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24 Nov 2018

Children's Books With Ethnic Diversity

I’ve been asked a couple times now if I intentionally choose books “of colour” for Rheo or where I find them.

While part of my answer is no (I choose books that represent him in any way: skin colour, crazy hair, adventurous spirits, frequent travels and so on) I'd also have to answer "absolutely!" given a majority of media types available to children favour one grouping in particular.

I’m a big advocate for the idea that representation plays a crucial role in children growing up with self-love, acceptance, and a positive understanding of our differences from others. With that, I make the extra effort to ensure he grows up on various types of media, inclusive of diversity (especially, but not only, relatable to himself).

If you're looking for some suggestions with characters of colour, I’ve rounded up a few of our personal favourites here.

A top pick over here because of it’s striking similarities to Rhe (main character is a bi-racial wild child with crazy hair he’s proud of). The same book, in another version is ‘Chocolate Me’. And while we haven’t read it, I plan to get my hands on it for love of the way the original was done.

#1 New York Times Best Seller, Wall Street Journal’s Best Children’s Book (2015) and winner of numerous other awards. This one is a total must have with vibrant story telling, beautiful illustrations and again – showcasing a family (boy, grandmother) of colour journeying through a city that holds many lessons of culture, diversity, privilege, accessibility and more, itself. 

From Far Away

A more recent work from a favourite author of my childhood, Robert Munsch, this story talks about the life of immigrants and refugees. At first read, I thought the content was a little intense for young audiences but have decided to include it in our collection as we meet more and more new families from Syria in particular. I realized that soon our little one will be in school with kids who have experienced things he could never understand and I think it’s a good conversation to start first at home.

Illustrations include a child of colour, however the overall tone of the book is just about embracing whatever it is that makes you – you! “Messy hair, beaver breath.”

Another book with diverse races illustrations, but message suitable to all children – talking about differences such as freckles and tooth gaps, with an emphasis on self acceptance. 

Another, New York Times Best Seller. If I had a daughter especially, this would be the only book she had...okay, just kidding but it’s so good. I found myself stuck reading through it while Rhe ran unleashed around the book store. With cute illustrations depicting notable leaders in black history, this well done children’s book shares the story of 40 women who paved the way.

Written by a world-renowned, feminist theorist, this one is a quick and easy sing-song type of book celebrating hair of shape and texture. 

I was initially attracted to this book for the massive afro gracing the cover, but it was even more inside, showcasing an Afro-Latino boy on tie hunt for “Bongo”. Through his search, the book depicts various emotions, facial expressions, and Spanish phrases for children to be entertained or taught by. 

A classic book for welcoming a new baby! But featuring a family of colour. This book shows the journey of a growing friendship and appreciation between older and younger siblings. 

One of Rhe’s favourite picks! This adventurous, fast paced story about 3 brothers, building lemonade stand businesses is fun for everyone. With no actual touching on race or diversity, the book features characters of colour and depicts how even siblings (or twins) are different.

Love yourself. Respect others. Be kind to everyone. Three messages that are hard to deny, regardless of representation. But this one, by activist Grace Byers (from Empire) has that too. Another from New York Times’ Best Seller List.

Enjoy these picks, and if you have any additional, 
I’m totally open to any goodness you want to send our way.

*Edit: This post was originally published in November 2018.
I have since updated it and will continue to do so in a list or more brief manner.
If you've found yourself here looking for content to diversify your child's library about people who do not look like them, these are all wonderful options as well and I applaud your efforts.

- on Black hair, addressing common microaggression.

- multilayered book about perspective,
showcases a POC main character.

- showcasing Black men who paved the way.

- on the topic of natural (Black) hair, self-love.

- child friendly story about love and loss of a grandparent,
features POC main characters.

- touching on Black hairstyles, in classic Robert Munsch fashion.

- beautiful story of father and grandfather figures, message of never parting,
showcases a POC main character.

- a fun for all book based on a popular hit song,
showcases a POC main character.

- showcasing a notable Black figure.

- discusses the many shades of brown skin.

- message of self love, Black hair.

- touching on new beginnings, school environments,
not race related but showcases a POC main character.

- touches on kids overcoming fears,
showcases a POC main character.

- a rhythmical book celebrating adventures and family support in pursuing them.

- a follow up book to Grace Byer's, I Am Enough (above).

- highlights a father daughter bond, touches on Black hair.

- one of the many wonderful and customizable books to come out Wonderbly,
a seek and find adventure book that offers not only child's name implementation into book but also allows you to choose a character that looks like them.

- an environmentalist message for children and ode to Mother Earth,
features a POC depiction of Mother Earth and beautiful artistry.

- from the creator of The Honest Toddler, a humour take on life after children,
features a POC main character and family.

x, Olivia

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