Why should we read inclusive and diverse books to our toddlers and babies? There are a million reasons and benefits to making sure your child’s library is diverse and inclusive regardless of your race, ethnicity or gender.
If you are Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color (BIPOC) you already know representation matters. It is important that children grow up seeing children that look like them in the books they read.
Sadly, 2018 statistics showed that 50% of children’s books were White characters, with more children’s books with animals as characters than there are Black, Latinx, Indigenous, and Asian Pacific characters combined!
As parents and caregivers, we can help change this by creating more demand for diversity in our children’s books and by supporting BIPOC or LGBTQ+ authors whenever possible.
Not only is it vital that characters in books reflect a wide variety of races or ethnicities, but it is also important to have books that reflect different gender, gender identities and expressions, sexual orientations and children with different abilities.
Ideally, we want a mixture of books showing strong, diverse role models (real or fictional) AND diverse characters in every day stories.
Seeing children that reflect the wide variety of children in real life will help develop their empathy, compassion and acceptance. And the earlier the better!
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Diverse Books For Babies (0-1)
- Global Babies by The Global Fund For Children – Babies love seeing real life faces of other babies, and this book shows real life babies from around the world. There is also Global Baby Bedtimes, Global Baby Boys and Global Baby Girls.
- Every Little Thing and One Love, based on songs by Bob Marley, adapted by Cedella Marley
- Rain Feet by Angela Johnson
- All Kinds of People by Shelley Rotner – The board book adaptation of Shades of People.
- My Friends by Taro Gomi
- Pride Colors by Robin Stevenson – A great board book about colors that celebrates love and shows photographs of children and LGBTQ+ families.
- Amazing Me!: Music! by Carol Thompson
- May We Have Enough To Share by Richard Van Camp – Features beautiful real family photos by Indigenous women photographers.
- You Hold Me Up by Monique Gray Smith
- How Do You Say I Love You by Hannah Eliot – Learn how to say “I Love You” in ten different languages.
- Let’s Dance by Valerie Bolling – A beautifully illustrated book about different types of dances from around the world. This book is simple enough for babies, but at the end, it has more information about the dances for older children.
- A Feast For Ten by Cathryn Falwell
- Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison – An empowering board book featuring 18 Black female role models.
- Dim Sum For Everyone by Grace Lin
Diverse Books For Toddlers And Up
- First Laugh, Welcome Baby by Rose Ann Tahe & Nancy Bo Flood – I love this sweet story of a Navajo family waiting for their baby’s first laugh. At the end, there is a brief summary of the Navajo tradition of the First Laugh Celebration, as well as other ceremonies around the world.
- The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
- Fry Bread by Kevin Noble Maillard – There is even a delicious recipe for fry bread at the end to make with your child.
- Hush! A Thai Lullaby by Minfong Ho
- Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk
- The Library Book by Tom Chapin and Michael Mark – This is currently one of my 2 year old’s favorite books: a cute rhyming story about a girl going to the library to check out some books.
- Neither by Airlie Anderson – Beautiful, colorful illustrations of a unique creature that is neither “this” or “that”. It has a great message about exclusion and acceptance and is an age-appropriate introduction to conversations about transgender or non-binary folks.
- I Am Brave: A Little Book About Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer
- Around The World We Go by Margaret Wise Brown
- My First Yoga by Sally Beets – Yoga poses featuring photos of a diverse group of children.
- Round Is A Tortilla: A Book of Shapes by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
- Red Is A Dragon: A Book of Colors by Roseanne Greenfield Thong
- All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold – This book celebrates children and families of different cultures and traditions.
- This Little Trailblazer: A Girl Power Primer by Joan Holub
- Shades of People by Shelley Rotner
- Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love – A beautifully illustrated story about a boy who wants to be a mermaid.
- Happy In Our Skin by Fran Manushkin
Older Toddler/Preschooler Books
- Mae Among The Stars by Roda Ahmed – Inspired by the story of Mae Jemison, the first African American woman in space.
- Santa’s Husband by Daniel Kibblesmith
- Giving Thanks by Chief Jake Swamp
- Antiracist Baby by Ibram X Kendi – Even though the title is “Baby,” I would suggest this book is more suitable for an older toddler/preschool age.
- I Am Enough by Grace Byers
- We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell
- A Day In The Life Of Marlon Bundo by Marlon Bundo and Jill Twiss
- And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell – Based on a true story of two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo.
The For Purpose Kids also has a great book subscription focused on inclusive books with diverse characters.
By reading diverse books to our children, we can raise them to be more empathic, anti-racist and accepting. Thus, creating a happier, safer world for all.
This is a fairly small list of books that I personally own or we’ve lent from the library. There have been a few that I’ve seen on some suggested book lists that are somewhat problematic, so I’ve intentionally left them off this list.
So, please be sure to use your own critical eye when choosing diverse and inclusive books for your child(ren).
Please share your favorite diverse and inclusive books for toddlers and babies that need to be added to this list!
My grandmother is Mohawk and it is very important to me to have my children grow up appreciating that part of them. So, I’m always on the lookout for some great children’s books by Native American authors!
For more Montessori-aligned baby books find Sue’s list here.