This year has brought about unparalleled recognition of the work that still needs to be done, particularly in the United States, to create a world that’s based on equality, not systemic racism and sexism. Like many other moms, especially white moms, I’ve been wondering how I can do better not just for my kids, but all the children in their generation.
It would be easy for my family to ignore race. We live in New Hampshire, one of the whitest states in the country. Although we have friends and family members who are of different races, it’s too easy to ignore important conversations living in a relatively calm bubble.
I’m not likely to move my family, so I’ve been trying to create opportunities for conversation about race, gender, and social equality in our day-to-day lives. One way I’ve done that is by consciously selecting books for my first grader that reflect the diversity of the world.
Recently, we’ve been reading the Yasmin series. My six-year-old daughter loves that she can following along with adventurous and brave Yasmin, a young Pakistani American girl. I love that she can read the books herself, and is being exposed to Muslim culture as she does.
This holiday season, I’ll be shopping for more books featuring diverse characters and families. It’s a great way to open a conversation, while also supporting writers of color. Here are 5 books and series that you should consider added to your Christmas shopping list.
Best Intro to Muslim Culture
The Yasmin Series
The Yasmin series by Saadia Faruqi, which we’re starting with, is perfect for kids in kindergarten through second grade. My first grader who is just starting to get the hand of reading can get through the books with guidance, and the short chapters keep her motivated. Best of all, author Saadia Faruqi integrates Muslim culture subtly, while most of the book focuses on Yasmin’s adventure, from building things to trying soccer and becoming a writer. For older readers, try Faruqi’s novels for middle schoolers, including “A Place At The Table” and “A Thousand Questions.”
Best Book for Celebrating Uniqueness
I Like Myself Book
Perfect for the preschool and early elementary crowd, “I Like Myself” by Karen Beaumont is all about embracing self-confidence. The character is a curly-haired little girls who celebrates her uniqueness, without giving much through to what others think. My daughter loves the silliness and energy of this book, and it’s always good for a few before-bed laughs.
Best Book for Celebrating Diversity
Everywhere Babies Book
For introducing the youngest readers to diversity, "Everywhere Babies" by Susan Meyersis a great option, and has been one of my favorite nursery books since back in my nannying days. The book has a simple and sweet rhyme scheme that will keep the attention of babies and toddlers. The illustrations and text both work together to promote diversity as part of normal everyday life. In the book, babies of all races are features, alongside same sex couples, multi-generational households, and breastfeeding and bottle feeding.
Best Book for Breaking Gender Stereotypes
My Princess Boy
This book by Cheryl Kilodavis becomes extra sweet when you know that the story is inspired by the author’s son, a boy who liked all things princess-y. “My Princess Boy” tells preschoolers about Dylan, who loves to wear clothes that are pink and sparkly. Following along with Dylan’s adventures, young readers move beyond gender stereotypes.
Best Book with an Empowering Message
Leo Can Swim
In this book by Anna McQuinn, Leo, a Black tot, is taken to swim class by his dad, who is also Black. With one simple storyline, the book incorporates racial representation and pushes back on the idea that moms are always the central caregiver. Other than Leo and his dad, the book features lots of racial diversity. “Leo Can Swim” is perfect for babies and tots.
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