Colorful: 7 of Our Favorite Diverse Picture Books for Kids

Katie Mitchell
Katie Mitchell
July 09, 2020 3 min read

When you select books to read with your children, how often do you reach for books in which the main characters are significantly different from your family? If you're like lots of parents, you've been challenged by this question lately. Maybe the answer is, "Not all that often," or maybe you think you do well in this area but you can always improve. I want to encourage all of our Beyond the Blackboard families to set goals to incorporate more diversity into your storytime routine. I have fond memories of enjoying Ezra Jack Keats' The Snowy Day during my childhood. Can you believe that book is now almost 60 years old? 

I still love that book because it's so accessible to all kids. Plus, with its amazing collage artwork, it's beautiful and unique. The straightforward, yet rhythmic nature of the text helps the language come easily to kids. Reading aloud has so many benefits for children!

I've always considered picture books to be an underrated form of literature; they can be full of artistry, entertainment, and deep life lessons. I am drawn to the simple and sometimes profound world of picture books. Like toys, books provide children with a lens through which they view themselves and their world. Picture books also give kids a look at experiences different from their own; they teach empathy. 

Here is a selection of diverse picture books to explore with your kids. #TeamBtB hopes you enjoy them! 

Woke: A Young Poet's Call to Justice
by Mahogany L. Browne, with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood, illustrated by Theodore Taylor III

Poets have, historically, been some of the first artists leading the social movement charge. Woke is book of poems authored by women. This book tackles tough topics like acceptance, discrimination, and the courage to speak out. Recommended for ages 8-12 years.

 The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist
by Cynthia Levinson and Vanessa Brantley-Newton

Audrey Faye Hendricks is the youngest known child to be arrested for protesting for civil rights. Arrested in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963, Audrey Faye Hendricks' story is singular and inspirational. Bold, brave, and confident! Recommended for ages 5-10 years.

 The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats

Winner of the 1963 Caldecott Medal, this book is a classic favorite of millions of people of all ages. Filled with the awe and wonder of the experience of a first snowfall, The Snowy Day is a magical read each and every time its pages are turned. Recommended for ages 2-5 years and beyond.

I Walk With VanessaI Walk with Vanessa: A Story About a Simple Act of Kindness
by Kerascoët

Named by Parents Magazine as the "Best Book that Champions Kindness", this simple illustrations-only book has themes of acceptance, kindness, and strength in numbers. This picture book is inspired by real events and displays how a single act of kindness can lead to changes within an entire community. Recommended for ages 4-8 years.

Harlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills, by Renee Watson, illustrated by Christian RobinsonHarlem's Little Blackbird: The Story of Florence Mills
by Renee Watson, illustrated by Christian Robinson

The true story of Florence Mills, whose parents were both former slaves. Florence worked her way to 1920s Broadway, where she inspired all who encountered her sweet, bird-like voice. As successful as she was, though, prejudice still shaped her world, so Florence chose to use her celebrity to promote and support works by her fellow Black artists. Harlem's Little Blackbird encourages young readers to follow their dreams, while teaching them about equality and justice. Recommended for ages 3-7 years.

Hands Up! by Breanne J. McDaniel, illustrated by Shane W. EvansHands Up!
by Breanna J. McDaniel, illustrated by Shane W. Evans

Hands up for a hug, hands up in class, hands up for a high five! The phrasing comes together at the triumphant end of the book, at a moment at a protest march. Recommended for ages 4-8 years.

Happy in Our Skin, by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren TobiaHappy in Our Skin
by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Lauren Tobia

Just be you! As kids grow, so does their skin. Inside-out, all children are one-of-a-kind. The warm-toned text and wonderful illustrations in this book show kids how great it is to be them! Recommended for ages 4-6 years.



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