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Building a Diverse Bookshelf: Encouraging Inclusivity in Children’s Lit + 6 Diverse Picture Books

Why is it important to have a diverse bookshelf? Well, there are so many reasons!

As a child, sometimes it can be difficult to be different from the other kids. This is one of the many reasons why it is important to teach children that they are valued and seen. Sometimes, being a child with friends or classmates who can’t relate to you can feel isolating. When young readers see themselves in books and can make connections with the characters, it can help provide validation for those who are going through struggles. Making connections to these inclusive characters can also exemplify possibilities for children. It can open their eyes to who and what they can be now and in the future.

Another reason why it is important to build a collection of books that value inclusivity is because it can be exciting for a young reader. Imagine being a child, opening a book, and seeing a character who you relate to. It can be a memorable moment for young readers when they come across a character that looks like them, has the same disability, shares their culture, or shares an array of other similarities.


 

Books with diverse characters can also help children build empathy for different people. Diversity in books also helps young readers find similarities with those who may seem quite different initially, which can help them relate more to others.

Valuing diversity and inclusivity in books is also beneficial for understanding others more. Some books can serve as an introduction for young readers to new perspectives, ideas, and experiences. Children’s books can also be a way for readers to learn about and engage with social issues and important topics they aren’t very familiar with. Many children can learn about topics that can sometimes be difficult to discuss– such as bullying, racism, sexism, or other social issues– in a way that can be easier for them to understand.

Next time your child is choosing a book to read, encourage them to search for a story with a character who looks different from them, a character who has a different culture from them, a character who has a disability, or even a topic that is new to them. This will help you and your child build a diverse and inclusive reading portfolio.

Here are six fantastic books that embrace diversity and would make a great addition to your bookshelf.




1. What If We Were All The Same! by C.M. Harris This is a phenomenal book for teaching children to embrace ethnic diversity. This book asks its readers the big question: What if we were all the same? The truth is that life would be very boring if this were true! Some folks have the wrong understanding of diversity and inclusion. They may believe that our differences inhibit our ability to relate and connect with each other, so we should ignore them. However, our differences should not be ignored. These differences make us who we are, so they should be celebrated. Differences can bring us together just as much as similarities do. As a bonus, the book has also been released in Spanish!

2. Erin, Roderick and the Diffability Bunch by Fliss Goldsmith Inclusion means also including folks with disabilities. This story is about a group of children competing in a race. The book does a great job of representing various disabilities while simultaneously telling a fun story. There is even a page of the book that shows a character communicating in sign language with close-up illustrations of the character’s hands! This book does a fantastic job of highlighting the unique capabilities of each individual.

3. Just Because... by C.M. Harris

Just because people might view you to be a certain way, it doesn’t mean you can’t diverge from these expectations. This is the first book in the Ms. Freckle series, and it takes place in a classroom filled with students of all kinds. The story shows readers examples of the ways that people can defy expectations. This book shows young children that having different preferences from others is okay. We all enjoy different activities, which should not make us feel excluded from others. Just Because... is a fantastic story for teaching young readers the importance of self-acceptance and diversity.

4. Erin & Roderick Discover Families by Fliss Goldsmith No family is exactly the same, and that is what this book sets out to teach young readers. This story brings visibility to families of all kinds, including traditional families, single-parent families, adoptive families, and much more. It is crucial to ensure that children feel seen and accepted if they come from a non-traditional family because it is rare to see these families being shown in the media.

5. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Do you have a name that gets mispronounced quite often? Well, a lot of people do! This book shines a light on those of us with a name that might not be very common where we reside. The Name Jar is about a young Korean girl named Unhei who moves to the United States, where her American classmates have trouble pronouncing her name. After going on an adventure of trying to find a new name, Unhei soon realizes that her name is unique and amazing! This book does a fantastic job of showcasing diversity in language, culture, and names while also telling a cute and clever story that captures the attention of young readers.

6. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold As a child, one of the best places to get to know different people is in a classroom. This book showcases a school with classrooms filled with loved, appreciated, and valued students, no matter their differences. The story does a great job of exemplifying how people have various traditions and backgrounds– all of which are celebrated.

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