15 Books for Teaching Diversity

To read about what inspired this series on World Peace, check out World Peace Shelf.

To read other posts in this series, check out Multicultural Nesting DollsInternational Children Magnets with World Map“Peace” & Peacekeeper CardsTrades of Hope, & World Bank.

L can’t read yet, but she LOVES looking at books and having me read to her.  When it gets too quiet at home and I go searching for L to find out what trouble she’s getting into, I often feel guilty because I find her sitting on the floor behind the couch reading.  I knew that having a book basket full of books about other cultures would be perfect for our World Peace Shelf, so I started searching.

I have tried to include many different cultures in this book basket, but I know that there are still many more that I haven’t even touched on — I don’t have an unlimited budget, after all, and this book basket is something that can grow over the years.  This is a fun mix of fiction and non-fiction, and while some of the books are a little old for L, she is still able to learn about the other cultures through the illustrations.  My main goal is for exposure — learning about and being comfortable with all kinds of people.

For now, this is what we’re starting with (in alphabetical order):

books for teaching diversity 1-5

 1. Bee-Bim Bop! by Linda Sue Park

This cute book is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers!  It tells the story of a family making a traditional Korean meal together, and the words are catchy and rhyming.  At the end, it lists the recipe so you can make bee-bim bop at home.  L loves this book!

2. Big Picture Atlas, by Usborne Books

This book is also great for the toddler and preschool age, since there’s way more pictures than words.  It also matches up very well with everything else on our World Peace Shelf!  Each page shows part of the world with little pictures of the people and animals living there, foods eaten there, landmarks found there, and more!

3. Children Just Like Me, in association with unicef

This book was actually one that I had when I was a kid (way to go, Mom!).  Each page features a different child from around the world.  L calls them her “friends” and knows many of them by name!  Some of the styles are a bit outdated, but this will always be one of our favorites. [I linked the newer version coming out in September!]

4. De Colores and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children, by Jose-Luis Orozco

This brightly-colored book has been one of L’s favorites since it arrived a few weeks go.  It’s actually a songbook with music and lyrics in Spanish and English, but it’s also filled with beautiful illustrations.  L’s favorite song is “Buenos Dias.”

5. Encyclopedia of World Religions, by Usborne Books

This book is awesome!  It goes through all of the religions of the world (some of which I’ve never even heard of), and comes with Internet links to get even more info.  This book is full of photographs of real people practicing their religions, and it’s actually a book that I want to sit down with to read myself!  Where we live, everyone goes to church, so I think this book is great for showing L that other religions have similar values.  In terms of the current political climate and worries about terrorism, I want to make sure that L knows the truth about what each religion actually teaches.

books for teaching diversity 6-10

6. Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African-Americans, by Kadir Nelson

This book is a little old for L since it has longer stories in it, but the illustrations are beautiful and she loves looking at them.  When she asks me to read it, I usually summarize the stories for her.  This book tells the good and the bad of African-American history in the U.S., and I think that’s very important for her to know — especially as we are dealing with some racially-charged events lately.

7. I Have the Right to Be a Child, by Alain Serres, translated by Sarah Ardizzone

This book is another one that is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.  It goes through the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in language that is easy to understand and with beautiful illustrations.  This is one of L’s favorite books.

8. Illustrated Children’s Bible Stories, by Usborne Books

I chose this book for our book basket because we are Christian.  I wanted L to be able to hear what Christianity is all about in language that she can understand.  It is for children a bit older than L, but she does sit long enough for us to read one or two stories at a time.  I decided that it was appropriate for a book basket on teaching diversity because Jesus’ teachings were all about love, peace, and compassion.

9. Indian Children’s Favorite Stories, retold by Rosemarie Somaiah

This is a book full of traditional Indian stories for children.  The stories are a bit long for toddlers, but the illustrations are beautiful and provide a lot of topics for discussion.  L especially likes to talk about the girls’ jewelry and hair.

