Celebrating Diversity Through Books

Kids will see themselves in these 20 titles, suggested by the nonprofit First Book, and also learn more about each other.

1. Baby Goes to Market

By Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank

Baby Goes to the Market Book Cover Courtesy of Candlewick

Vendors at an African market give treats to Baby, who eats some and puts the rest in the basket without Mom’s knowing. Kids will love being in on the secret and can count along as Baby receives various numbers of bananas, oranges, and more. Ages 0 to 4.

2. We Sang You Home

By Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett

We Sang You Home Book Cover Courtesy of Orca Books

Parents and babies everywhere will feel comforted by this book, a celebration of the love that a child brings into this world. The lyrical text (“as we give you roots, you give us wings” and “our forever home is inside of you”) welcomes little ones who join families in different ways and is paired with gorgeous illustrations. Ages 0 to 3.

3. Call Me Tree / Llámame árbol

By Maya Christina Gonzalez

Call Me Tree Book Cover Yunhee Kim

Read this bilingual book snuggled up together first, and then have your little one use the drawings to act out the plot: A child imagines growing from a seed into a tree, blooming in a forest of diverse children, each free to express their true selves. Ages 4 to 8.

4. A Big Mooncake for Little Star

By Grace Lin

A Big Mooncake For Little Star Book Cover Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

In this bedtime read that sounds like a lullaby, a child longs to eat a mooncake she baked with her mom. Each night she secretly takes a bite, bringing about a new phase of the moon. At the end, readers learn that the story is the author’s homage to the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival, her favorite holiday. Ages 4 to 8.

5. All the Way to Havana

By Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato

All the Way to Havana Book Cover Courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Kids will be enthralled by the myriad landscapes in this tale of a family’s road trip to Cuba’s capital city to see their new baby cousin. The text is especially fun to read aloud (“and we glide taka taka and we zoom, zoom, ZOOM!”). Plus, the inside covers have colorful drawings of vintage cars. Ages 5 to 9.

6. Mommy’s Khimar

By Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn

Mommys Khimar Book Cover Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

If your little one loves dressing up, she’ll relate to the main character, who uses her mommy’s khimar—a Muslim head covering—to turn herself into a queen, a superhero, and even sunshine! Ages 4 to 8.

7. Alma and How She Got Her Name

By Juana Martinez-Neal

Alma and How She Got Her Name Book Cover Courtesy of Candlewick

A clever premise (a girl thinks her name is too long until her father tells her the story of each Peruvian ancestor who inspired it) will make this book a family fave. Expect your child to ask you about the origin of her name. Ages 5 to 9.

8. Chik Chak Shabbat

By Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker

Chik Chak Shabbat Book Cover Courtesy of Candlewick

Goldie usually hosts her neighbors every Friday for a Shabbat dinner. But when she is too sick to cook one week, they save the day by bringing dishes from their own cultures. Your budding cooks might want to try the recipe for cholent, a slow-cooked stew. Ages 5 to 9.

9. The Day You Begin

By Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López

The Day You Begin Book Cover Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

Gripping families from the first line (“There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you”), the book is a perfect way to build empathy. Anyone who has ever felt like an outsider—because of their race, appearance, ability, and more—will be moved. Ages 5+ 

10. I Am Jazz

By Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas

I Am Jazz Book Cover Courtesy of Penguin Young Readers

This autobiography of an inspiring young transgender activist explains how her family and friends came to understand and support her. Used in schools across the country, the book fosters discussions about gender and identity. Ages 5 to 9.

11. Rescue & Jessica: A Life-Changing Friendship

By Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon

Rescue and Jessica a Life Changing Friendship Book Cover Courtesy of Candlewick

Written by a couple who both lost legs in the Boston Marathon bombing, this picture-book story, a blend of fact and fiction, demonstrates the power of resilience. Readers learn how Jessica’s service dog, Rescue, helps her adjust to life with prosthetic legs while getting over his own fears that he’s not up to the task. Ages 7+ 

12. El Deafo

By Cece Bell

El Deafo Book Cover Courtesy of Abrams Books

One of Parents 10 Best Children’s Books of 2014, this autobiographical graphic novel focuses on Cece’s experiences navigating school with a bulky hearing aid. By creating a superhero alter ego, she breaks stereotypes and defines her own abilities. Ages 7+  

13. Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code: A Navajo Code Talker’s Story

By Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes

Chester Nez and the Unbreakable Code Book Cover Courtesy of Albert Whitman & Company

This picture-book biography shares the vivid childhood and wartime experiences of Chester Nez, whose dedication to his Navajo language and traditions helped shape the outcome of World War II. Readers will admire Nez’s determination and unwillingness to abandon his culture. Ages 7+ 

14. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History

By Vashti Harrison

Little Leaders Bold Women In Black History Book Cover Courtesy of Little, Brown and Company

This well-researched collection of mini biographies introduces children to 40 little-known African-American women, such as mathematician Katherine Johnson and pilot Bessie Coleman. The book’s accessible text and charming illustrations help bring these inspiring stories to life. Plan to read it with your child over multiple nights. Ages 7+ 

15. Better Nate Than Ever

By Tim Federle

Better Nate Than Ever Book Cover Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

Music-obsessed Nate is bullied for not conforming to gender norms, but he doesn’t let other kids’ assumptions distract him from his dream of landing a Broadway audition. Ages 9+

16. Amina’s Voice

By Hena Khan

Amina's Voice Book Cover Courtesy of Simon and Schuster

If your best friend changed her name to sound more American, would you do the same? Amina, a Pakistani-American, grapples with deep questions in this superb novel that highlights the importance of culture, family, community, and empathy. Ages 9+

17. Hello, Universe

By Erin Entrada Kelly

Hello Universe Book Cover Courtesy of HarperCollins

Readers will love the artful balance of humor and suspense in this 2018 Newbery Medal winner. Seeking help with his crush, Virgil sets out to visit a friend, runs into the school bully, and accidentally falls into a well, where visions of characters from Filipino folktales help him find a way out. Ages 9+

18. Little Shaq

By Shaquille O’Neal, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

Shaquille O'Neal Little Shaq Book Cover Courtesy of Bloomsbury

A fictionalized young Shaq and his cousin, Barry, are best friends, but Barry often feels overshadowed. Shaq finally learns how to let his cousin shine in this slam-dunk pick for beginning- and middle-grade readers. Ages 7+

19. Stella Díaz Has Something to Say

By Angela Dominguez

Stella Diaz Has Something to Say Book Cover Courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Shy Stella often mixes up English and Spanish, and worries that she fits neither her Mexican nor her American heritage. Young readers will relate to Stella’s struggles and triumphs as she finds her voice, her confidence, and new friends. Ages 8+

20. Jasmine Toguchi: Mochi Queen

By Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vuković

Jasmine Toguchi Mochi Queen Book Cover Courtesy of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group

Jasmine undertakes a hilarious training regimen to prove to her extended family that girls should be able to share in the pounding of mochi (a Japanese rice cake), a custom that’s usually reserved for boys. Ages 7+

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First Book is a nonprofit organization that provides new books, educational resources, and other essentials to children in need.