My husband and I have two elementary school-aged girls. I posted a book that we have and my friends indicated they’d like to know what other books we would recommend to add to their library, so here goes!
I love the Conscious Stories series. We have them en Espanol and in English as my kids are in Spanish immersion school. They’ve got instructions to center yourself and actionable things throughout but the kids don’t feel talked AT.
The Berenstain Bears have some real goldmines in there. Some of the stuff in there is definitely not “modern” but makes for discussions (the camp one appropriates Native American culture and so we point it out, etc) but they’re fundamentally sound teaching tools the kids enjoy.
There are lots of wonderful female-empowerment books out there, but these ones really resonated with our girls – have been read over and over, and sparked deeper conversations.
- Ida B Wells Voice of Truth – Talks about the hard truths of what minority leadership involves, shows you one heck of an overachiever. Also speaks to the Black experience in America: segregation, lynching, etc.
- Maya Lin – Nothing more inspiring than a visionary architect getting picked in a contest as an underdog!
- Only Woman in the Photo – See a trail blazer and what it took for her to get where she got, and how she still, today, really isn’t appreciated for the amount of impact she had on the US.
- Story of Ruby Bridges – Perfect to introduce for a six year old – they can put themselves in her place, and have discussions about having to be brave and how adults are actually no better than the kids are. Also speaks to the Black experience in America: segregation, lynching, etc.
- Moon – Story about a girl trying to do everything good, but learning she can be a little wild, too. (Also, non-white centered)
- I Will Be Fierce – Girl learning how to be herself in a banal world. Non-white centered, non-traditional family (she lives in an apartment with her grandma)
Having conversations about people different from ourselves can really help put their current world into perspective, so here’s some we love for that.
- Families – I love the art in this one, but it helps normalize things we see daily in our own families and friends. It’s fun to relate the different families to those we see daily: moms and dads, two moms, adoptive families, kids living with different relatives, single parents, one kids, lots of kids, etc.
- Sulwe – This is a book about a girl wishing she wasn’t as darkly pigmented as she is and how she learns that even darkness is beautiful; but really what matters is if those you love see the beauty of you. My white kids LOVE this book. It’s probably their favorite of all time because they find so much to relate to outside of skin color, even though that’s the basic premise. Also really great for sibling comparison (specifically, sisters). THIS IS ALSO MY FAVORITE ART OF ALLLLLL THE KIDS BOOKS I’VE SEEN. Stunning.
- Bindu’s Bindis – My kids LOVED this book about Indian dress and bindi culture. Every time they see someone with a bindi, they celebrate it and ask for saris to feel as beautiful as the girl in this book! Also deals with a deep relationship with the grandmother.
- The Proudest Blue – I credit this book for making my kids absolutely celebrate hijabi women when they see them – on our recent trip to Turkey, we had lots of contact with hijabi women and they were delighted with my girls’ complimenting them and relating to them. Also, super wonderful to talk about how you can look or be different and be special and amazing for it.
- Eyes that Kiss in the Corners – This one elevates Asian eye shape to poetry. Another wonderful book that celebrates culture, family history, and diversity that anyone can relate to who has the same.
- We Are Water Protectors – This one is really subtle Native American culture (my kids thought it was mainly just being kind to the environment for a long time) about the DAPL oil pipeline protests. Competes with Sulwe for art quality for me – and it ends uncertainly, so we get to talk about what happened with DAPL and honestly, how sometimes battles get lost but honoring beliefs and the land and our ancestors shouldn’t stop there.
- Yaffa and Fatima – Jewish/Arab relations of sharing kindness when nobody is looking. Touches on the unity of two cultures that see eachother at odds but fundamentally have the same values.
- The Big Bath House – Talks about the magic of a Japanese Bath House, which spring boards into body positivity and diversity (something really missing in children’s books)
- My Ciudad Sings – Story about appreciating the flavor of your community, how devastation can come (in this case, in the form of Mexico City being flattened in an earthquake) and how to find those helpers . . . and that things will sing again. Hispanic celebration for the win. We have seen lots of these due to Spanish immersion, but this one is the one that resonated and caused a lot of conversations.
- Boy – A deaf boy finds a way to bridge the gap between warring factions – teaching us that maybe we should stop and start questioning why we’re doing what we’re doing and ask the other party why they are.
- A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo – A parody book about Mike Pence, his beliefs about gay marriage, and his pet rabbit – but it’s extremely instructive in how love works, how important community is, and how much you can push back when someone says you’re doing something terrible and you’re not.
- The Big Book of Hugs – Probably could go in diversity, too. It acknowledges that everyone needs a different form of connection, literally physical connection and normalizes appreciating other’s needs outside of what we’re taught is socially acceptable.
- The Boy Who Spoke to the Earth – fair warning, I’m friends with the author. Also one of the best art books of this list. A boy looks for happiness and God tells him to go places and look for it. But he doesn’t realize that he found it on the journey until he looks back and realizes that’s what happiness is. Great for the outdoorsy set – I find my kids noticing details in nature thanks to conversations elicited by this one.
- How to Solve a Problem – This book gives my girls some serious fangirl for the author, Ashima, but it also talks about how you have to set goals, visualize, and try when you fail. They always want to watch videos and go climbing after.
- Be Kind – this one could be in diversity, too, because it features heavily in a non-heavy handed way . . . but points out that kindness is just holding space for other people, not necessarily taking giant actions – and how sometimes kind actions aren’t what people need
- Squeakers – of all the Serendipity books, this one gets the most play and the most conversation. It’s about being put into uncomfortable situations (physical assault) and how that results in same of the victim and shows the outcome if you go to someone you can trust. I feel pretty secure that my kids will come to me in a similar situation because of how this book handles it.
- What Makes a Baby – Toss this one into the diversity pile because it is centered around inclusivity of how it’s not just one man and one woman making a baby but makes space for conversations about people of different genders, family orientations, and abilities making babies. We were able to talk about all of that in the context of how people come into the world.
- Nine Months – Detailed information about how a baby develops in the womb. Also features a non-white family. I feel like I have to put this book in here solely because I have read it to my girls 10000000000 times so it’s shaped them quite a bit.
- How Babies are Made – Man, this one was a bit much for me when my mom gave it to me – it goes from very clear representation of plants, to chickens, to dogs, to people. There’s no mystery left and it’s led to some uncomfortable conversations about sex pretty early on. BUT, I also think talking about it now will help them in the future and it becomes pretty matter-of-fact for them.
- Kissing Hand – Separation anxiety be gone! Any time my kids are sad, we give them a kissing hand and send them on their way. They’ve literally brought it to school to share with friends having a hard time.
- Now – My kids don’t actually love this book, but I do, and when I tell them to be mindful when they’re bored or thinking about the past or future, I remind them of the message in this book and they get it.
- You Belong Here – Ties the human experience to the world. When you’re feeling out of place, unwanted, or just flawed, what a lovely book to go back to.
- Money Bunnies – By a business author that’s had a profound affect on my systems in our business . . . he teaches kids about how use money in a way that makes them actually want to think about it. I haven’t found a better book for this anywhere.