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The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Books

Books have an innate power. They teach us how to exist in a complex world, they comfort us, they offer us an insight into lives that aren’t like ours. They educate us on issues we may not understand. This National Share a Story Month, we’ve already talked about how to raise a reader, but when we’re raising readers, how can we make sure we’re giving them access to a diverse library and why is that important?

If you cast your mind back to your childhood, there’s a strong chance you have memories of reading, either with your family or alone. And when you cast your mind back to those memories, what sort of characters were you seeing in the pages of the books you read?

Maybe you read Matilda or Alice in Wonderland. Maybe Danny the Champion of the World was more your wheelhouse, or perhaps Peter Pan and The Famous Five, Harry Potter and Lyra were the characters that littered the pages of your youth. But what do these characters all have in common? For one thing, they’re all white – and while it’s not explicitly stated, they’re probably all straight and cisgendered, and they’re definitely all able-bodied and neurotypical. While each of these characters certainly came with their own lessons to teach, they were certainly not representative of the gloriously diverse society we actually lived in. Books should be both mirrors and windows to the world – and creating a library of diverse books for you and your kids allows them to be both.


Why does it matter?

Well. The world is a diverse place. Not everyone looks, loves or lives the same. As parents, we have an amazing opportunity to mould the tiny humans we raise into adults with strong morals who celebrate people from all walks of life. We already know that reading helps improve kids’ emotional intelligence and empathy. When we make sure we’re creating a library that shows the full range of human experiences, we can open the door to real conversations that can make lasting change to the people we are raising and the futures we’re helping to create.


What does “diversity in children’s books” really mean?

You might think that “diverse” books just means multicultural books, but it’s more than that. Diversity in children’s books might include cultural events, or books with plots and characters that explore particular cultural beliefs, or even stereotypes, but diverse books can also involve characters of colour in every day situations. Beyond that, diversity in children’s books is also about socio-economic status, characters that have disabilities or those that address LGBTQI+ issues. These themes can be centre stage, pivotal to the story, or play in the background.

It’s also about reading works written by diverse authors. Former Happy Mum Happy Baby podcast guest Africa Daley-Clarke has spoken about this in her Instagram stories. It’s all well and good having diverse stories in your library, but it’s crucial that these stories are written by similarly diverse authors. The more perspectives we can expose our children too – the better.

While representation in children’s books still isn’t representative of society (we’ve a long way to go on that score), we are making strides forwards. There are some gorgeous books out there that will enrich your kids lives and yours at the same time. We could have pulled together a much longer list but here’s a great starter for ten.


Our recommendations

  • Emmanuel’s Dream by Laurie Ann Thompson. The true story of Emmanuel, born with a limb difference, who went on to cycle 400 miles across Ghana in 2001.
  • The List of Things That Will Not Change by Rebecca Stead. When Bea’s dad marries his partner Jesse, it looks as if Bea’s dreams of getting a sister are going to come true but Sonia has other ideas.
  • The Girl With Two Dads by Mel Elliott. Matilda has two Dads. Pearl is sure her family life must be really different to her own – but she soon comes to realise, Matilda’s family aren’t so different after all.
  • My Hair by Hannah Lee. With a special birthday celebration coming up, our main character has to decide what to do with their hair. A showcase of intricate hairstyles with gorgeous illustrations.
  • So Much by Trish Cooke. A modern classic, a celebration of family life with every family member stopping by to show baby just how much they are adored.
  • Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love. A glimpse of three women dressed as mermaids leaves one boy filled with wonder and ready to dazzle the world.
  • The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf. A look at non-traditional male roles, Ferdinand is a bull who would much prefer to sit and smell the flowers than fight. What will happen when he’s sent to the bull ring?
  • Antiracist Baby by Ibram X Kendi. Nine easy steps for building a more equitable world, allowing us to begin critical conversations at an early age.
  • Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad. On Faizah’s first day of school, her older sister Asiya is wearing a hijab for the first time. Proudest Blue is a story of new experiences and powerful sibling bonds.


Where can I find out more about diverse books?

We Need Diverse Books

The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Books – Love Reading 4 Kids

Why Diversity is So Important in Children’s Books – Mango & Marigold Press

Children’s Books Celebrating Diversity & Inclusion – Southbank Centre

80 Books that Celebrate Difference – Love Reading 4 Kids

Here Wee Read – Charnaie, Diversity and Inclusion expert with focus on books and educational products

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