Diversity in the classroom empowers young learners. It gives them the opportunity to see themselves, to learn about other people and cultures, and to appreciate the beauty of each person’s uniqueness. Teaching students about diversity when they are young gives children a foundation for understanding and acceptance when they are older. What books have empowered you?
- By embracing diversity in the preschool classroom, every student becomes empowered and included.
- By celebrating differences, it becomes natural for students to recognize and appreciate individual uniqueness.
- By exploring new cultures, students are invited to see beyond their own world. Books can open doors to places they may not have thought possible. These gorgeous picture books do just that!
Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love
The child in this book rides the subway with his grandmother and spies three women dressed as gorgeous mermaids. Julian decides he wants to be a mermaid as well, and uses his creativity (and his abuela’s curtains) to do just that. But how will Abuela react? A remarkable story about being true to one’s self and being loved for who you are.
When Grandpa Gives You a Toolbox by Jamie L. B. Deenihan
This book mixes humor with great advice. It stars a little boy that wants nothing more than a dollhouse for his dolls. Grandpa gives him a toolbox, however, so should he launch it into space? Feed it to a T-Rex? Focusing on the gentle love and support of family and friends, the main character finds a way to get his dollhouse AND connect with his Grandpa while remaining true to himself.
The Little Red Fort by Brenda Maier
This story will seem very familiar to teachers, as it is similar to “The Little Red Hen.” Ruby wants to build a fort, but her brothers don’t think she can do it and laugh at her efforts. This story has a sweet ending where everyone ends up making amends!
Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry
Zuri loves her hair, but she wants it to look extra special. Her daddy tries to help her find just the right look as they explore all the ways her hair can express her personality.
Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy
A book for all ages, this beautiful story celebrates the many ways black is essential, from skin tone to culture, to wheels on a bike, to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s robes. The text is simple enough for preschoolers to enjoy, but it includes a section in the back explaining the many references to historical events, culture, and songs within the story.
I Am Enough by Grace Byers
This story of self-affirmation and self-worth set in lyrical rhymes with beautiful illustrations focuses on all of the ways each and every person on the Earth is enough by merely being themselves.
Mae Among The Stars by Roda Ahreed
This captivating story is based on the real-life of the astronaut Mae Jemison. Despite being told that she should be a nurse, Mae Jemison, supported by her family, went on to get her doctorate and become the first African American woman to go to space. This book repeats the message, “If you can dream it, you believe it, and you work hard for it, anything is possible.”
Ruby’s Birds by Mya Thompson
Ruby and her friend go to the park – but what will they see when they get there? It is a sweet and simple tale for young preschoolers on finding wild places in the middle of an urban setting. Information about where to find birds in real life is at the end of the book, as well as tips for taking a nature walk and how to connect with a citizen-science project at the Cornell Lab, Celebrate Urban Birds.
Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña
C.J. asks his Nana questions in this gentle story of finding beauty and gratitude in what you have. This book has won numerous awards, including:
- #1 New York Times Bestseller
- A USA Today Bestseller
- Winner of the Newbery Medal
- Caldecott Honor Book
- Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book
Another by Christian Robinson
In this charming, wordless picture book, a little girl dreams that she and her cat go on a fantastical adventure to find another child just like her. This book is another multiple-award winner, including:
- An NPR Favorite Book of 2019
- A New York Times Best Children’s Book of 2019
- An NYPL Best Book of 2019
- A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2019
- A School Library Journal Best Picture Book of 2019
- A BookPage Best Picture Book of 2019
- A Horn Book Fanfare Selection of 2019
Not Quite Snow White by Ashley Franklin
Filled with language that encourages self-worth and body-positivity, this is a story that students will find charming. Tameika is a little girl who loves the stage, but what happens when she wants to try out for the role of Snow White in the school play?
My Family Plays Music by Judy Cox
This story explores many different kinds of music, from jazz to classical, marching band to a baby banging on pots and pans. It is a wonderful story about how everyone can like different versions of the same thing and get along while doing what they love.
