Updated: Jun 18, 2020
Our children see, hear and learn from us every day. They watch as we navigate the division and prejudice which, sadly, are still very much alive in today’s world. Talking to little ones about diversity, helping them to accept difference and act with compassion and empathy is key to shaping a better world for tomorrow. To help open up conversations, we have collected 7 of our favourite children’s books about diversity and accepting others, however they may differ from us.
Children of the World – Tessa Strickland, Kate dePalma & David Dean
A characteristically colourful offering from the brilliant Barefoot Books, this wonderfully informative, thought-provoking book introduces children from across the globe. Beautiful hand-painted illustrations highlight and celebrate a multitude of differences, including size, shape, skin colour, what we eat, where we live and how we celebrate special occasions, interspersed with questions to invite little ones to reflect on their own experiences alongside those of others. We think this is a must-have for all little readers!
It’s Okay To be Different – Todd Parr
In his signature bold, light-hearted style Todd Parr celebrates difference using the repetition of the reassuring message, ‘It’s OK to…’ Whether our differences are physical, cultural or in the way we think and feel, Parr gives examples that little ones will easily understand, sensitively and inclusively but with a little silliness thrown in here and there, to convey the message that it’s fine to be ourselves, just as we are.
Julian is a Mermaid – Jessica Love
A ground-breaking, truly joyous book about a little boy who spots three women dressed in beautiful brightly coloured clothing and just knows that he wants to be a ‘mermaid’ too. The artwork is vibrant and celebratory as Julian crafts his own exotic mermaid costume from things he finds around the house, and readers will be charmed as Julian’s Nana accepts his wishes and helps him to celebrate his individuality by joining the mermaid parade. A vitally important story about self-expression and acceptance.
Last Stop on Market Street – Matt de la Peña
A gentle, thoughtful story with expressive illustrations that highlights the wonderful diversity of urban spaces. CJ doesn’t understand why he must accompany his grandmother on the bus across town after church when many of his friends are doing other, more ‘fun’ things. But as Nana introduces him to the unique characters travelling on the bus with them and encourages him to open his eyes, ears and mind to the wonders of the city, CJ begins to feel lucky that he gets to experience the beauty all around him.
Just Like Me - Vanessa Brantley Newton
This richly illustrated poetry collection depicts a whole world of girls, of many ethnicities, backgrounds, situations and personalities, and each of their unique hopes and dreams. Together the little stories form a multitude of girls’ voices calling out the things they want for themselves and the things they hope to see in their world, echoed by the layered style of illustration which incorporates different textures and patterns. A vibrant, uplifting book with the affirming message that if we support each other in our dreams, we can change the world together.
Hands Up! - Breanna J. McDaniel
An important picture book which takes the phrase ‘Hands Up!’ with its often negative connotations and instead celebrates all the ways we raise our hands in positive action, whether it be to greet the sun, to express joy or abandon or to help others. We love the way the book advocates confidently raising one’s own hands to express oneself and eventually to stand up for one’s beliefs, as we see the protagonist join a protest march on the final page, along with their diverse community.
Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match: Marisol McDonald no combina – Monica Brown
Marisol McDonald is a heroine for our time as she defies any attempts to pigeon-hole her as one thing or the other. A Peruvian-Scottish-American girl, she has a unique appearance and eclectic tastes which seem strange to her peers, but when she tries to conform, she ultimately discovers that she likes being herself best! This brilliant bilingual book with gorgeous acrylic illustrations delivers its message of self-expression, self-confidence and respecting and celebrating difference beautifully.
Enjoy our Story-time readings of 'It's Okay to Be Different' by Todd Parr and 'Julian Is a Mermaid' by Jessica Love here! And for more of our favourite stories, see our collection of Story-time videos at Maggieandrose.me.