Preschool Picture Books About Diversity
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
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.
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons by Siegfried Engelmann ♦ Start a Home School Preschool Co-Op ♦ Using Music Education Techniques in Your Toddler/Preschool Storytime ♦ Start a Preschool Storytime Program/ Story Hour at Your Library ♦ Preschool Story Hour Ideas: Using Storytime Themes In a Sample Lesson ♦ Great Read-Aloud Children's Books with Reviews and Sample Lesson Plans ♦ Goldilocks And the Three Bears Preschool Creative Drama Activity ♦ Music Education Techniques to Use in Your Toddler/Preschool Story Hour