14 Children's Books That Celebrate Diversity and Girl Power

It's a question many of you may have right now: how do I talk to my children about racism? It's a sensitive subject, but one that needs to be discussed, and it starts at home. Children's books handle subjects like race and equality with grace, offering a perfect starting point.

My daughters are almost 5 and 7 and we sat down and spent the day discovering books that feature black heroes, teach about diversity and celebrate girl power. They picked these 14 that we wanted to share with you. (Click on each book cover for a direct link)

Do you have a favorite? Share with us!

1. THE COLORS OF US

A positive and affirming look at skin color, from an artist's perspective.

Seven-year-old Lena is going to paint a picture of herself. She wants to use brown paint for her skin. But when she and her mother take a walk through the neighborhood, Lena learns that brown comes in many different shades.

Through the eyes of a little girl who begins to see her familiar world in a new way, this book celebrates the differences and similarities that connect all people.

Karen Katz created this book for her daughter, Lena, whom she and her husband adopted from Guatemala six years ago.

 

2. ADA TWIST SCIENTIST

Inspired by real-life makers Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, this beloved #1 bestseller champions STEM, girl power and women scientists in a rollicking celebration of curiosity, the power perseverance, and the importance of asking “Why?”  
 
Ada Twist’s head is full of questions. Like her classmates Iggy and Rosie—stars of their own New York Times bestselling picture books Iggy Peck, Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer—Ada has always been endlessly curious. Even when her fact-finding missions and elaborate scientific experiments don’t go as planned, Ada learns the value of thinking her way through problems and continuing to stay curious.

 

3. DANCING IN THE WINGS

Sassy is a long-legged girl who always has something to say. She wants to be a ballerina more than anything, but she worries that her too-large feet, too-long legs, and even her big mouth will keep her from her dream. When a famous director comes to visit her class, Sassy does her best to get his attention with her high jumps and bright leotard. Her first attempts are definitely not appreciated, but with Sassy's persistence, she just might be able to win him over. Dancing in the Wings is loosely based on actress/choreographer Debbie Allen's own experiences as a young dancer.

 

4. SAME, SAME BUT DIFFERENT

Elliot lives in America, and Kailash lives in India. They are pen pals. By exchanging letters and pictures, they learn that they both love to climb trees, have pets, and go to school. Their worlds might look different, but they are actually similar. Same, same. But different!

Through an inviting point-of-view and colorful, vivid illustrations, this story shows how two boys living oceans apart can be the best of friends.

 

5. THE SKIN YOU LIVE IN

With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers. Themes associated with child development and social harmony, such as friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity are promoted in simple and straightforward prose. Vivid illustrations of children's activities for all cultures, such as swimming in the ocean, hugging, catching butterflies, and eating birthday cake are also provided. This delightful picturebook offers a wonderful venue through which parents and teachers can discuss important social concepts with their children.

 

6. DREAM BIG, LITTLE ONE

This beautifully illustrated board book edition of instant bestseller Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History showcases women who changed the world and is the perfect goodnight book to inspire big dreams.
Featuring 18 trailblazing black women in American history, Dream Big, Little One is the irresistible board book adaptation of Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History.
Among these women, you'll find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn't always accept them.

The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.
7. NOT QUITE SNOW WHITE

Tameika is a girl who belongs on the stage. She loves to act, sing, and dance—and she’s pretty good at it, too. So when her school announces their Snow White musical, Tameika auditions for the lead princess role.

But the other kids think she’s “not quite” right to play the role.

They whisper, they snicker, and they glare.

Will Tameika let their harsh words be her final curtain call?

Not Quite Snow White is a delightful and inspiring picture book that highlights the importance of self-confidence while taking an earnest look at what happens when that confidence is shaken or lost. Tameika encourages us all to let our magic shine.

 

7. READY TO FLY

An inspiring picture book for little ballerinas everywhere! This nonfiction picture book is an excellent choice to share during homeschooling, in particular for children ages 4 to 6. It’s a fun way to learn to read and as a supplement for activity books for children.

Ready to Fly is the true story of Sylvia Townsend, an African American girl who falls in love with ballet after seeing Swan Lake on TV.

Although there aren’t many ballet schools that will accept a girl like Sylvia in the 1950s, her local bookmobile provides another possibility. A librarian helps Sylvia find a book about ballet and the determined seven-year-old, with the help of her new books, starts teaching herself the basics of classical ballet.

Soon Sylvia learns how to fly—how to dance—and how to dare to dream.

Lyrical, easy-to-read, and affecting text paired with bright, appealing illustrations make Ready to Fly perfect for aspiring ballerinas everywhere who are ready to leap and to spread their wings.

 

8. SULWE

From Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o comes a powerful, moving picture book about colorism, self-esteem, and learning that true beauty comes from within.

