Kids will see themselves in these 20 titles, suggested by the nonprofit First Book, and also learn more about each other.
By Atinuke, illustrated by Angela Brooksbank
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.
By Richard Van Camp, illustrated by Julie Flett
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.
By Maya Christina Gonzalez
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.
By Grace Lin
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.
By Margarita Engle, illustrated by Mike Curato
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.
By Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow, illustrated by Ebony Glenn
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.
By Juana Martinez-Neal
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.
By Mara Rockliff, illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
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.
By Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López
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
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.
- RELATED: Raising a Transgender Child
By Jessica Kensky and Patrick Downes, illustrated by Scott Magoon
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
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+
By Joseph Bruchac, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes
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+
By Vashti Harrison
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+
By Tim Federle
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
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+
- RELATED: 20 Books That Encourage Empathy
17. Hello, Universe
By Erin Entrada Kelly
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
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+
By Angela Dominguez
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+
By Debbi Michiko Florence, illustrated by Elizabet Vuković
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+
First Book is a nonprofit organization that provides new books, educational resources, and other essentials to children in need.