I have been trying to decide how I would celebrate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy here on the blog. I have a passion for social justice, and one of my passions it helping families and schools develop more diverse libraries. Research tells us that children develop ideas about race and bias very early, and so there is not an age that is too early to be teaching and exposing our children to the beautiful diversity in their world. All children should have a chance to see themselves in books, as well as see cultures, people, and experiences that they may not have an opportunity to in their everyday life. Books have the power to be windows and mirrors – reflecting and expanding on every child’s own experiences. Here are some of my favorite diverse books for toddlers. None of these books specifically talk about race, or gender, or religion; they are books that simply reflect the diversity in the world. This is not a definitive list, and I welcome your suggestions in comments, let’s keep this list growing!
Last week we discussed books with Black characters that are not about race on No Time For Flash Cards Facebook Page – check out that conversation and book suggestions here.
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The Airport Book by Lisa Brown was a book I picked up while delayed for a flight last fall. I was floored by how amazing this book is, not only because it has a wonderful step by step of air travel for toddlers but because the illustrations capture such a wide variety of people. Every time I open it, I see different groups represented and loved its ability to be so inclusive. The main characters are a family with a Black dad and a Caucasian mom. There is nothing said about any of the people in the book; it is merely the norm. Diversity is the norm; I love it!
Ten Little Fingers, Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox is a favorite with toddlers. This simple book is rhythmic, rhyming, and calming. I love using this book to help a child who is unable to calm themselves to get re-focused. The babies in the book are from a variety of ethnicities; their faces are expressive, and despite a short text ( perfect for toddlers), there are so many learning opportunities to expand on if the children or child you are reading this to are open to that. For older kids, I don’t think there is a better book than Whoever You Are by the same author – but this is one of my favorites for toddlers.
City Block by Christopher Franceschelli is a fantastic board book that follows two children and their grandpa as they spend a day in the city. They explore all the fun options that are available in the city from ways to get around the city, what to do in the city, and our favorite what to eat in the city. This book embraces all the interesting things found in a city. It also seamlessly weaves a tapestry of diversity found in cities on every page. There are all different people, places, foods, but nothing is represented as exotic or unusual everything is just part of the city. The diversity in this book is fabulous because there is no mention of it. It’s wonderful because it embodies the diversity found and celebrated in so many big cities. I think this is one of my favorite board books in my collection!
Hugs and Kisses by Roberta Grobel Intrater is as simple as can be but still an important addition to your home or school library. This book is simply pictures of babies and parents hugging and kissing, but its inclusion of different genders and races of parents is a nice departure from the usual white moms and babies that are most commonly found in books like these.
Ten Tiny Babies by Karen Katz is a colorful counting book that toddlers adore. The premise is simple, as many of the books on this list, but that’s sort of the point. There is no comment about race or ethnicity, only inclusion. These are the types of books that should be lining bookshelves everywhere – so children can see themselves and the rich diversity of faces in books from day one.
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers and Marla Frazee. This book celebrates all sorts of babies and all the every day things babies do. My daughter points out all the babies on each page as I read the rhyming text. So maybe you are thinking, “What’s so great about babies and text that rhymes?” nothing, that isn’t what makes this book so awesome. I love this book because of it’s diversity, inclusion, and acceptance of all babies and families. The illustrations are full of depictions of all sorts of families showering their smallest, most precious member with love. What I adore about the diversity of the illustrations is that readers are left to put whatever assumption we wish on the families in the book. What I assumed were two mommies my husband thought was a husband and wife, I thought a lady was a grandma, and my son said it was just an older mom. This is why I love this book, my daughter doesn’t see why this message is outstanding, what she does see is all sorts of happy babies in all kinds of families being the norm, and this is the world we want her to know.
All Fall Down by Helen Oxenbury is a short board book with big illustrations that engage children. The magic of this book is that children can create their own story after becoming familiar with the simple one described in the text. My students enjoy reading this book to themselves, making up new stories about the diverse group of babies in the book.
The Family Book by Todd Parr is a book that doesn’t give readers a narrow definition of family; it doesn’t say that your family has to look a certain way or be the same as your neighbors. As a teacher, I really appreciated the matter of fact way it embraced diversity. It makes mention of some families having two moms or two dads in the same vein as all the other similarities and differences. Kids see that families are not all like theirs, and it’s crucial to validate the truth while recognizing that while families may not all look alike, all families are made with love. Great book, cute illustrations, and children love it.
All The World by Liz Garten Scanlon’s message about diversity is subtle and goes so much further than merely human differences. There is diversity everywhere; all of our differences come together to keep the world going. This book is very poetic; it leaves the readers both old and young, feeling peaceful and connected. I love this book, and it’s ambiguous but lovely images of people of all different backgrounds working, eating, and playing together. Oh, and this is a fantastic book to calm a busy preschool class.
Global Babies by The Global Fund For Children is a photo book of children all around the world. This book has generated questions with every group of children I have ever read it to. Wonderful questions, comparisons, and thoughts about how we are the same and how we are different. I am always amazed at how such a simple book can create learning experiences about seeing a common ground through our differences so easily—a great book to add to your home or classroom.
More More More Said The Baby by Vera B. Williams is all about the connections between toddlers and their caregivers. There isn’t a lot of action because the book is focused on all the little ways that we play with toddlers and how important they are. Toddlers and babies adore this book. I love that while various ethnicities are included, there is also a multi-racial toddler and caregiver pairing. That isn’t just important for children who are from multi-ethnic families, but also for children who didn’t know that was a possibility.