We love the kids in our life — all the black, brown, white, yellow, Spanglish-speaking, Korean-food-eating, Latin Jewish kids. And we love to read to them! So here are our top 10 choices for storytime with our Mash-Up kids. Don’t forget to check out these other gift ideas for your minis too!
What better way to instill a global worldview in children than by exposing them from birth to diverse, engaging characters? Seeing their families and communities mirrored in a book boosts kids’ self-esteem, while having a window into the experiences of folks from other racial and ethnic backgrounds builds empathy.
But finding great multicultural books isn’t always easy. An analysis of kid’s lit by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education found that only 14 percent of fiction for children published in the United States in 2015 was about a character of color. Still, fantastic diverse books are out there—and this list of 10 texts, ranging from board books for babies to young adult coming-of-age novels, will help you choose the perfect literary gift for the little ones in your life.
For infants and toddlers
‘More More More’ Said the Baby
By Vera B. Williams
Tuck in your tot after reading this award-winning 1990 board book that depicts three multicultural family members—a mom, a dad, and a grandma—who shower toddlers with affection. Don’t be surprised if older toddlers mimic the characters, Little Guy, Little Pumpkin, and Little Bird, and call out for “more more more” hugs and kisses.
For toddlers and preschoolers
We’re Different, We’re the Same
By Bobbi Kates
In this colorfully illustrated 1992 book, Sesame Street characters help youngsters love and appreciate their differences. After all, kids might not have a beak like Big Bird or red fur like Elmo, but their noses and hair share the same purpose.
The Snowy Day
By Ezra Jack Keats
Children will want a red snowsuit and stick of their own after being read—or reading—this award-winning 1962 picture book. The beloved story features a Black boy named Peter, but the text isn’t about his blackness. Instead, readers follow Peter’s adventures as he ventures out into his neighborhood after a snowstorm.
For early elementary kids
Let’s Talk About Race
By Julius Lester
This beautifully illustrated 2005 book by Newberry Award-winning author Julius Lester invites readers to see race as only one facet of their identity. As Lester writes, “beneath everyone’s skin are the same hard bones.”
By Natasha Wing
It’s International Day at school in this 1996 book, and Jewish-Mexican-American Pablo has to bring food that represents his heritage. He finally settles on the jalapeño bagels, a joint creation from the cultures of both his mom and dad.
By Jane Pakh
Korean American Juna loves playing a kimchi jar game with her Latino best friend Hector. This 2015 book shows Juna dealing with missing her buddy after he moves away, while also discovering that she can make new friends.
For upper elementary or early middle school readers
My Basmati Bat Mitzvah
By Paula J. Freedman
Indian-Jewish tween Tara Feinstein has to navigate middle school while also preparing for her bat mitzvah. Readers of this 2013 novel will relate to 12-year-old Tara’s journey to understand both sides of her heritage and become comfortable in her own skin.
For middle school and young adult readers
Under a Painted Sky
By Stacey Lee
Author Stacey Lee’s award-winning 2015 tale takes young readers on a gripping adventure through the Wild West of the 1840s. Samantha, a Chinese American girl, is on the run after accidentally bludgeoning a rapist to death. Annamae, an escaped Black slave girl teams up with Samantha as they flee Missouri in search of freedom in California.
For young adult readers
By Jacqueline Woodson
After their parents die, Black-Puerto Rican brothers, Lafayette, Charlie, and Ty’ree are orphans trying to survive in New York City. This realistic fiction novel, winner of the 2001 Coretta Scott King Award for Authors, explores what it’s like to survive as a teen of color living in poverty.
By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell
Winner of the National Book Award, this 2013 autobiographical graphic novel trilogy takes teens inside Congressman John Lewis’ experiences in the Civil Rights Movement. Historic events such as the desegregation of lunch counters in Nashville and the Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., are depicted through powerful black and white illustrations.
What are your favorite kid books? Share with us!