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12 Kids Books That Feature People of Color

Our world isn't all white. Why should our kids' books be?

By
Jun 02 2020, 5:28 PM

There’s never been a more critical time to teach children to appreciate, understand, and celebrate diversity. And yet, the vast majority of kids’ books feature Caucasian characters who don’t begin to reflect the world we live in. Buying a children’s book whose protagonists are people of color won’t fix systemic racism, police brutality, or racial injustice, but having open, candid discussions with children about skin color, framed around shared stories, can help you raise kids who are more socially conscious and race-aware. Here are a few standout books to help you do it.

Kids as young as 2 will love this classic, whose protagonist is a loving kid who happens to be black. A children's book with a person of color (and her bear) at the center was even rarer at the time of its publication, in 1968, than it is today.

Kids will like the playful language in this picture book that celebrates skin's various quirks and shades. The characters are people of all races, skin tones, and family structures.

On Sundays CJ’s grandma takes him on the bus to visit a soup kitchen on Market Street. It’s not his favorite thing to do, but he starts to appreciate people from all walks of life — from his Nana’s blind friend to a guitar busker to the bus driver. Preschoolers will appreciate this one.

A lovely book about conquering your fears, for kids 4 and up, this one is about a young boy who overcomes his trepidation about jumping off a diving board.

Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o's beautiful book teaches kids 4 and up to appreciate the color of their skin, no matter what it is, by telling the story of one young girl who struggles with being darker than the rest of her family.

Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India; the boys look different, and their skin is different colors. But they both love climbing trees and playing with their pets, teaching preschoolers that our differences are superficial.

Gabrielle Union's lively book celebrates family in all its unique and different forms, by telling the story of her own daughter, Kaavia. It's for readers 4 and up.

Aimed at kindergarten-aged children, this uplifting book tells the story of Rocket, who dreams of being an astronaut, and thanks to her enthusiasm, gets her brother and neighbors excited about seeing a comet.

A fantastic way to teach kindergarten-aged children about notable women of color, this book celebrates the achievements of Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash.

First-graders will dig this story of brilliant mathematician Katherine Johnson, who worked for NASA during the space race and made sure Apollo 13 made it home safely.

First-graders learn about one of the heroes of the civil rights movement through this picture-book biography, which incorporates his timeless words and speeches.

A gorgeous book for second-graders, this one tells the story of Henry, a slave who doesn't know how old he is. So one day he mails himself to freedom and celebrates his birthday: his first day as a free human being.

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