With the death of George Floyd, protests surged through cities across the world, demanding justice and change for Black people. And the fight is still ongoing. Silence has stood in the way of progress for many years, and it needs to come to an end. One way to ensure that change will happen is proactively raising and teaching children in an anti-racist environment.
Below is a list of picture books that I have personally shared with my son. I have included these books in our daily library with aspirations of beginning the discussion of diversity. My hope is that others will also be able to use these books as a way to begin the discussion of diversity in their homes.
1. Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
This book is about a young girl, Sulwe, who is uncomfortable in her darker skin. Sulwe wishes that her skin was lighter so she would look more like the rest of her family. She has trouble making friends at school and becomes very insecure with her appearance. Sulwe attempts to change the color of her skin but fails multiple times. After a talk with her mother, she has a magnificent dream. In the dream, she learns about the importance of night and day, dark and light. When she wakes up, she comes to love the skin she is in and begins to feel more confident.
This book is important because it teaches children how to accept the things that make them unique. Specifically, Sulwe tackles the discrimination that someone can face based on the color of their skin, and how to overcome it. This book can teach children how to accept not only their own unique characteristics, but also those of others around them. Your children, while reading this book, will learn to identify beauty around them, and accept how everyone is beautiful in their own way.
2. All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
This book discusses a school where all children are welcome with open arms. In this school, there are no divisions or discrimination, and children are free to be who they are. Also, each student’s background is embraced, and everyone’s traditions taught. All Are Welcome also celebrates diversity and inclusion within this school and shows young readers a world where everyone is included and accepted.
This book is important because it shows readers an inclusive environment where each person is openly accepted and treated equally. It can also show readers how important it is to educate and embrace the unique differences between each of us. All Are Welcome delivers an inclusive message that can reach children of all ages, and helps children understand that differences do not divide us.
3. We’re Different, We’re the Same (Sesame Street) by Bobbi Kates
Whether it be nose shape, skin color, or eye color, everyone is different in their own unique way. We’re Different, We’re the Same discusses those differences that make each of us unique, but also all the ways that we are the same, as the title suggests. This book teaches children about those differences and how to embrace each of those differences. The moral of this book is what is inside matters most of all.
This book is an awesome tool for teaching children about diversity because it accepts the differences which make up everyone and shows how beautiful everyone is on the inside. We’re Different, We’re the Same also helps young children identify how everyone has the same needs, desires, and feelings. This book is also a great learning tool for babies and toddlers because of the familiarity with the well-loved Sesame Street characters.
4. The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
The Day You Begin is a story that addresses the loneliness that can occur when entering a new setting. The book also addresses what it feels like to be “The Only.” “The Only,” for example, can mean the only person with an accent or the only person with a strange homemade lunch. The book analyzes the feelings associated with being “The Only” and teaches children how to embrace those differences proudly. The Day You Begin can also teach children how to be accepting of other’s differences and help others feel included in new settings.
This book is important because it discusses diversity in a way that helps children embrace their differences. It can also help children discover ways to make connections to others through their differences and embrace everyone. The Day You Begin also helps children understand and cope with the loneliness that can come from being the only different person in the room, and educates children on how to be inclusive to everyone.