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Christina Paladeau,
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Choosing Diversity in Children's Books

 

five young children of different races and ethnicities lay on their stomachs and read books

Reading should provide both familiar and differing perspectives for kids.

A Reflection of Our World

Diversity is all around us. It is found in our multicultural backgrounds, differing abilities, genders and sexual orientations, and many more aspects of our lives and identities. The countless perspectives this diversity generates both reflect and enlighten our world, and presenting them to young children is an important part of their early literacy and social development. As educators, librarians and other groups and organizations strongly encourage writers and publishers to increase the diversity in their books, children’s books are becoming more diverse.

Books can be a first introduction to the diversity in our world for children, especially when chosen intentionally. Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop illustrated this in her celebrated 1990 Profiles and Perspectives article that presents children’s books as mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors into a child’s own world and other, different ones. Bishop focused her attention on the scarcity of African American characters and the African American experience in children’s literature, but her concepts can be applied to any type of diversity.

Evaluate Books as “Mirrors” and “Windows”

When evaluating books to read to young children, it is important to include ones in which children will see themselves reflected in an authentic manner — books that function as “mirrors.” A child’s self-image is influenced in a positive way when they see their identity and experiences included in the books available for them to read. The opposite applies, too. When a child’s diversity is not reflected in available book choices, or if the reflection is stereotypical or negative, they begin to feel devalued by their society.

Book choices should also be a "window" into other people and experiences to build a better understanding of different worlds. From looking out that window, children should then be able to walk through a "sliding glass door" and imagine themselves as part of the other world that the author has created. Keep the mirror, window and sliding door analogy in mind when choosing books for children, use the list below as a starting point, and contact your local branch to ask about more resources and recommendations for diverse stories.

book covers of recommended titles for diverse children's booksRecommended Titles

  • All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
  • Illustrations and simple, rhyming text introduce a school where diversity is celebrated and songs, stories, and talents are shared.
  • Brave by Stacy McAnulty
  • Every kid faces unique challenges, fears and pressures. This book encourages kids to be brave in all the ways they can: trying new things, speaking their mind, confronting bullies and more.
  • Lola Plants a Garden by Anna McQuinn
  • Lola plants a flower garden with her parent's help and watches it grow.
  • Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez
  • When a boy's abuela accuses him of being careless with his beloved Bongo, he devises a trap and catches the toy thief red-handed.
  • Max Speed by Stephen Shaskan
  • Tiny speed car racer, Max, goes on the imagined adventure after cleaning his room until he finds his way back home.
  • Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora
  • A little girl greets people in her neighborhood in many different languages.
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