10 (or 11) Books That Help Promote Diversity and Kindness

You might be a librarian if…

you got to hear Ellen Oh of We Need Diverse Books speak at your county Librarian’s PD day.

you found yourself nodding “yes, yes, yes” to everything she said.

you immediately went searching for new diverse books to add to your collection, keeping in mind that sometimes diversity doesn’t mean a story all about someone who is different, it can also be having a cast that reflects our diverse society.

you create a list of what you’ve found to share on your blog!

So without further ado, here it is, 10 (or 11) Books That Help Promote Diversity and Openness in Your Classroom:

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Written and Illustrated by:  Juana Martinez-Neal

AlmaAlma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela is convinced her name is too long!  How did she end up with SIX different names?  Her father is happy to answer her, telling Alma about the five family members she is named after in a brief family history.  Alma sees herself in each of her ancestors and at the end is proud of her long name.  A great way to introduce the meanings of names and how different cultures have different naming traditions.


Two Problems For Sophia

Written by:  Jim Averbeck     Illustrated by:  Yasmeen Ismail

Two Problems For Sophia

Sophia loves her giraffe, Noodle, but he is not perfect.  In fact, he is causing two big problems for Sophia.  One, he loves to give sloppy kisses, much to the chagrin of her family.  Secondly, he snores, keeping everyone awake all night.  Sophia can’t dream of letting Noodle go, but that’s exactly what her family says she’ll have to do, so Sophia sets out to create a plan to fix Noodle’s snoring.  Eventually, through hard work and persistence, she is able to make everyone happy…for now.  I love this book because Sophia is relatable to any kid who is trying to convince their parents to let them do (or keep) something, and in this case, since she lives with her Uncle and Grandmother, she must convince them too!  Pairs well with Sophia’s first adventure, and the story of how Noodle became hers, One Word From Sophia.

Tiny, Perfect Things

Written by:  M. H. Clark     Illustrated by:  Madeline Kloepper

Tiny Perfect Things

This story follows a young girl as she walks around her neighborhood with her grandfather, picking out “tiny, perfect” things.  The illustrations are magical and pull the reader into their adventure, reminding us that we are surrounded by wondrous, beautiful things all of the time.  As she returns home, we get a chance to see her entire family, who is interracial.  This is an example of a book that is not focused on diverse characters per se, as the story is much more about curiosity and mindfulness, but it promotes diversity simply by showing characters who are.

How to Code a Sandcastle

Written by:  Josh Funk       Illustrated By:  Sara Palacios

how to code a sandcastle

As a librarian who teachers all of her students how to code in some capacity every year, I LOVE this book just for being an easy to understand introduction to coding for kids (Secret Coders is my other favorite).  In the story, Pearl is on a mission to code the perfect sandcastle, only to find that it’s not quite as easy as she originally thought.  She doesn’t give up though, and she eventually is able to use coding concepts to create her perfect sandcastle. A delightful read for students to become familiar with computer languages, and even better that the main character is a girl!

Jabari Jumps

Written and Illustrated by:  Gaia Cornwall

Jabari Jumps

Jabari loves spending his summer days at the pool, and he is a fantastic jumper…on land.  But he’s not worried about the diving board, not at all.  This story follows Jabari as he tries to muster up the courage he already claims to have, to jump off of the diving board.  Along the way, his dad supports each stage that he’s at and lets him wait until he feels ready.  When Jabari finally does make the jump, readers will be just as excited for him as his dad.  All students will be able to see themselves in Jabari as he tries to hide his nerves and face his fears.

Hello Goodbye Dog

Written by:  Maria Gianferrari       Illustrated by:  Patrice Barton

Hello Goodbye Dog

Zara’s dog wants to go everywhere with her, even school, but dogs aren’t allowed in school.  Even though her dog, Moose,  has to go back home, he keeps finding ways to escape and get back to her!  Eventually, they come up with a plan to get Moose certified as a Therapy Dog so he can come to school with Zara.  I love that this story doesn’t focus on Zara’s wheelchair, and includes a diverse cast of classmates.  There is also a great note for students at the end about the difference between a Service Dog and a Therapy dog.


Perfectly Normal

Written and Illustrated by:  Tom Percival

Perfectly Norman

Norman is perfectly “normal”, until one day he grows wings!  He doesn’t want wings though, he just wants to go back to the way he was, so he decides to wear a big puffy coat to hide them from everyone.  He quickly finds that he is unhappy everywhere he goes, but ultimately realizes it’s the coat, not the wings, causing him distress.  In the end, he drops the coat and unveils his wings.  In doing so, he inspires other students to show their own true selves.  Would be a great story to have students share what their “wings” would be.

Julian is a Mermaid

Written and Illustrated by:  Jessica Love

Julian is a Mermaid

Julian has always loved mermaids.  One afternoon, while riding the subway with his abuela, he is drawn to three women who are dressed up as his idea of mermaids.  Julian returns home and is inspired to dress up himself!  But when abuela comes in, he’s nervous about the mess he’s made and what she will think of his outfit.  She walks away at first, only to return with a necklace for him to add, before she invites him to go on one more subway trip with her, this time to where the mermaid women were headed.  A great addition to any classroom to show that it’s alright to be who you are.

The Big Umbrella

Written and Illustrated by:  Amy June Bates       Cowritten by:  Juniper Bates

The Big Umbrella

I love the metaphor of the big umbrella that this story uses.  The story opens on an umbrella sitting by the door, and then it starts to rain.  This umbrella isn’t just any umbrella though, it’s a BIG umbrella and it has room for everyone underneath.  Throughout the story, every character, whether tall, plaid, hairy, four-legged, there is always room for you.  I love the idea of using this story in a classroom and it leading to a discussion of the classroom being that big red umbrella and including everyone, no matter what.

The Day You Begin

Written by:  Jacqueline Woodson       Illustrated by:  Rafael Lopez

The Day You BeginThis is the “or 11” because I haven’t actually read it yet (it comes out Tuesday!) but have seen enough clips of pages/quotes and reviews to know that it has to be on this list.  Jacqueline Woodson has a magical way with words, and Maybe Something Beautiful put Rafael Lopez high on my list of illustrators I love.  I’m going to just leave you with the goodreads blub until I get my own hands on a copy, and hopefully you’ll see why I had to make it 11.

From goodreads:

“There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.

There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael Lopez’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway. ”


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