21 Children’s Books that Foster Diversity & Inclusion in 2021

It’s hard to know where to start in order to raise socially, racially and culturally inclusive kids. Don’t feel overwhelmed- just like everything else in parenting - the process is incremental and requires consistency rather than intensity.

The books you have and stories you tell in your house is a great way to introduce complex topics in a way that’s easy to be grasped even by the youngest of little humans.

So to celebrate a new year and hopefully new beginnings, here’s a list* of 21 kids’ books that celebrate diversity and inclusion:

  • Note: All the links are to books on Amazon, but I encourage you to support small, local and/or BIPOC-owned businesses when you purchase new books. You can buy many of the books online at Bookshop.org, an online bookstore with a mission to financially support local, independent bookstores. Also, Oprah Magazine has a search tool where you can find Black-owned bookstores by state, available here.
  • This list is by no means comprehensive. Please use it as a general guide to the books that are most appropriate for your family’s cultural and social values.

“With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers. Themes associated with child development and social harmony, such as friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity are promoted in simple and straightforward prose.”

“This award-winning modern classic — a must-have for every child’s home library — is an inclusive ode to kindness, empathy, gratitude, and finding joy in unexpected places, and celebrates the special bond between a curious young Black boy and his loving grandmother.”

“Oliver Jeffers, arguably the most influential creator of picture books today, offers a rare personal look inside his own hopes and wishes for his child — and in doing so gifts children and parents everywhere with a gently sweet and humorous missive about our world and those who call it home.”

“In Japan, Kei plays Freeze Tag, while in Uganda, Daphine likes to jump rope. While the way they play may differ, the shared rhythm of their days — and this one world we all share — unites them.”

“When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering: What does it mean to be kind?”

“In this lively picture book that Booklist described as “a cheerful color-concept book that presents a slice of Latino culture through food and fun,” children discover a world of colors all around them: red is spices and swirling skirts, yellow is masa, tortillas, and sweet corn cake.”

“ ‘There was a girl in the village who loved horses… She spoke softly and they followed…’
And so begins the story of a young Native American girl devoted to the care of her tribe’s horses. With simple text and brilliant illustrations. Paul Goble tells how she eventually becomes one of them to forever run free.”

“Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.”

“Being the new kid in school is hard enough, but what about when nobody can pronounce your name? Having just moved from Korea, Unhei is anxious that American kids will like her. So instead of introducing herself on the first day of school, she tells the class that she will choose a name by the following week…”

“A heartfelt and meaningful book that brings Bob Marley’s music to life: As a young girl goes on with her day in school, she comes across several instances of teasing and intimidation. But with loving action and some help from her friends, she’s able to make things right for herself and others.”

“In an energetic illustrated story about a first sleepover under the stars, acclaimed author-illustrator Jennifer K. Mann reminds us that opening your mind to new experiences, no matter how challenging, can lead to great memories (and a newfound taste for s’mores).”

“When a girl is asked where she’s from — where she’s really from — none of her answers seems to be the right one. Unsure about how to reply, she turns to her loving abuelo for help. He doesn’t give her the response she expects. She gets an even better one.”

“Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home.”

“Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school . . . until one day, when Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer do so. Sofia (aka Sofi) misses her Abuelo and wonders what she can do about the dangerous Mount Trashmore. Then she gets an idea — the town can turn the slimy mess into a park!”

“Join the family, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration…Acclaimed illustrator and animator Kenard Pak’s light-filled, dramatic illustrations pair exquisitely with Ilima Loomis’ text to celebrate Hawaiian land and culture.”

“In 1848, Mary Walker was born into slavery. At age 15, she was freed, and by age 20, she was married and had her first child. By age 68, she had worked numerous jobs, including cooking, cleaning, and babysitting. At 114, she was the last remaining member of her family. And at 116, she learned to read.”

“May isn’t having fun on her trip through Chinatown with her grandfather. Gong Gong doesn’t speak much English, and May can’t understand Chinese. She’s hungry, and bored with Gong Gong’s errands. Plus, it seems like Gong Gong’s friends are making fun of her! But just when May can’t take any more, Gong Gong surprises her with a gift…”

“A Norman Rockwell-inspired Sunday in the park, a love poem from a father to his two sons, and a tribute to the bees that pollinate the foods we love to eat. Children are introduced to different kinds of bees, ‘how not to get stung,’ and how the things we fear are often things we don’t fully understand.”

“Rashin is excited about her first visit to the beach in her new home. On the way, she remembers beach trips were in Iran, the beautiful Caspian Sea, the Persian music, and the saffron ice cream she shared with her best friend. But there are wonderful things here too: a subway train, exciting music…and maybe even a new friend!”

“Pink is for boys . . . and girls . . . and everyone! This timely and beautiful picture book rethinks and reframes the stereotypical blue/pink gender binary and empowers kids-and their grown-ups-to express themselves in every color of the rainbow.”

“When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth
And poison her people’s water, one young water protector
takes a stand to defend Earth’s most sacred resource.”