Diverse Kid's Lit Recommendations
Reading is foundational in helping kids build language and literacy, but also in helping kids develop social skills, emotional intelligence, and self-awareness and confidence. Reading books by and about people of different genders, races, cultures, abilities, and family types helps them understand the world around them, build an appreciation for differences, and develop empathy for their peers.
These are some of my favourite picks for diverse children’s literature! Obviously, this is not a comprehensive list of all diverse kids reads. This list only includes books I have personally read and recommend for kids. This is a living document, if you have some suggestions for reads that aren’t listed here, please feel free to contact me and I will add them!
This list is categorized first by reading levels (you can see philosophy for ratings based on the content skill level here) and then alphabetically, first by author last name and then by title.
Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison
This story meant to inspire youngsters by introducing 18 trailblazing black women from history. This book features women from the United States including Mae Jemison, Katherine Johnson, Josephine Baker, Shirley Chisholm, and Maya Angelou.
Little Dreamers: Visionary Women Around the World by Vashti Harrison
This collection is a follow-up to Dream Big, Little One that features 35 women from around the world, including inventors, artists, scientists, and writers.
I Am Not A Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer
Based on the true experiences of the author’s grandmother as a student of the Canadian Residential Schools, this book introduces kids to some of the worst parts of Canada’s history in a way that is understandable and relatable.
Finding Nimama by Melanie Florence
This is the story of a young Cree girl growing up without her Mother. This book introduces kids to the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in Canada. The topic is handled sensitively making this book perfect for starting conversations with kids.
The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad
Written by an Olympic medalist and social justice activist, this story tells of two sisters on their first day of school and their hurt and confusion when other kids say mean things about the older sister’s hijab. This is a beautiful story about dealing with bullying and being proud of who you are.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o
This story follows a young girl who has the darkest skin tone in her class. Over the course of the book, she learns about colourism and learns to love herself and her skin.
The Heart of a Boy by Kate T. Parker
This is a photo collection of “boys being boys” in the best possible way, including pictures of boys being brave, vulnerable, being good friends, and achieving their goals.
Strong is the New Pretty by Kate T. Parker
This is a photo collection of candid pictures of girls being themselves, wearing clothes that make them happy, hair unbrushed, doing activities like sports and reading. The intention is to challenge media images of girls looking perfect and “pretty” to show reality so that girls don’t feel isolated or alone in being themselves.
And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson
Based on the true story of two chinstrap penguins at the Central Park Zoo in New York City in the United States, this is a story about different forms families can take, namely touching on adoption and LGBTQ+ parents.
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
This delightful picture book features an elementary classroom where are students are welcomed with open arms. Kids will learn about different traditions their friends might celebrate and that our differences are something to be celebrated and welcomed.
Say Something! by Peter H. Reynolds
This story teaches kids to use their voice to make the world a better place by calling out injustice.
Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson
This teaches kids about the Iroquois Oral Tradition and how storytelling records the Iroquois history of peace, unity, and democracy.
Viola Desmond Won’t Be Budged by Jody Nyasha Warner
Viola Desmond is a real Canadian woman who, 1946, was asked to leave her seat on the main floor of a movie theatre in Nova Scotia because she was black. This story chronicles her refusal to bend to injustice and the fight for rights in Afro-Canadian history.
Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai
Written by the Nobel Peace Prize winner based on her own childhood, this is a story about learning that there are parts of our world that need fixing and how we can work together every day to make our wishes come true.
ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE-GRADE NOVELS
El Deafo by Cece Bell
This is a semi-autobiographical graphic novel about a deaf/hard of hearing character that uses hearing aids to be able to hear. They navigate bullying and self-esteem as well as managing their illness-caused hearing loss. This story is cute, charming, and an absolute must-read.
The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
This is the story of an African-American family living in Flint, Michigan, in the United States in 1963. This book includes the events of the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing following the Civil Rights Protests.
Fatty Legs by Margaret-Olemaun Pokiak-Fenton and Christy Jordan-Fenton
This story chronicles the experiences of an Inuvialuit girl standing up to bullying in a Canadian Residential School in the far North.
Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George
Set in 1970’s Alaska, the book follows an Inuk girl torn between traditional Inuit ways of life and modern Alaskan life. After being orphaned and sexually assaulted, she runs away into the arctic tundra where she comes upon a pack of wolves and learns to coexist with them. The book is followed by two sequels entitled Julie and Julie’s Wolf Pack. This title is officially a “banned book” but it was my personal favourite in elementary.
House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
While this book is technically listed as adult fantasy, I believe it would appeal to younger audiences. The book directly discusses prejudice in society through the eyes of magical orphans. Older kids could easily read this one on their own, but I believe this might be a great book to read aloud together to start conversations prejudice and discrimination.
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
The novel explores life in southern Mississippi in the United States during the Great Depression and the Jim Crowe era. This book is officially on the “banned book” list because of the language and the harsh depiction of racism.
YOUNG ADULT NOVELS
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
This is a YA contemporary romance for anyone hoping to connect to a story of estranged and reconnected relationships, accepting identity (especially non-binary and questioning LGBTQ+ identities), struggling with mental illness (namely anxiety), or considering therapy.
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez
Greatly informed by Bolivian culture, history, and politics, this story follows the deposed Condesa’s decoy as she embarks on a mission to take the throne back from a corrupt false king.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
This is a classic and a must-read about two young white children whose father is a lawyer defending a black man accused of sexually assaulting a white woman. Through the book the children learn about racism and the structural inequality in the United States.
The Tiger At Midnight by Swati Teerdhala This is the first book in a planned trilogy. Rich in south Asian culture and mythology, two loves on opposite sides of enemy lines engage in a game of “catch-me-if-you-can”.
Shattered by Eric Walters
In this book, a spoiled 15-year-old is assigned to do community service for a civics class. As he volunteers at a soup kitchen for the homeless in his community, he meets a homeless war veteran who served as a United Nations peacekeeper in the Rwandan Genocide. This is an excellent book for challenging perceptions of homelessness, combat, PTSD, and for encouraging kids to want to volunteer and be involved in their communities.