Growing up as a Hispanic kid in Miami, Florida, I loved books. My favorite place in the world was the library. I would immerse myself in books and stories, yet these books and stories never reflected the world I lived in (me below in elementary school). Fast forward to today, where I am raising a multicultural child, it is important to me that she grows up understanding about differences in cultures, skin colors, and socioeconomic statuses reflective of the multicultural world she lives in today. We are all different, yet, at the end of the day, we are all the same...human.
As a Colombian born woman, with an extended family that ranges in color from very fair to dark brown (a mix of Spanish ancestry, Mestizo, and very likely Afro-Colombian), it is fundamental that my daughter comprehends that even though her skin is fair, her roots are far more diverse. My immediate family below. Now, more than ever, we have families that come together from all different backgrounds, hey my husband is Bulgarian. Books can help our kids better understand that different is not a bad thing, that different is beautiful and when we can be more accepting of others we can make the world a better place.
Ages: 3-7 years
Concept: "Who better than Sesame Street to teach us that we may all look different on the outside—but it's important to remember that deep down, we are all very much alike. We all have the same needs, desires, and feelings. Elmo and his Sesame Street friends help teach toddlers and the adults in their lives that everyone is the same on the inside, and it's our differences that make this wonderful world, which is home to us all, an interesting—and special—place."
Why my daughter loves it? She's familiar with the Sesame Street characters so she immediately embraced the book.
Why I love it? I love this book! It's inexpensive, well written, and the message is beautiful. It shows kids in simple terms how even though we look different there are many things that make us the same. Truly, a must own book for every household.
Language: Bilingual English & Spanish, English only also available
Ages: 3-8 years
Concept: “It’s fun to find ways I’m like you and you’re like me. It’s fun to find ways we’re different.” In this colorful, inviting English-Spanish book, kids from preschool to lower elementary learn about diversity in terms they can understand: hair that’s straight or curly, families with many people or few, bodies that are big or small. With its wide-ranging examples and fun, highly detailed art, I’m Like You, You’re Like Me/ Yo soy como tú, tú eres como yo helps kids appreciate the ways they are alike and affirm their individual differences."
Why my daughter loves it? She likes the colorful illustrations of all the various scenes with all the different children.
Why I love it? I love this book because it's bilingual and at the back of the book there is a guide for parents to engage and ask children questions about acceptance, listening, kindness, cooperation, and understanding self and others. It's also available in an English only version too.
Language: Bilingual English & Spanish
Ages: 3-6 years
Concept: “Celebrate the essence of one way we are all special and different from one another—our skin color! This bilingual (English/Spanish) book offers children a simple, scientifically accurate explanation about how our skin color is determined by our ancestors, the sun, and melanin. It’s also filled with colorful photographs that capture the beautiful variety of skin tones. Reading this book frees children from the myths and stereotypes associated with skin color and helps them build positive identities as they accept, understand, and value our rich and diverse world. Unique activity ideas are included to help you extend the conversation with children."
Why my daughter loves it? She likes the photographs of real people and saying "he looks like" or "she looks like."
Why I love it? I love this book because it's bilingual and it explains skin colors by science. In the back, there is also a guide for parents and teachers with activities that help children understand the differences in skin colors.
Language: Spanish Version (English also available)
Ages: 3-6 years
Concept: "Every Sunday after church, CJ and his grandma ride the bus across town. But today, CJ wonders why they don't own a car like his friend Colby. Why doesn't he have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? Each question is met with an encouraging answer from grandma, who helps him see the beauty and fun in their routine and the world around them."
Why my daughter loves it? She loves it because it reminds her of when we take the bus in Brooklyn. She compares it to her bus rides.
Why I love it? I love, love, love this book. In a very sweet way, the little boy's grandmother shows him positivity when something can otherwise be perceived as negative or different. My favorite line is when she says, "What do you mean he can't see? Some people can see the world with their ears." Truly beautiful. I think maybe kids 5 and older will get the concept a little better. My almost 4-year-old is still just about the bus.
Ages: 4-8 years
Concept: "In the beginning, there were three colors . . .Reds, Yellows, and Blues. All special in their own ways, all living in harmony—until one day, a Red says "Reds are the best!" and starts a color kerfuffle. When the colors decide to separate, is there anything that can change their minds? A Yellow, a Blue, and a never-before-seen color might just save the day in this inspiring book about color, tolerance, and embracing differences."
Why I'd order it? It got amazing reviews and seems to be a very inspirational book for families and teachers.
Language: Spanish or English
Ages: 5-8 years
Concept: "When Lola's teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can't remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola's imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island. As she draws closer to the heart of her family's story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela's words: “Just because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it's not in you. Islandborn is a celebration of creativity, diversity, and our imagination's boundless ability to connect us—to our families, to our past and to ourselves."
Why I'd order it? I have other Lola books and they are very cute. This one looks to be a wonderful story, but I'd save it for when my daughter is a little older as it looks like a longer read.
Concept: "This fun and fascinating treasury features all kinds of families and their lives together. Each spread showcases one aspect of home life-from houses and holidays, to schools and pets, to feelings and family trees. Ros Asquith's humorous illustrations perfectly complement a charming text from the acclaimed Mary Hoffman; kids will love poring over these pages again and again. A celebration of the diverse fabric of kith and kin the world over, The Great Big Book of Families is a great big treat for every family to share."
Why I'd order it? It seems that this book showcases all the different types of families with mixed families, families with different socioeconomic status, families from different religions, and more. It got excellent reviews and I personally like the illustrations.
Ages: 5-8 years
Concept: "This is a gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another. This is the perfect gift for mothers and daughters, baby showers, and graduation. We are all here for a purpose. We are more than enough. We just need to believe it."
Why I'd order it? I love the message in this book. It gives girls positive affirmations and empowers them to believe that they are enough just the way they are while still sending a message of kindness. This will definitely be added to our library as my daughter gets a little older.
It's wonderful that there are more children's books about diversity than in the past. However, we still have a long way to go. As parents, it's up to us to teach our kids about being different, acceptance, and kindness. Books certainly help but being role models for our children is the first step. Children do as we do more so than as we say. Children aren't born racist, it is something they learn. Let's teach our kids that there is room in the world for everyone and we are all connected.