Reading Room: Children's Books that Celebrate Diversity

By Christel M. Hoydic January 17, 2022

In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, here are some favorite books from our shelf that celebrate diversity and teach acceptance and self-confidence while also encouraging conversations about important life lessons between you and your child. It is never too early to teach peace, love, and kindness.

Click the title of any books to borrow a copy from the Douglas County Libraries.

1.) The Sneetches by Dr. Seuss

Are you a plain-belly Sneetch or a star-belly Sneetch? As only he can, Dr. Seuss teaches a wonderful lesson about equality with his rhymes and silly stories. The Sneetches remove stars and add stars to find out Who is better? Who is Who? In the end. it does not matter at all: "That day, they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches, and no kind of Sneetch is the BEST on the beaches. That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars, and whether they had one or not upon thars."

2.) Tacky the Penguin by Helen Lester

Tacky the Penguin is just plain odd! Tacky is annoying and his friends all let him know. The illustrations in this story help depict the story of acceptance when Tacky's friends learn to accept Tacky for who he is after he helps to save the day.

3.) And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson

Based on a true story about the penguins that lived at New York City's Central Park Zoo, the author captures something "a little bit different" about two penguins in particular — two male penguins, that is. Uplifting and eye-opening, their story is irresistible as we discover they "must be in love" but their nest remained empty until one day Tango made three!

4.) Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Everyone in Chrysanthemum's class laughed at her funny name that takes up 13 letters. Chrysanthemum's spirit is wilted by the bullying at school. Through the story, children can see the effects such "teasing" can have on someone and the importance of kindness and respect. With the love and support of her family, Chrysanthemum learns to love who she is ... and her name.

5.) Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae

This is a great book for teaching diversity, acceptance, and the power of our words. The encouraging words from a new friend help a "clumsy Gerald" learn that he can dance even with his crooked knees and thin legs, no matter what anyone says!

6.) The Family Book by Todd Parr

Every family is different and comes in many varieties, as Todd Parr points out for all to see. "Some families have a stepmom or stepdad and stepsisters or stepbrothers. Some families adopt children. Some families have two moms or two dads. Some families have one parent instead of two." Todd and his vibrant illustrations celebrate ALL types of families with love.

7.) Children Just Like Me by Catherine Saunders

Highlights the lives of children from over 30 countries around the world. You and your children will not only learn about the differences but also discover how similar we all are!

8.) Spaghetti in A Hot Dog Bun by Marisa Dismondy

Lucy may look different and she may like to eat different foods but does that mean she is different? Lucy feels sad when the classroom bully makes fun of her and is ready to give up when she gets her last bit of courage to continue being Lucy. A wonderful book to teach respect and acceptance!

9.) The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordon Al Abdullah

A story about just what the title says ... a sandwich swap. This story can lead to lessons from trying new things to having the courage to learn and try new experiences.

10.) Elmer by David McKee

Elmer the colorful elephant helps teach children about individuality and the power of laughter when he learns to love his brightly-colored patchwork even when the other elephants laugh at him for being different. The humor used in this story is one of a kind and the lesson is valuable for all.

11.) The Skin You Live In by Michael Tyler

A simple rhyme, a lively story, and an important lesson: social acceptance no matter what shade you come in! Accepting others for what's on the inside is as simple as that.  

12.) It's Okay To Be Different by Todd Parr

Another favorite by Todd Parr with bright colors, silly scenes, and inspiring but simple text that gets right to the point and celebrates individuality through acceptance of others and self-confidence.

13.) Same, Same But Different by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw

Pen pals from across the world — one lives in America and the other India — learn that even though their worlds look different, they certainly do have a lot in common.

14.) We Are a Garden by Lisa Westberg Peters

The wind brings newcomers from all directions, creating a beautiful and varied garden. Examine centuries of North American history and how America became such a diverse country.