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

In this stunning debut picture book, actress Lupita Nyong’o creates a whimsical and heartwarming story to inspire children to see their own unique beauty.

 

9. WILMA RUDOLPH (LITTLE PEOPLE BIG DREAMS)

In this book from the critically acclaimed, multimillion-copy best-selling Little People, BIG DREAMS series, discover the life of Wilma Rudolph, the remarkable sprinter and Olympic champion.

Wilma was born into a family with 22 brothers and sisters, in the segregated South. She contracted polio in her early years and her doctors said she would never walk again. But Wilma persisted with treatment, and she recovered her strength by the age of 12. At school, Wilma showed a talent for basketball and sprinting, earning the nickname "Skeeter" (mosquito) as she ran so fast. Wilma was in college when she went to the 1960 Olympics. She not only won gold in sprint events, but also broke world records with her sprinting skill. She had beaten polio to become an Olympic champion. She is a huge inspiration to many women in sports around the world. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the athlete's life.

 

10. WE MARCH

On August 28, 1963, a remarkable event took place--more than 250,000 people gathered in our nation's capital to participate in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The march began at the Washington Monument and ended with a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his historic "I Have a Dream" speech, advocating racial harmony. Many words have been written about that day, but few so delicate and powerful as those presented here by award-winning author and illustrator Shane W. Evans. When combined with his simple yet compelling illustrations, the thrill of the day is brought to life for even the youngest reader to experience.

We March was one of Kirkus Reviews' Best Children's Books of 2012, and is an important story about the African American civil rights movement.

 

11. HIDDEN FIGURES

Based on the New York Times bestselling book and the Academy Award–nominated movie, author Margot Lee Shetterly and Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Award winner Laura Freeman bring the incredibly inspiring true story of four black women who helped NASA launch men into space to picture book readers! This nonfiction picture book is an excellent choice to share during homeschooling, in particular for children ages 4 to 6. It’s a fun way to learn to read and as a supplement for activity books for children.

Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Christine Darden were good at math…really good.

They participated in some of NASA's greatest successes, like providing the calculations for America's first journeys into space. And they did so during a time when being black and a woman limited what they could do. But they worked hard. They persisted. And they used their genius minds to change the world.

In this beautifully illustrated picture book edition, we explore the story of four female African American mathematicians at NASA, known as "colored computers," and how they overcame gender and racial barriers to succeed in a highly challenging STEM-based career.

 

12. LET THE CHILDREN MARCH

Coretta Scott King Honor Award for Illustration 2019

I couldn't play on the same playground as the white kids. 
I couldn't go to their schools.  
I couldn't drink from their water fountains.  
There were so many things I couldn't do. 

In 1963 Birmingham, Alabama, thousands of African American children volunteered to march for their civil rights after hearing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. speak. They protested the laws that kept black people separate from white people. Facing fear, hate, and danger, these children used their voices to change the world. Frank Morrison's emotive oil-on-canvas paintings bring this historical event to life, while Monica Clark-Robinson's moving and poetic words document this remarkable time. 
13. LITTLE LEADERS: BOLD WOMEN IN BLACK HISTORY
An important book for all ages, Little Leaders educates and inspires as it relates true stories of forty trailblazing black women in American history. Illuminating text paired with irresistible illustrations bring to life both iconic and lesser-known female figures of Black history such as abolitionist Sojourner Truth, pilot Bessie Coleman, chemist Alice Ball, politician Shirley Chisholm, mathematician Katherine Johnson, poet Maya Angelou, and filmmaker Julie Dash.

Among these biographies, readers will find heroes, role models, and everyday women who did extraordinary things - bold women whose actions and beliefs contributed to making the world better for generations of girls and women to come. Whether they were putting pen to paper, soaring through the air or speaking up for the rights of others, the women profiled in these pages were all taking a stand against a world that didn't always accept them.

The leaders in this book may be little, but they all did something big and amazing, inspiring generations to come.

 

14. HARRIET (LITTLE PEOPLE BIG DREAMS)

Little Harriet was born into slavery on a plantation in Maryland. Though life was hard, Harriet persisted. She used all of her strength and bravery to escape slavery and journey north on the Underground Railroad. Harriet made the dangerous mission back to the South many times, fighting her whole life to bring others with her to freedom. This moving book features stylish and quirky illustrations and extra facts at the back, including a biographical timeline with historical photos and a detailed profile of the abolitionist's life.

Little People, BIG DREAMS is a best-selling series of books and educational games that explore the lives of outstanding people, from designers and artists to scientists and activists. All of them achieved incredible things, yet each began life as a child with a dream.

_______

Thank you for letting us share our favorite books with you. Do you have a favorite? Share with us!


Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published