My Favourite Children’s books with diverse, multicultural characters and themes.
Children’s books should represent the beautiful diversity of our world, yet a 2020 report from the Centre for Literacy in Primary Development showed only 5% of central characters in children’s books represent ethnic minorities. This is a list of my favourite children’s books that represent multiculturism, diversity and inclusion.
The links are affiliate to Blackwell’s. I choose Blackwell’s as an alternative to Amazon as they are more ethical and offer free UK delivery, I have been using them personally for books since boycotting Amazon two years ago, and their service has always been great.
This bold, beautiful board book introduces five essential expressions: happy, sad, angry, surprised, and silly. Each expression is introduced with a large image of a baby’s face. Readers are asked to mimic the face, then pick it out from a group of other babies. The very last spread includes all of the expressions from the previous pages, and a mirror so readers can watch themselves make any face they please!
Why we like it: The illustrations are real photographs of babies faces, with a diverse range of skin tones. The faces are isolated, making the emotions easy to identify. The reader is asked to look at an emotion, mimic an emotion, and then pick out the emotion from a group of faces , making this book multi-use, challenging and practical in learning!
From Guatemala to Bhutan, seventeen vibrantly colored photographs embrace our global diversity and give glimpses into the daily life, traditions, and clothing of babies from around the world. Simple text in Spanish and English teaches the littlest readers that everywhere on earth, babies are special and loved.
Why we like it: another hit for the real photographs here! Filled with beautiful pictures from around the world representing diverse cultures.
This rhythmic board book by bestselling author Mem Fox, with colorful and whimsical illustrations by Leslie Staub, celebrates the diversity in our world and the fact that, inside, we are all the same–wherever and whoever we are.
Why we like it: This book has beautiful illustrations of people around the world, inclusive language and a nice rhythm and rhyme.
Join in the fun of singing and bouncing in this bright and cheerful board book.
Why we like it: In this book, and the others from the same series, Helen Oxenbury has beautiful illustrations that are realistic, with a diverse range of babies represented. The book is fun, promotes movement and is engaging.
All over the world, babies are different. Yet in some ways they are very much the same: each one has ten little fingers and ten little toes – to play with, to tickle, to wave. And each child is very, very special to its parents.
Why we like it: The beautiful illustrations of Helen Oxenbury, the lovey rhythm and rhyme of Mem fox, this book brings both together seamlessly.
A ground-breaking picture book about religion, sisterhood and identity. It’s Faizah’s first day of school, and her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab – made of a beautiful blue fabric. But not everyone sees hijab as beautiful. In the face of hurtful, confusing words, will Faizah find new ways to be strong?
Why we like it: I brought this book when my son was asking about hijab, It provided a wonderful centre to our following conversation. The book delightfully tells about two sisters experience of hijab in a wonderfully artistic and poetic way.
While riding the subway home with his Nana one day, Julian notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train carriage. When Julian gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies and making his own fabulous mermaid costume. But what will Nana think about the mess he makes – and even more importantly – what will she think about how Julian sees himself?
Why we Like it: Every time I share this book with my son we find joy in it – with few words it leaves the child themselves free to interpret the beautiful illustrations. It presents culture, gender and emotional challenge in a subtle but poignant way.
Don’t Touch my Hair – Sharee Millar
Author-illustrator Sharee Miller takes the tradition of appreciation of black hair to a new, fresh, level as she doesn’t seek to convince or remind young readers that their curls are beautiful — she simply acknowledges black beauty while telling a fun, imaginative story.
Why we like it: Another book I discovered for my son – he has a wild mix of afro and European hair, resulting in huge curls that he adores. I make a point of instilling pride in his mixed appearance, and this book was perfent for that! It is a fun tale, sure to be enjoyed by many children.
Now Pharrell Williams brings his beloved song to the youngest of readers in photographs of children across cultures celebrating what it means to be happy. All the exuberance of the song pulses from these vibrant photographs of excited, happy kids. This is a picture book full of memorable, precious childhood moments that will move readers in the same way they were moved by the song.
Why we like it: This is a wonderful photograph picture book, showing real children in a joyful way – a deleight for any age to flip through.
Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India. They are pen pals. By exchanging letters and pictures, they learn that they both love to climb trees, have pets, and go to school. Their worlds might look different, but they are actually similar. Same, same. But different!
Why we like it: The title same, same but different – derives from a popular phrase originating in Thailand that was spread by travellers and tourists – it’s a phrase I heard lots while working in East Africa. This book brings the phrase to life in a delightful story of two friends from across the world.
In this traditional tale, discovered in Kenya, a young herd boy Ki-pat must find a way to end the dreadful drought that has come to the beautiful Kapiti Plain and save the animals that live there. The cumulative rhyme is a joy to read aloud and a wonderful way to engage young children.
Why we like it: I lived and worked in East Africa, and had the privilege to visit the Massai Mara many times – this book brings the scenery, oral storytelling and culture to life in a wonderful rhyme.
Zahra sees the world in vivid colour. When she’s happy, she feels a razzle-dazzle pink in her hands. When she’s sad, she feels a deep blue behind her eyes. But she isn’t quite sure how to feel about the colour of her skin. Kids at school tell her she is different, but her mother tells her to be proud! From a diverse team and based on extensive research, The Proudest Colour is a timely, sensitive introduction to race, racism, and racial pride.
Why we like it: beautifully illustrated, emotive and a lovely story. Bringing an important message in an age-appropriate way – I will never forget the first time my son told me a child said he couldn’t play because he is brown – every child needs to hear this story for the message.
A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers’. They have big, round eyes and long lashes. She realizes that her eyes are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners and glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future
Why we like it: This beautiful tale is equally beautifully illustrated, it is a powerful and emotive story.
Inspired by real-life makers Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, this beloved #1 bestseller champions STEM, girl power and women scientists in a rollicking celebration of curiosity, the power perseverance, and the importance of asking “Why?”
Why we like it: a central character of colour, who is curious, powerful and unstoppable. We love science in our household, and this tale brings this to life! I like it so much I have brought one for each of my nieces!
In this moving picture book, author Hena Khan shares her wishes for her children: “Inshallah you find wonder in birds as they fly. Inshallah you are loved, like the moon loves the sky.” With vibrant illustrations and prose inspired by the Quran, this charming picture book is a heartfelt and universal celebration of a parent’s unconditional love.
Why we like it: This book is just full of love, it is heart-warming – using phrases inspired from the Quran to show a mother’s love.