Celebrating Diversity with Picture Books
I grew up in rural Iowa and rarely saw a person of color, I had no experience with sexual identity issues, and my religious knowledge consisted of what I learned at Sunday school. With continued education, life experience, and traveling outside of my bubble, my eyes opened. Life is filled with a rainbow of people filled with rich personalities to be respected for their own beliefs and lifestyles. As a child, exposure to Jewish faith, gay parents, or Asian culture (among many other things) could have aided my understanding and exposed me to the rich world around me. There is a vast picture book armory on this subject matter nowadays! Sharing books on diversity with children may increase awareness, understanding, and decrease anxieties about meeting someone different.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Pena follows CJ and his grandmother on their bus ride downtown where they serve at the shelter. On their journey, they encounter many different people and CJ raises questions about the differences he encounters. His grandmother shows him the beauty in a poor community and helps him see beyond the material things.
Noah Chases the Wind by Michelle Worthington introduces us to Noah, who thinks differently than other children. It introduces someone who processes the world differently such as with autism or a sensory disorder.
Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is about a young boy who falls in love with the style of three women on the bus dressed as mermaids. When he gets home, he creates his own mermaid costume but worries what Abuela will say about how he sees himself.
Stella Brings the Family by Miriam Schiffer introduces readers to the “non-traditional” family and how Stella struggles to decide which parent to bring to her Mother’s Day outing when she has two daddys. Classmates and her fathers help her realize what is most important in any family.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi. When Unhei moves from Korea, she worries that her classmates will not like her. She decides she will choose an American name out of a jar in the first weeks of class instead of revealing her given name. When a classmate visits her house and discovers her name’s special meaning, the name jar disappears.
Pink and Say by Patricia Palacco is a rich picture book with depth and history. A black Union soldier rescues a white Union soldier and takes him to his home to recover. When confederate soldiers discover them, the black family cannot escape their color in a time of hate. A friendship story passed down through generations.
The Colors of Us by Karen Katz is about a little girl, Lena, that draws a picture of herself. She walks with her mother around the neighborhood and discovers the many shades of brown available. It celebrates the differences and similarities of all people.
And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson is based on the true story about two male penguins, Roy and Silo, who fell in love at the New York Zoo. When the zookeeper gives them an extra egg from another penguin couple, they welcome their own baby penguin, Tango, into the world.
My Religion, Your Religion by Lisa Bullard follows David to a neighborhood Bat Mitzvah where he wants to learn more about religion. He learns that Sophia’s family doesn’t have a religion but helps others, Fahmi’s family is Muslim with its own celebrations, and his babysitter introduces him to Buddhism.
The list of picture books on diverse subject matter is immense. Reading different picture books also allows a child who is “different” find him/herself represented on the page to provide validation and respect. Introducing children to different cultures, religions, races, and families helps to create the “normal” depiction that is our colorful, rich world that we live in.
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Next book signing event is at the Bennett Library on Tuesday, February 19th at 6:30pm. Books will be available, prizes, games, and treats! Come join me!
Or books are available on Amazon!