10 Books For Teaching Young Children About Diversity and Inclusion

It's almost Martin Luther King Day, and that got me thinking. How do we teach our kids about racism and prejudice? Other than leading by example, how do we show them to be kind and inclusive to everyone they meet? Reading with your kids, even from a very young age, is a great way to encourage them to ask questions and think about more difficult topics. Here is our list of great books that can help you start the discussion on diversity, prejudice and inclusion, and some advice on how to keep the conversation going.

  1. It’s Ok to be Different by Todd Parr- I LOVE all of Todd Parr’s books for their fun illustrations and bold colors, but this one is a great way to show kids that differences are not important and can actually be something for which to be praised and admired.
  2. Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae and Guy Parker-Rees– With adorable illustrations and rhymes, this book tells the story of Gerald the Giraffe. He was mocked by all of the other animals for his horrible dancing, until he found his own music and basically became Africa’s So You Think You Can Dance Champion. I love how this teaches that if kids aren't included or are made fun of, they should just march to their own beat and change the tune.
  3. Why Are People Different Colors?: Big issues for little people about identity and diversity by Chris McCurry and Emma Waddington- Two child psychologists wrote this book to help parents and caregivers teach and explain all kinds of big topics to small children. Such a great idea!
  4. We're Different, We're the Same by Bobbi Kates- I was still in elementary school when this Sesame Street book was released, but the lessons it teaches about diversity are still important and the characters are the ones we all know and love.
  5. Whoever You Are by Mem Fox- Children all over the world right now are laughing, crying and playing, no matter where they are or what they look like. With beautiful illustrations, this book shows just how similar we all really are, and that our differences make us special.
  1. Imagine by John Lennon - Jean Jullien used Lennon's powerful lyrics to create abeautiful picture book. The lyrics are timeless and may lead to some great discussions on how we can make the dreams in the song into reality. You may be surprised by how much young children can grasp these complex ideas.
  2. I am Martin Luther King, Jr. by Brad Meltzer- This book does a wonderful job of introducing Martin Luther King to young children. It is part of a series of books called Ordinary People Change the World with other subjects like Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart and Rosa Parks. What could be a better lesson than teaching kids that with enough perseverance they could change the world? His other similar books, Heroes for my Daughter and Heroes for my Son, are also awesome!
  3. Every Color by Erin Either Kono- Though this book is not specifically designed to teach about race, I think it would be a great way to introduce the topic to young learners. All the polar bear in this story sees is white, white, white until he goes exploring with a little girl to discover all the colors in the world. I think it teaches an important lesson: color-blindness is not the answer, recognizing and celebrating our differences and our sameness is where it's at.
  4. Families, Families, Families by Suzanne Lang- The message in this book is, "If you love each other, than you are a family." When kids see families that look different from theirs, it can be confusing. This book offers a simple explanation for what makes a family.
  1. This Day In June by Gayle E. Pittman- This book discusses the fun and unityof Pride parade. It's a great way to teach children about the LGBTQ community. It also includes a section at the back for caregivers on how to discuss gender identity and sexual orientation with our children. Regardless of what you personally believe, these are issues that are important for us to discuss in today's world.

5 Ways to Encourage Understanding of Diversity and Inclusiveness in Children:

  1. Take your children to multi-cultural events around the city. Show them the beauty of differences. Let them interact and play with people who look, pray or sound differently from them.
  2. Don't chastise children for pointing out differences. This can make them feel that there is something wrong with the difference and not just impolite to point. Instead, use it as an opportunity to talk about the differences they noticed. Praise children for noticing and then teach them that we are all different, but that those differences are only a part of who we are.
  3. Be on the lookout for teachable moments. There are many times in our lives when the topics of diversity and inclusion can come up naturally. With my kids it was whenever we saw a man or woman asking for money on the street. They asked questions that I tried to answer as honestly as I could, and we had a long discussion about homelessness. Sometimes you might hear or see something that is not in line with your values. This is also a great time to discuss what the appropriate action would've been.
  4. Teach children to use respectful language and avoid using labels, instead calling people by their names whenever possible.
  5. Most importantly, model appropriate behavior. Use inclusive language. If you hear a friend make a racist or bigoted joke, say something. When your kids point out differences, acknowledge them and then point out sameness.

The older your children get, the more challenging parenting can become, but if we all keep moving forward together, we'll be fine. Wishing you MLK days full of kindness, tolerance, days off from work and extra sleep!

♥ Erin

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