15 wonderful books to teach all children about race and diversity

Books to celebrate a range of backgrounds and experiences, stories that tackle tough subjects such as prejudice and tales that feature unrepresented characters or defy norms, these are key reads for every child

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We know that teaching all kids about race and diversity is so important, so we wanted to share some great children’s books to add to your collection of books to read, promoting diverse characters and stories.

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It’s so important to have honest conversations and speak openly about racism with your children from a young age. With this in mind we’ve included books for children of all ages starting with books for babies and a couple of Young Adult fiction books that are great for teens.

This is only a handful of suggestions as we know there are so many other brilliant books out there. So for even more choices to widen to your collection, we also recommend checking out these brilliant black-owned bookshops and publishers – many of these are London based but do offer home delivery:

1. Riley Can Be Anything, £5.99

Age: 2+

What is it: A lovely rhyming story where little Riley is discovering all the things he can be when he grows up, with the help of his older cousin Joe.

Why we love it: This is a great little story for inspiring kids to dream big. Nothing is out the question for Riley whether he wants to be a chef, musician, doctor or pilot.

Readers love its motivational message like one Amazon customer who says, “In a world where people of a darker skin tone are not always portrayed in a positive light, this book opens up the dialogue and plants the seed that you can be anything you want to be.”

Available from: New Beacon Books, Amazon and Waterstones

2. Everywhere Babies, £5.50

Age: 2+

What it is: A board book filled with fun rhymes and adorable illustrations, that follows babies from a diverse range of backgrounds starting from the moment they’re born through important milestones like playing, crawling and walking.

Why we love it: As well as its racially diverse range of characters, we love that it’s inclusive of different family types and caregivers, so kids can learn about families beyond the traiditional set up. This is also popular choice with our mums on our Facebook group including Kayleigh who says, “All of mine have absolutely loved it.”

Available from: Amazon and Blackwells

3. The Same But Different Too, £6.99

Age: 2+

What is it: A lovely rhyming book where children and animals sharing their similarities and differences, accompanied by bright and detailed illustrations.

Why we love it: Recommeded by mums in our Facebook group, this is a heart-warming and friendly book to teach younger children about celebrating differences. The fun and playful rhymes are also great to read out loud with your kids to not only teach them about opposites but how to embrace them.

Available from: Nosy Crow, Amazon and Waterstones 

4. Julian is a Mermaid, £6.99

Age: 4+

What it is: Little Julian is out with his Nana and is captivated when he spots three women in beautiful bright costumes with billowing hair – the mermaids. Once he’s home he can’t stop thinking about them so sets out to make his own amazing mermaid costume, but what will Nana think?

Why we love it: This is a story that brilliantly celebrates gender fluidity without being too text-heavy, as it’s the stunning illustrations that really do the talking.

Customer reviews give high praise to the book’s beautiful visuals with one saying, “From the minimalist text to the fantastic facial expressions of both Julian and his Nana, every page is a feast. The story is incredibly visual which will enable even the youngest of children to enjoy it.”

Available from: Waterstones and Amazon

5. The Proudest Blue, £12.99

Age: 4+

What it is: Written by Olympic medallist Ibtihaj Muhammad, The Proudest Blue tells the story of Faizah’s first day of school and her older sister Asiya who is wearing hijab to school for the first time. The sisters face some hurtful, unkind words so have to find new ways of standing strong against adversity.

Why we love it: It’s an inspiring story that celebrates the bond between siblings and being proud in your identity – universal themes that kids can relate to. It teaches children important lessons about the meaning behind wearing hijab, establishing from the beginning why Asiya has chosen to wear it.

Available from: Scholastic and Book Depository

6. Little People, Big Dreams series, from £5.99

Age: 4+

What it is: Discover the lives of icons in history from civil rights activists to sports stars, artists, musicians and more with this bestselling series. Each book focuses in on one historical figure and gives an overview of their amazing achievements, with stunning illustrations to go alongside.

Why we love it: These are powerful stories to inspire your children, like Harriet Tubman’s brave escape from slavery to become a prominent political activist or Jesse Owen’s journey from racially segregated America to winning 4 Olympic gold medals at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin hosted by Hitler. Although hard hitting, we like how they’re told in an age-appropriate way that makes them accessible for young kids.

Mums in our Facebook group love this series including Charlene who says, “We wanted our son to grow up seeing/reading books with characters that look like him and showing diversity, and they have many great role models to inspire children.”

Available from: Waterstones and Amazon

7. The Great Big Book of Families, £8.19

Age: 4+

What is it: A brilliant picture book to introduce children to all the different types of families featuring single parents, same-sex parents, mixed race families, families with disabled members and so much more.

Why we love it: There’s no one family that looks the same – we’ve moved beyond the traditional make-up of mother, father, daughter and son, and we like that this book addresses this message right from the get-go.

