Books for Teaching Children About Diversity - Baby Chick
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Books for Teaching Children About Diversity

Children begin to notice skin color & form biases as early as infancy. These books can help teach them about diversity while they're young.

Updated May 6, 2024

by Aimee Ketchum

Pediatric Occupational Therapist

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Parents are usually surprised to learn just how early babies begin to notice skin color and form their own biases. Studies show that babies as young as three months prefer to look at faces of their own race.1 Six to nine-month-old babies in one study were found to assign positive music to faces of their own race and negative music to faces of other races.2 According to research, between 2 and a half and 5 years of age, children use race to choose their playmates, and expressions of race prejudice often peak at age four or five.3 Also, at age five, white children strongly favor other white children as playmates.4 By the time a child starts kindergarten, they likely have the same viewpoints on race as the adults in their life.

Why It’s Important to Teach Children to Celebrate Diversity

Parents often think that their child doesn’t have bias, has no prejudice, and does not see or understand color or race. The truth is everyone is biased.5 If you have a brain, you have bias. All children have biased attitudes based on what they experience, perceive, and learn from the adults in their life and their environment in general. Children see color. They learn colors as babies, and they are very observant. Children see the color of people’s skin; they just don’t have the language to talk about it.

We are doing our children a huge disservice by not providing them with the language to discuss race. When we do not talk about race and culture, entire communities become invisible. The best thing we can do to teach our children to be socially conscious and anti-racist is to provide them with the proper language early on and answer questions as they arise.

Books to Teach Kids to Celebrate Diversity

We must teach young children to celebrate diversity, not shy away from it. Experts agree that one of the best ways to do this is through age-appropriate books and stories. We have compiled a round-up of some top-rated books to start reading to children, starting with babies.

Book for Babies

One Love by Cedella Marley

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This book is based on the song by Bob Marley. Vanessa Brantley-Newton beautifully illustrates this book. We had the opportunity to interview Brantley-Newton about her children’s books. She uses various mediums to create gorgeous and interesting illustrations to help children and adults see the beauty of diversity. She said the most important way to teach young children about diversity is to talk, read, and sing to children. Talking to young children and adding to their vocabulary gives them the language to express themselves fully.

Book for Toddlers

Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers

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Young children love to look at other young children, and this beautifully illustrated book is full of babies and toddlers of all races and ethnicities. It reads like a poem, making it perfect for young children to listen to again and again.

Book for Pre-schoolers

We’re Different, We’re the Same by Sesame Street

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Children learn by categorizing things. From a very young age, they notice similarities and differences in everything they encounter. They must learn that just because someone looks different on the outside does not mean they belong in a different category from themselves. This book helps children understand that everyone has traits that make them unique and special.

Book for Ages 5-8

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

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This beautiful book about diversity helps children understand that it is normal to sometimes feel like an outsider. This book helps children learn lessons about empathy and inclusion.

Book for Children of All Races

Tina Searches for Her Dream by Nancy Ganz

Books for Teaching Children About Diversity
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We love the concept behind this book! It comes in three versions: Tina: Lightest Skin Tone, Tina: Medium Skin Tone, and Tina: Deepest Skin Tone. Children can pick the book cover that looks most like them!

It is important for the healthy development of racial identity that children see themselves positively represented in their community. This variety of main characters allows children to identify with the story. We also had the opportunity to interview author Nancy Ganz and learned that it is very important to her that children are empowered by the books that they read. You will see more from this author, as this is just the first book in a series of 12 books focused on social-emotional learning. This is the first book for sale on Amazon that offers this type of character customization.

We need to consider race identity and combat bias in all we do with young children. Children need to see diversity in their everyday lives and their own culture represented and celebrated. These great book options will help you get one step closer to that!

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A woman with wavy brown hair, wearing a light blue shirt and brown pants, is sitting on the floor with her legs crossed, holding a smiling baby who is wearing a small pink bow and a diaper. They are both looking at the camera against a white background.
Aimee Ketchum Pediatric Occupational Therapist
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Dr. Aimee Ketchum is an Academic Fieldwork Coordinator and Assistant Professor of early child development at Cedar Crest College Occupational Therapy Doctoral Program. She continues practicing her skills as a… Read more

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