Children's books celebrating diversity promotes social and emotional learning, which is an important part of early learning. Here are my top picks.
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes
This book needs no introduction. I’ve included it because it exposes the youngest of babies to the concept of diversity. The story shows babies from all around the world who are unique in their own ways, but all share the same trait of having the same number of digits. I love the minimal text and sweet simple illustrations. Ages 0+
Whoever You Are
If you find yourself lost for words explaining differences in skin colour to a toddler, this book might be for you. It highlights our differences (our looks, language, homes, way of life) and cleverly explores our similarities (our smiles, laughs, cries, hurt and love) with a powerful message about humanity. I love that the book is written in first person as if you are having the conversation with your toddler, using simple rhythmic phrases in classic Mem Fox style.
My only issue with this book is the illustrations of the cultures depicted may be slightly outdated, given it was first published two decades ago. Mem Fox has a newer release called, "I am Australian too", which looks good. Ages 2+
This is a simple book with gorgeous illustrations that celebrates diverse families. It highlights the bond between children and the grown-ups in their life who care for them, no matter the family composition. Our family is mixed race, which is one of the reasons I chose this book. But it equally represents single parents, same-sex families and various blended families. It’s also a nice early numeracy book as my toddler enjoys ‘counting’ the of people on the pages. Ages 2+
Wide Big World
Those of you who have followed me for a while might remember the story from last year, which prompted me to look at books on diversity. When William was three years old and attending a swimming class, he pointed out a little boy in the change room who was ‘all covered in brown’. I love this book because it reflects our own experience, except told from the other child’s perspective and between two little girls! It starts with the same awkward moment when someone points out your difference “you’re brown!” but turns it into a positive by looking at how diverse and unique nature is. This is great for any kid who has experienced it firsthand. Ages 2+
The Barefoot Book of Children
This is hands down my favourite book of the group and it is non-fiction. It represents diversity through culture, gender, disability, family composition and more. It does so elegantly in a way that is gentle and unassuming. Every page is intentional and purposeful to make children think deeply about their own story and their experiences. The message at the end of the story is a powerful one that “Every life is a story. It’s easier to understand someone when you know their story.” This book will invite lots of new ideas and conversations and perfect for building emotional intelligence, empathy, and inclusiveness. If you chose one book to add to your child’s library, this is it. Ages 3+
Welcome to Our World
This is another non-fiction book which celebrates cultures, customs, and traditions featuring from 96 different countries. It looks at people’s way of life from different cultures from home to school, their games and pets to the special ways life is celebrated. This is a book is loaded with facts and I think anyone (adults included) will learn something new. My favourite page in this book is the one on animals noises…we all learn them as kids but they can be very different depending on the country! Ages 4+
Over the Hills and Far Away: A treasury of nursery rhymes from around the world, illustrated by 77 celebrated artists
Last but not least, a favourite surprise fine! Every child loves classic nursery rhymes and this is a unique collection from across the globe (with a focus on the English speaking countries). What makes this book special is that the illustrations produced by 77 artists and we found some of our favourites including Eric Carle, Axel Scheffler, Pamela Allen, Mo Willems, Jon Klassen - just to name a few. Ages 0+