Updated: Jul 24, 2020
We think the books we share with our children should reflect the wonderful wealth of diversity, experience and culture in our communities. It’s important that children feel represented in the books that they read, but it’s also crucial that we don’t ‘otherise’ books that portray characters and experiences different to those of our children. Happily, where children’s books have historically largely portrayed white characters and experience, they are slowly becoming more diverse. We’ve shared 8 of our favourite books to bring diversity to your little one’s bookshelves to help them start to recognise and celebrate difference along with the things we all have in common.
Bedtime Bonnet - Nancy Redd
A sweet tale of familial love and closeness which joyfully depicts the bedtime routine of each member of a black family and how they ready their hair for bed. When a little girl mislays her bonnet just before bedtime, we see each of her family members helping her search while also displaying the various ways they style and protect their own hair. A charming story in bright colours that celebrates the small ways in which family members love and nurture themselves and each other.
Who Will You Be – Andrea Pippins
A picture book just made for new parents to read to their little ones, with lilting text that imagines all the wonderful things a child may grow up to be and the qualities they may inherit from their family and community. The book ends with a tender, moving message from parent to child reminding them that, though those around them will help to shape who they become, they are wonderful in their uniqueness and will always be loved.
Keats’s Neighborhood – Ezra Jack Keats
We love this collection of 10 of Keats’ stories which were some of the first to depict a non-white character in children’s literature. Beginning with the award-winning The Snowy Day, first published in 1962, Keats’ works feature a little boy exploring his urban environment alongside his trusty dog, in stories that combine a sense of wonder at the small things and some relatable challenges and frustrations of childhood within the loving comfort of a family.
Leila in Saffron – Rukhsanna Guidroz
Leila is still figuring out who she is and the things she likes about herself, and her family are there to help in this beautifully descriptive story which tantalises the senses. There is a wonderful sense of nurture and community as the family gather for their Friday night dinner and each family member helps Leila to see the things that make her unique. The stunningly detailed illustrations by Dinara Mirtalipova bring the sensory descriptions and the warmth of the family home to life.
Islandborn – Junot Díaz
A vibrant feast of a book from Pulitzer Prize winning author Díaz. Lola left the island where she was born when she was too young to remember, but as she talks to family and friends she re-discovers the thrilling colours and sounds and the darker, more frightening history of her island. Not only does the story celebrate diversity, with the children in Lola’s class at school hailing from many different places, but it also shows how by understanding our own history and using our imaginations we can re-connect to the places we are from.
A Big Bed for Little Snow – Grace Lin
A cosy story perfect for bedtime reading. Little Snow’s big bed is a gorgeous fluffy cloud up high in the sky, and every time he bounces on it it snows down below him! Little ones will love Little Snow’s cheekiness as he jumps the stuffing out of his bed, despite his Mother’s protestations, in this dreamlike book with a soft blue and white colour palette.
The Proudest Blue – Ibtihaj Muhammad
A lyrical, uplifting book about a little girl’s first day of wearing hijab. Told from the perspective of her younger sister Faizah, Asiya wears her beautiful blue hijab with pride – but not all the children at their school understand and accept it. We love the bond between the two sisters and the way Faizah looks up to Asiya and supports her unfailingly, with the words of their mother as a refrain giving them both strength against prejudice.
Hansel and Gretel - Brothers Grimm & Rachel Isadora
Rachel Isadora’s re-telling of the classic fairy tale transplants Hansel and Gretel from a dark European wood into a lush forest in Africa. The story is illustrated in glorious, vivid detail as the children venture deeper into the jungle, surrounded by the bright, exotic creatures that live there.
To enjoy more of our favourite books in our Story-time videos, visit our video classes library