7 Picture Books That Illustrate the Complexity of Diversity

As a professor of world literature and a mother of a three-year-old daughter, I try to fill our house with insightful books from many perspectives.

I find myself wanting to do all I can to show my daughter that the world is a big place filled with lots of people who believe all kinds of things and look all kinds of ways.

Here are some of our favorite picture books about diversity that we find fun, readable, and engaging.

1. Malala Yousafzai: Warrior with Words by Karen Leggett Abouraya

This book strikes a delicate balance between telling the story of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai while being careful not to overwhelm young readers with violent details. Emphasizing the importance of girls’ rights, this book helps the young reader learn about the challenges facing Malala and her schoolmates when they so desperately want to attend classes while living under a repressive regime that denied girls any education.

2. Skin Again by bell hooks

As a feminist scholar, I was delighted to learn upon the birth of my child that one of my favorite writers published a children's book in 2004. “Skin Again” helps children begin to think about the construct of race and how it affects one's identity, all through fun rhymes and colorful pictures. This book is my go-to present for kids.

3. Rad American Women A–Z: Rebels, Trailblazers, and Visionaries Who Shaped Our History ... and Our Future by Kate Schatz

This book rocks. Talk about diversity! It contains people of all body shapes, races, sizes, ethnicities, classes, and genders. I ordered a copy for my daughter's preschool teacher as well. I want a poster of all of the letters for my office! Why not learn about the alphabet and diversity at the same time?

4. Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim

My daughter loves this retelling of Goldilocks that teaches readers about Chinese New Year through the mishaps Goldy Luck encounters while delivering turnip cakes to her neighbors. This book is fun, educational, and beautifully illustrated. We keep meaning to make the recipe on the last page. Maybe this year?

5. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

I love this classic because it is not explicitly about race. Instead, it shows a young African-American boy going out to play in the snow, something many children can relate to. Good literature allows readers to connect with characters that sometimes look different from themselves. Also, I appreciate that this book talks about going from one apartment to another, thereby showing class diversity.

6. Songs of Shiprock Fair by Luci Tapahonso

Nezbah, a young Navajo girl, tells this story of her family going to the fair. Using poetry and illustrations, young readers connect with the protagonist as she connects with her culture — and has an adventure at the same time!

7. What I Be by Michael Franti

This book cultivates self-acceptance and radiates joy. The hard copy even comes with a CD of the book's text so kids can sing along with the uplifting message that we all matter, we can all connect, and we should all love each other. The story shows a diverse cast of abilities, classes, races, and genders.

Happy reading!

Looking for more books for your child? Check out: 39 Librarian Recommended Books to Check Out This Summer.

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