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Preschool Picture Books About Diversity

Updated on March 23, 2012

Black History Month is an important observance in the United States. Books under this theme for preschoolers and young elementary-aged students focus on topics of family unity and identity, diversity, and respect for others' differences. Many preschool and early elementary educators, as well as story time presenters use the observance of the Martin Luther King Holiday to celebrate the same themes.

Here are some recommended children's books for use in preschool and early elementary classrooms, preschool, or library story time.

Click on the book title to see a full-sized version

Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
Whoever You Are by Mem Fox
A Chair for My Mother
A Chair for My Mother
The Skin You Live In
The Skin You Live In
A Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
A Whistle for Willie by Ezra Jack Keats
So Much Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury
So Much Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury
I Love My Hair
I Love My Hair
Please Baby Please
Please Baby Please
Veronica on Petunia's Farm by Roger Duvoisin
Veronica on Petunia's Farm by Roger Duvoisin
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges: Though not a picture book for preschoolers, every fifth grader should read this book!
Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges: Though not a picture book for preschoolers, every fifth grader should read this book!

Books for Preschoolers

A book by Mem Fox titled ◊ ♥ Whoever You Are is illustrated by Leslie Staub and has a story of tolerance and common human experience despite differences in language, skin color, or culture. I don't usually quote from the children's books I review, but this book, written as a poem, deserves a teaser. "Little one, Whoever you are, Wherever you are, There are little ones just like you, All over the world." The author, who lives in Australia, has won numerous awards and admits that she wrote this book with the idea of building tolerance and understanding instead of focusing on differences.

◊ The Caldecott award-winning book ◊ A Chair for My Mother by Vera B. Williams tells how a young girl in a culturally diverse city neighborhood loses all of her possessions in a fire. Her mother, who works as a waitress is saving tips to buy a comfortable chair. This book has an important message about community and togetherness in hard times, and offers a hopeful vision of community in America. This book, however is a bit long for a preschool crowd unless they are accustomed to daily story times. Please click on the title of this book to read my full review.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats is the story of Peter's day playing in the new-fallen snow. This classic children's story has fantastic art work and a simple story about the joy of playing in the snow that children will relate to. Peter was a groundbreaking character in children's literature, and was one of the first black characters to star in a children's story.

Other wonderful Ezra Jack Keats books about Peter include ♥ ◊ A Whistle for Willie and ◊ Peter's Chair.

So Much by Trish Cooke and Helen Oxenbury is a book about many things: family, waiting, and a surprise birthday party for Daddy. But most of all, this book is about how much a young toddler's extended family members love him, and the many ways they show it. I have written a complete review of this book.

♥ Please, Baby Please by Spike Lee is a humorous story about a mischievous baby and his harried parents. Like many books by celebrity authors, this one has been really successful, but it has all of the elements of a great read-aloud story, so go ahead and check it out.

◊ I Love My Hair by Natasha Tarpley is a story about a young girl and her hair, and how much she loves it. This popular book is widely acclaimed by teachers in the blogosphere for its underlying message of exuberant self-acceptance, and it's joyful illustrations.

♥ The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler is also a popular choice for its message of self-acceptance while underscoring interesting, though superficial differences in children. It's first pages read, "Hey, look at your skin, the wonderful skin you live in..."

Veronica on Petunia's Farm by Roger Duvoisin is a long children's picture book about Veronica, a Hippo from the Zoo who moves out to a farm in the country. She is rejected by the barnyard animals, who refer to her as "It." They shun Veronica on the grounds that she is different from them and therefore doesn't belong. While the animals reject Veronica coldly and make rude and hurtful remarks, Veronica becomes depressed and sick and locks herself away in the barn. Finally, the other animals get worried and bring her their food. The resolution to the story is encouraging and hopeful, but it is interesting to see a story about this kind of cruelty so nakedly portrayed in a children's book. Duvoisin's book is an excellent conversation starter for early elementary-aged classrooms who want to begin thinking critically about differences and treating others kindly. I would recommend pairing this with Mem Fox's book above.

One book that should be on every library in America, though it is not a children's picture book is ◊ Through My Eyes by Ruby Bridges. The picture of Ruby, the girl who walked to the first integrated school in 1960s New Orleans accompanied by federal marshals, is a must read for older children. The book is 64 pages long and is Ruby's own account of her experiences walking through crowds of hateful, screaming people and working alone with a special tutor in the school. This book isn't appropriate for preschool story time, but teachers and older students need to get it, read it, and talk about it.

Comments

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  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    6 years ago from Iowa

    I think so, but I think that most people's opinions about this topic are rooted in their age and experience. With so many different points of view, frames of reference, and so forth, there is no way to approach this topic in a way that is pleasing to everyone. I would enjoy reading your book when it is published!

  • Enlydia Listener profile image

    Enlydia Listener 

    6 years ago from trailer in the country

    Thanks...sometimes I wonder if we make more of a distance between the different colors (?) by bringing attention to "diversity".

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    6 years ago from Iowa

    That is an intriguing question. I find this topic to be quite difficult to write about. After using the word "tolerance" in this article, which for me is synonymous for an acceptance of others' differences, whether superficial, such as skin or hair color, or deeply rooted in culture, I read on a blog recently a diatribe against the use of the word as being hypocritical and bigoted. Good luck walking that tightrope.

  • Enlydia Listener profile image

    Enlydia Listener 

    6 years ago from trailer in the country

    It's interesting about the diversity thing, since I started writing a series about a white bunny and little honey-skinned rag doll. I never thought about it teaching diversity since they don't seem to deal with it in the books. But I wonder if I can work that in without overdoing it.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    7 years ago from Iowa

    Thank you, I would love to link to yours also! This was part of another hub I wrote last year but I have been breaking them out into sub-topics to make them more searchable.

  • stephhicks68 profile image

    Stephanie Hicks 

    7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

    Great idea for a hub. I published one on Black History Month, in general, several years ago and will have to link to your hub. Book selections for children help teach the importance of diversity and tolerance.

  • wannabwestern profile imageAUTHOR

    Carolyn Augustine 

    7 years ago from Iowa

    Thanks very much Esme and Lisa. I particularly like the Chair books, as Vera Williams calls them, and a Whistle for Willie is also another great selection. I've used them in my preschool teaching too! :)

  • Lisa Kramer profile image

    Lisa Kramer 

    7 years ago from Auburn, MA

    Great book suggestions. Thanks for posting them.

  • Esmeowl12 profile image

    Cindy A Johnson 

    7 years ago from Sevierville, TN

    Two books I always read to my young kindergarten students were "Whistle for Willie" and "A Chair for My Mother." They are (and were) two of our favorites. Thanks for sharing these great ideas.

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