrations are the best (we also have Iggy Peck, Architect, which is a favorite around here). 

This one is a little long, so I might only read it when he's getting sleepy or when he's eating (aka mobility is low). The content is great, though. Besides Ruth just being a total rockstar (did anyone notice her dissent collar on Wednesday, despite not making any decisions? In-yo-face), this book shows what women can accomplish, while helping others who need it.

LGBTQ Rights

We've actually talked about families having two daddies before, since we have And Tango Makes Three, but I liked that this one was about a little girl who goes to school and realizes that there is nothing wrong with her two mommies. She feels a little different, but the teacher explains that all families are different but great- just as all teachers should. Sawyer is going to preschool next year and it is important to me that he knows that what some may deem as "untraditional" is totally normal. 

Racial and Ethnic Awareness and Equality

This book, about a Chinese girl who is walking through her neighborhood and pointing out shapes seen in many items unique to her culture, is more about awareness. Where we live the Asian community isn't super dominant, so it's important for Sawyer to see different types of food, dress, decor, etc...

The text of this book are lyrics to the song, along with some really beautiful illustrations. While the words are pretty simple, I think that the conversations that can occur based on the pictures (and even song!) could be pretty important. Part of me wants to roll my eyes at this one, but I know he will love it and I also know this can springboard into more important talks in the future. So, this one is a good one for just exploring differences.  Oh, and I'm not playing the CD of the song for him. Just... no. 

This book is published by National Geographic and has simple words accompanying powerful photography of families from around the world doing the basic things all humans do- eating, interacting, traveling, playing, etc... Bottom line- despite having different colored skin, wearing different clothing, or living in a variety of habitats, we are all human. 

This one made me sort of angry, but at reality not the book itself. Unhei, a Korean immigrant, arrives in America and feels pressured to change her name because people can't pronounce it or think it's too different (this has happened with many of my own students, over the years; I will be the first to admit that sometimes I have some serious "white girl" pronunciation, but I would NEVER ask a student to change his or her name or if I could give them an easier-to-say nickname). Eventually she becomes more comfortable, but it takes time and she is lucky to have some kind interactions along the way. Respecting who people are and where they come from, as well as their cultures, is so critical.

So, here are the ten I've bought this time around (obviously I didn't find one on everything; I'd like to do some more research and find some more... suggestions welcome!). We buy Sawyer lots of books and making sure I am more conscientious when selecting them in the future to include a variety of subjects, characters, and authors is something that's important to me. 

So, yes, I am fearful for the direction of our country, but I do know that I am doing my part in my home.


  1. Love this post. Great list! Writing them down for reference for myself, thanks! :)

  2. LOVE this list - thank you! I have a lot of friends who have been asking about children's books and I'm at a loss with that genre so I really appreciate this.

  3. I will have to check these out! Thanks for sharing. I was recently listening to a podcast and they discussed the need for more diverse books beyond "issue" books that was prompted by an article on Slate (I think). So I'm trying to keep that in mind too when I look for books at the library or to buy. I know I have a lot of room for improvement!