10. Korean Children’s Favorite Stories, by Kim So-un

I don’t know if I’ve ever mentioned it on here, but my husband is Korean-American.  There are many Asian cultures in the world, but I decided to focus on Korea because that is part of L and N!  These stories are again a bit too long for preschoolers, but the illustrations show people, clothing, and scenes that cannot be found in any of her regular books, so we get to talk about a lot of new things.

books for teaching diversity 11-15

11.  Lila and the Secret of Rain, by David Conway

This book is another one that is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers!  It tells the story of an African girl who saves her village by making it rain.  L loves talking about the clothing worn by the African villagers, and she’s pretty excited about the fact that the main character has the same name as her!

12. North American Indian, by Eyewitness Books

When I was a kid, I loved these books!  Eyewitness Books have tons of real photographs and information about different topics, and this one is focused on the North American Indian.  It provides tons of info on different tribes in North America and their history, and it isn’t afraid to say what actually happened.

13. Say Hello! by Rachel Isadora

This book is L’s current obsession.  I find her reading it at least ten different times a day, and she now knows the story well enough that she can pretty much tell it herself.  It is about a little girl named Carmelita who walks through her neighborhood and says hello to all of her neighbors in their native languages.  We have learned a lot of different ways to say hello!  This book is perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.

14. We Are All Born Free, in association with Amnesty International

This book illustrates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in pictures and using language that is easy for children to understand, and it is one of L’s favorites!  Each page is illustrated by somebody from a different country.  My favorite page (and the one that is most fitting for this World Peace Shelf series!) reads, “We have a duty to other people, and we should protect their rights and freedoms.  Nobody can take these rights and freedoms from us.”

15. Who Were the First North Americans? by Usborne Books

This book has great illustrations of North American Indian life.  L loves pointing out what they are doing in each of the pictures.  As with the other Usborne books, it comes with Internet Links for older children to get more information.


BONUS book for parents:  Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally-Minded Kids One Book at a Time, by Jamie C. Martin

A friend recommended this book when she heard about my World Peace series, and this is definitely one that I am going to have to try!  It is a reference book for parents that lists over 600 books about every corner of the globe for children ages 4 to 12.  The mission of the book is to create worldchangers by introducing young children to stories of people from around the world, and it looks like it has some great recommendations!


[EDIT POST-ELECTION:  Children in America are feeling real fear and pain in the wake of the 2016 Presidential election.  Bharat Babies posted this response on social media:  “Our company wanted to provide a response to children who feel unsafe, not valued, or unloved.  Given the new path our country is taking, we want to light that path with knowledge, light, and diversity.”  Their books feature Indian children and share Indian culture in stories suitable for infants through elementary-aged children.  This is not an Ad, and I receive no compensation in exchange for this recommendation — I just think what they are doing is AWESOME and should be shared.]


What books would you add to this list?  What other cultures should we study?

Come back next week for a BONUS work on our World Peace Shelf!

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14 thoughts on “15 Books for Teaching Diversity

  1. One we have in our house is Four Feet, Two Sandals. I wrote a book review about it on my website. We found that it is kid-friendly, yet opens doors for powerful conversation.

  2. I took diversity in children’s literature and adolescent literature in college. It’s great that there are so many books out there that these are so incredibly new to me.

  3. I love this list! I think I might have to get that book about world religions. Another great book for toddlers and preschoolers is What’s Cooking Jamela by Niki Daly (and the rest in the series are probably good too but we haven’t got around to them yet). It’s set in South Africa and uses some words from the languages there, with a glossary in the back 🙂 A great book for seeing life through the eyes of a little girl from another culture.

  4. I have always appreciated the book “People” written and illustrated by Peter Spier. It is something I’ve used in the classroom and is on our kids’ book shelf at home. It is a wonderful introduction to geography and culture. We are also Christians and our favorite children’s resource for teaching and discussing our faith is the “Jesus Storybook Bible” by Sally Lloyd-Jones, with beautiful illustrations by Jago.

  5. Great suggestions here – thanks! I really like this whole world peace series – and will probably be stealing a few ideas to use in my school this year. 🙂

  6. I love your blog ! Great post on diversity, and I love Usborne children’s books . I don’t hear much about those lately . Glad to see them on your list . Thank you !!

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