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Diversity Matters: 10 Books to Spark Conversation with Your Child

Diversity matters in the United States and in Nashville — now more than ever! Reading with your kids is a wonderful way to spark conversation about important topics (and a great way to step away from the screen). These books will help introduce your children to a variety of various cultures and people — just in time for Martin Luther King Jr. Day! While we may look different on the outside, we’re all the same on the inside.

Diversity Matters: 10 Books to Spark Conversation with Your Child

Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story by Reem Faruqi

This story centers around the experience of Lailah as she practices Ramadan while attending school in Georgia. The illustrations are lovely, but the real gem is the lessons children can learn about how to handle differences in faith practices and the emotions stemming from them. 

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

In this story, Unhei has just moved to America from Korea. On the first day of school, kids on the bus make fun of her name. To help fit in, she decides to keep her name a secret and choose a new American one. Eventually she realizes how much of her identity is connected with her name, so she shares that legacy with her classmates. I was especially touched by this story because I had many friends from around the world growing up. My best friend in middle school was actually from Korea. This is a great book to use when teaching children how to welcome new classmates and how to respectfully ask about names and cultural heritage.

One Plastic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of the Gambia by Miranda Paul

This inspiring true story chronicles Isatou’s efforts to save the goats in her Gambian village who were dying after eating discarding plastic bags. It will encourage your children to problem solve and work to create change in their world. The collage illustrations are so pretty! The author has done a great job sharing bits of of Gambian history and culture in this book in a way that is accessible to young children. 

In this story, a young girl visits her grandmother in a village in Palestine. Since they do not speak the same language, they communicate in other ways or through the girl’s father. With lyrical text and exquisite pictures, this is a great book to wind down with at night. The theme of peace is repeated over and over throughout this book. Cross-cultural families’ struggles of distance and language barriers are also explored.

From North to South/Del Norte al Sur by Rene Colato Lainez 

Written by an elementary school teacher after he learned that parents of some of his students were facing deportation, this book is a way to explore this tough topic with children. Families can read the story about Jose’s tumultuous family situation after his mother is deported in either English or Spanish. The story is realistic and does not end with a clear-cut resolution or solution. The ending—longing to be reunited yet not there yet—is hard to read but leaves room for discussion about important issues related to citizenship, family, and opportunity. 

She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed The World by Chelsea Clinton

Chelsea Clinton’s new picture book profiles thirteen American women in fields from space exploration to television. This book goes beyond the typical female role models to show girls some of the things they could achieve (for themselves and for others) by demonstrating courage, conviction, and bravery. This book would be great for girls and boys! 

Ten Little Rabbits by Virginia Grossman

We read this classic board book at our house nearly everyday. The premise is simple: teach babies and toddlers how to count to ten through gorgeous illustrations of rabbits dressed in Native American clothing. Native American culture is respectfully depicted in a simple way for young children.

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

Many of us are generally familiar with Malala’s story—she’s an activist for female education, and due to her work in this area (as a teenager!) she was targeted by the Tailban. She survived the attack and has gone on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, among many other accomplishments. This picture book tells her story in a simplified way for children. Though violence is present, it is discussed gently — but parents should be aware of this.  

We Came To America by Faith Ringgold

This fun book is actually a long-form poem written to celebrate the diversity reflected in the founding of our country. It is such a colorful and fun book, though it is quite realistic and simple. The book shows a lot of diversity in terms of color, race, religion, and more. A great read for kids of all ages… this book is certain to spark conversation about the parts of history that social studies education can gloss over. 

Mostly Monsterly by Tammi Sauer

This sweet book does not address diversity in terms of the usual suspects. Rather, it takes a more complex, literary approach. The story shares Bernadette’s journey towards making friends at school while still being herself. Friends don’t have to be exactly the same in order to enjoy being together.

Please share your favorite titles in the comments!

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