What Does Diversity Look Like in Children’s Books?

What Does Diversity Look Like in Children’s Books?
By Tomsickova

Whether you’re a teacher, a homeschool parent, or any other caregiver, you know that children need to learn about diversity. Learning about diversity helps children understand the importance of inclusivity and empathy and gives them a broader understanding of their world. Books are a great way to introduce diversity and these concepts to the children in your care. Diversity is such a broad word, though, so what does it look like in children’s books? Generally, diversity appears in children’s books in the following five ways.

Racial and Ethnic Inclusion

These books present characters from various racial and ethnic backgrounds, enabling children to appreciate the richness of different cultures and traditions. Successful examples include “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña and “Julian is a Mermaid” by Jessica Love. They beautifully illustrate racial and cultural differences, promoting acceptance and understanding among young readers.

Different Socioeconomic Statuses

Books portraying characters from different socioeconomic statuses teach children about different lifestyles and economic realities. For example, Jacqueline Woodson’s “Lunch Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees” depicts characters from varying economic backgrounds. These stories encourage children to show empathy toward others who are going through different experiences.

Gender Diversity

Most children’s books feature male main characters. When we share stories that feature characters of other genders and challenge gender stereotypes, we help children develop a more inclusive view of gender. Books like “Not All Princesses Dress in Pink” by Jane Yolen and “Jacob’s New Dress” by Sarah Hoffman offer valuable lessons on embracing individuality and defying societal norms.

Disability Inclusion

Depending on the age of your child and the community you’re a part of, your child may or may not have met someone who’s disabled. Since there are over 42 million disabled Americans, they will meet a disabled person eventually and will need to know how to act appropriately. This is one reason why children need diverse books. Reading books that portray characters with disabilities fosters understanding and empathy. Books like “Susan Laughs” by Jeanne Willis, where the protagonist uses a wheelchair, provide a window into the experiences of children with disabilities.

Family Diversity

Children’s books depicting diverse family structures, including single parents, multigenerational families, and LGBTQ+ families, help children understand and appreciate different family dynamics. If you’re navigating the world of homeschool curriculum, learning about family diversity may or may not figure into the curriculum plan. However, you should try to fit it in so that your child can interact with diverse families. “A Family is a Family is a Family” by Sara O’Leary is a great example.

Diversity in children’s books looks like diversity in the real world. As educators, parents, and caregivers, we need to encourage our children to explore these books and broaden their horizons. After all, understanding and appreciating diversity is an important step toward fostering an inclusive and empathetic society.

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