Jessica’s Box by Peter Carnavas
While an earlier edition of this book stars a typical little girl with a box, an updated version features Jessica in a wheelchair. The sweet story about a little girl who wants to make friends is definitely a keeper!
Evelyn Del Rey is Moving Away by Meg Medina
Depicting two Latinx children living in the city, this poignant tale of friendship has big feelings. Daniela and Evelyn are best friends, but after the moving truck takes her away, will they be able to stay that way?
Saturday by Oge Mora
Ava and her mother look forward to Saturday all week long every week, and this one promises to be extra-special. But what happens when EVERYTHING goes wrong? This story does a great job of discussing how to deal with little disappointments and finding the silver lining on even the stormiest day.
Your Name is a Song by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow
When a little girl is upset that her teacher can’t pronounce her name, her mother teaches her that every name has music in it. A beautiful story about acceptance and understanding, students will beg to sing their own names when they finish listening to the story.
Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment by Parker Curry and Jessica Curry
This story, written by 5-year-old Parker Curry (with the help of her mom!), details the moment when she first came upon a portrait of Michelle O’Bama in the museum. Looking at the picture, Parker has a revelation that she has the power to be anyone she wants to be.
The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates and Juniper Bates
The author of this sweet story gives credit to her daughter, who came up with the idea when sharing an umbrella on a rainy day. The story is a lovely metaphor for inclusion and kindness, no matter what shape, size, color, or how many legs one has.
Dress Like a Girl by Patricia Toht
What does it mean to “dress like a girl?” This book is quick to point out that a girl can wear anything she likes, from spacesuits to camouflage, black flowing gowns, and firefighter gear.
Birdie’s Beauty Parlor by Lee Merrill Byrd
Birdie is the boss when her Abuela is too tired. She knows just the thing for her exhausted grandma – a makeover! Bilingual text in English and Spanish makes this a great addition to any classroom.
The All-Together Quilt by Lizzy Rockwell
Everyone, young and old, joins together to make a beautiful patchwork quilt in this story. But who gets the quilt when it is complete? Based on a real quilting group in Norfolk, Connecticut, this story inspires working together across generations, genders, and races to make something beautiful to share!
Saffron Ice Cream by Rashin Kheiriyeh
Rashin is thrilled to be visiting the beach with her family. She used to go to the beach at her old home in Iran, where things were a little different from her new home in the United States. A beautiful cross-cultural book for young learners.
Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? by Patrice McLaurin
What would life be like without alarm clocks, cell phones, or peanut butter? Patrice McLaurin’s rhyming text dances on some of the inventions that students probably have never thought about – all by Black inventors. For older students, there are brief biographies for each inventor mentioned in the story.
Violet’s Music by Angela Johnson
Violet lives music all day long, and in everything, she finds a rhythm or a song. But will she ever find someone who loves music as much as she does? Never giving up and being true to oneself is the theme behind this lyrical story.
I Got the Rhythm by Connie Schofield-Morrison
Preschoolers will love tapping and moving along to this simple story! A girl goes on a walk with her mother and discovers the music in the world around her.
These books celebrate some of the many ways people are diverse, from race to gender, to physical challenges like being in a wheelchair. This is just a small sample of some of the favorites in the Play to Learn classroom. Have suggestions? Be sure to leave it in the comments or message the Play to Learn Preschool Facebook page.
More Resources about Embracing Diversity in the Preschool Classroom:
One of the best places to get books on diversity is The BookVine for Children company. They have books for every topic imaginable, from gender identity, blended families, STEAM and, of course, books that focus on diversity and inclusion.
- Scholastic has an amazing article about diversity in children’s literature here.
- NAEYC holds a mirror up to teachers in this article: Implicit Bias in the Classroom.
- NAEYC also has an amazing diversity section on their website.
- March 2 is National Read Across America Day! Read more about how the National Education Association is focusing on diversity HERE.
- Need to make room on your shelves for these books? Here is some advice!
- Another way to explore cultural diversity is through the foods we eat.
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