Parent Resource

12 Great Books to Help Students Embrace Diversity

diverse books for students reading

by Dr. Samantha, C. Sweeney, Founder, Culturally Competent Kids

We all know this one from the end of the school year: “no more teachers, no more books…” So, it would stand to reason that this time of year – Back To School – is when there should be books galore. While many people (myself included) try to make sure that our little ones are reading over the summer, it is rarely as much as we would like. Chances are the amount of reading, and certainly the attention paid to it, increases significantly in early September. Therefore, this is the perfect time of year to get some new books – from the bookstore or the library. When your kids are doing their requisite ‘20 minutes of reading’ homework, having new books on hand really gets them engaged and excited.

Books are a great way to learn about pretty much anything and diversity is a great Back To School topic. Why, you ask? Well, DC is such an incredibly diverse area. DC Public Schools and the surrounding counties have students in their schools of every race, religion, and country of origin imaginable. Private and parochial schools are embracing and promoting diversity initiatives like never before. If you send your kids to school in this part of the country, diversity is unavoidable. And thank goodness! We learn so much more when we have students, teachers, and administrators who are different from us.

To help your children not only notice, but embrace all of the diversity that surrounds them, it helps to actually talk about it. Exposure to diverse individuals is wonderful, but it is not enough. Talking to your kids about the diversity that surrounds them is a must and books are a great way to get started. Below are some suggestions for kids of all ages:

For Little Ones (0-6 years old):

Ten Little Fingers & Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox & Helen Oxenbury

Say Hello! By Rachel Isadora

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch & Michael Martchenko

For School-Aged Kids (7-12 years old):

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

The Misfits by James Howe

Ling & Ting: Not Exactly The Same by Grace Lin

The Lady in the Box by Ann McGovern

For Teens & Young Adults (13 years old+):

Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier

Remember Dippy by Shirley Reva Vernick

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

Good Enough by Paula Yoo

Of course, the ages are just guidelines. Your school-aged child may still enjoy some of the books for little ones and your tween may be mature enough to read some teenage books. No matter the books you and your child pick – just keep reading! The more diverse books that you read, the more your kids will feel comfortable talking about topics like race, gender, and socioeconomic class.

And that’s exactly what you want.

For even more book suggestions and ways to talk to your kids about diversity, be sure to visit my website:

Happy Back To School and Happy Reading!