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It’s important that children see themselves in your classroom. It can make it feel like their environment and help them feel comfortable. If your students don’t see themselves in your classroom, then that can send the message that school is not for them. That’s just one reason why keeping diverse books for children in your library is important.
My sister worked in publishing for a brief few months, but during that time, she sat in on a meeting where everyone presented what authors they were publishing and advertising.
Out of hundreds of titles and authors, there were only a few authors of color.
It’s much harder for people of color to get published, and that has led to a lot of books having white main characters.
For our students who are not white, this can make reading seem like a chore. If you don’t see yourself on the pages of a book, then is that book really for you?
I’ve written in the past about disparity in the races of teachers, and part of the ways to mediate that problem is to include representations of your students in your classroom.
Books written by people of color, while not as easy to find, do exist, and making sure they’re a part of your classroom is vital to building a safe space for your students and getting them to engage with reading.
To make the process easier for you, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite diverse books for children that have characters of color or were written by people of color.
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These wonderful and inclusive books make great read-alouds for younger classes, like your first through second graders!
They are a must-have for teachers looking for diverse books for children!
The Day You Begin
This is a great one for the start of school. It shares the important message of how you begin the day you are truly yourself.
It’s a great book for if you have many races in your class or children being scared to be themselves.
This one is awesome for your kiddos who are nervous about trying new things or who are scared to do something.
I love this one!
Jabari is scared of the diving board, and the story follows his story of jumping off it at the pool during the summer.
A powerful message with great pictures!
Goodbye Havana, Hola New York
This one I bought in college, and my copy has miraculously survived my years of teaching. All of my students have loved it though, and it gives you the chance to teach some history.
It tells the story of Gabrielle traveling from Havana during the revolutions in Cuba to New York. It’s a great book if you have students learning English in your class.
Heads up, it does have some Spanish in it, but that can just make it even better!
These are the books that I think work best for your novel studies and read-aloud books for your third to fifth-graders!
Super fun to use to guide them through inference-making and character analysis.
Drita My Home Girl
I remember when I first heard Drita, My Home Girl. It was student teaching, and it was the read-aloud book in my classroom. The kids loved it, and the teacher was using it to teach them about refugees and how to treat people who are learning English.
It tells the story of Drita, who is a refugee from Kosovo, and Maxie, whose mother died in a car accident, and how they became friends.
And if you’re looking for a novel study to go along with it, I have one premade for you with worksheets and character analysis questions!
Stella Diaz Has Something to Say
Another one with some awesome Spanish! Stella is incredibly, almost painfully, shy and being raised by a single mother in Chicago.
Stella Diaz Has Something To Say tells the story of her finding her voice and learning to be brave and talk to others. It’s the first in a great series that I’m sure your kiddos will love!
And if you’re looking to read it with your whole class, then you also have to check out my pre-scaffolded Novel Study!
The Season of Styx Malone
This is a great one for young black boys to read to get them excited about reading. It focuses on the story of two brothers living in an Indiana small town. One day they trade their baby sister for a bag of fireworks and meet an older teen named Styx Malone, who helps them trade those fireworks for bigger and better.
The story covers feeling trapped in a town and wanting to be special while also teaching kids you shouldn’t always trust everyone just because they’re cool.
The Season of Styx Malone might be long, but it’s worth the reads, and your kids will find it super engaging!
Plus, if you need a novel study to go along with it, I have got you covered!
Young Adult Books
Do your advanced readers need a challenge? Are you looking for something for your teenagers or pre-teens to read independently?
Then these diverse books for your older children are something you should check out!
Bud Not Buddy
I have never read this one personally, but my teacher BFF told me that when she’s doing this novel study, the kids rebel if they’re not reading from the book. Her kiddos get upset if they don’t get to read at least a chapter a day.
Heaven forbid you to have to do any character analysis. That sounds super engaging to me!
Bud Not Buddy tells the story of a boy looking to find his father. He retraces his mother’s steps through Michigan and learns a lot about the difficulties she faced.
The Bone Witch
This book is slightly different than the others because it is set in a complete fantasy land. Its author, Rin Chipecco, is a favorite of mine. She’s Filipino, and her work, though based on fantasy and horror, is always based on cultures from around the world.
The Bone Witch is the first book in a series that follows Tea the Bone Witch, who resurrects her brother after his untimely death, setting off a chain of events that change her life.
It’s a completely gorgeous story that should be a part of any collection of diverse books for kids.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
This one is a labor of love. If you’ve never read Sherman Alexie before, go do that now. He is a famous Indigenous author who wrote this young adult novel in 2009. Alexie felt there weren’t enough books out there that told the story of indigenous children. (He was right).
He based the book on his experience, and the honesty cuts like a knife. But be warned, it sticks with you forever.
Providing diverse books for children is a must for teachers looking to make their children feel welcome and seen.
On top of that, it will teach kids that books are for them as well if they see that books are written about characters who look like them and written by people who look like them.
We are in a world where more people of color are getting published and becoming more available, so luckily, finding diverse books for children has gotten easier than it was fifteen years ago.
Hopefully, that trend will continue, and we will have even more amazing books to read with our equally amazing students.
Make sure to follow me on Instagram and let me know what your favorite book is!