The colourful illustrations are great to engage younger readers which was praised by one Amazon customer, “Each possible sort of family is celebrated for both their similarities and differences, providing lots of important talking points for primary aged children.”

Available from: Amazon and Blackwell’s 

8. Lailah’s Lunchbox: A Ramadan Story, £11.99

Age: 5+

What it is: Lailah, settling into a new American school after moving from Abu Dhabi, has finally reached the age where she can participate in fasting as part of the holy month of Ramadan. With the help of her teacher and school librarian, she learns how to explain Ramadan to her classmates and teach them about her culture.

Why we love it: A beautifully illustrated book to teach non-Muslim children about this significant month in the Islamic calendar, as well as giving Muslim children a relatable experience about cultural identity.

It’s a bestseller on Amazon with one parent praising how much it helped her daughter, “As I read, I watched my daughter’s face. It was as though she was nodding, agreeing with each page, identifying with little Laila and the trials she faced. As I closed the book a second time in one very long, wet day, I realized just how much the story had helped and inspired my own little girl.”

Available from: Blackwells, Book Depository and Amazon

9. Ada Twist, Scientist, £12.99

Age: 5+

What it is: Little Ada Twist loves science and exploring the world around her. But when Ada’s house fills with a horrible smell, she has to use all her brilliant science knowledge to discover its source.

Why we love it: We love seeing a black female lead in a story based all around STEM. If your little one is also a budding scientist this is a must read, with lovely detailed illustrations that’ll capture their imaginations.

Available from: Amazon and Blackwell’s

10. Sulwe, £12.99

Age: 3+

What is it: Written by award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o, Sulwe is the story of a little girl who is learning to embrace and love her dark skin, in a world that so often favours being light skinned.

Why we love it: Sulwe doesn’t shy away from the issue of skin colour and it is explained in a way that’s accessible but also empowering for young kids. The gorgeous illustrations complement Sulwe’s story as she is taken on a journey through the night sky to help embrace her dark skin, teaching kids important lessons about self-esteem and celebrating their uniqueness.

Available from: Amazon and Waterstones

11. Hidden Figures, £12.99

Age: 4+

What is it: Based on the bestselling book and Academy Award-nominated movie, the story of 4 black women who helped launch American astronauts into space has been turned into a picture book for young readers.

Why we love it: We’re so used to learning about NASA’s first triumph’s in space centred around the astronauts, so it’s refreshing to see the story told from the perspective of 4 incredibly inspiring African American women.

The story doesn’t shy away from the racism the women were up against, and this is told in a way that’s accessible for young readers with striking illustrations to go alongside.

Available from: Trouva and Book Depository

12. Hair Love, £6.99

Age: 4+

What is it: A lovely father-daughter story and also an Academy-Award winning film. It’s usually Zuri’s mum who styles her curly Afro hair, but whilst Zuri’s mum is away it’s time for her dad to step in to give her an extra-special hairstyle.

Why we love it: This is a heart-warming story that celebrates a father-daughter bond, a narrative not often found in children’s books. We love the message about embracing natural hair, as do many readers with one Amazon customer saying, “My daughter loves it and so do I, and it’s cool to see some of the styles she actually wears in the book!”

Available from: Amazon and Waterstones 

13. The Story of Windrush, £6.99

Age: 8+

What is it: K. N. Chimbiri tells the story of the Windrush generation who came from the Caribbean to Britain throughout the late 1940s and 1950s using factual accounts. These are also accompanied by illustrations, maps and photos to provide context to their stories.

Why we love it: A great resource to teach your kids about black British history, with visual representations like illustrations and timelines that bring the story of the Windrush generation to life.

Readers like how it doesn’t shy away from the adversity they faced, such as one Amazon customer who says, “I love how balanced it is – it describes the Windrush passengers’ excitement and the challenges they faced in equal measure.”

Available from: Waterstones 

14. The Hate U Give, £7.99

Age: 12+

What it is: Young Adult fiction inspired by Black Lives Matter that tells the story of 16-year-old Starr whose world is shattered when she witnesses the shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer.

Why we love it: This is a powerful and hard-hitting read for teenagers that sheds light on what it’s like to grow up as a black teenager in modern America. Although fiction, Starr’s experience feels very real with the the story tackling poignant topics such as white privilege.

Available from: Waterstones and Amazon

15. Noughts and Crosses, £7.99

Age: 12+

What it is: The first in Malorie Blackman’s bestselling book series, which tells the story of a population split in two between the white noughts and black crosses. Childhood friends Sephy, a cross, and Callum, a nought, fall in love with each other but face the challenge of a divided society.

Why we love it: It’s a gripping YA story that doesn’t shy away from hard hitting subjects including racism and prejudice. Although written in 2001, these themes still stand strong today – so much so it was recently adapted into a BBC TV series.

Available from: Waterstones and WHSmith

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