It's desperately and vitally important that children read diverse books. As numerous studies have shown, reading fiction promotes increased empathy and can help you better understand others, and children of all backgrounds need to read the stories of people different from themselves. But more importantly, children of all backgrounds need to see characters like themselves in the pages of their favorite books. They need to read about heroes and heroines who look and act and speak like them.
Organizations like We Need Diverse Books and many others are on a mission to get more diverse books and diverse authors published. Authors, publishers, editors, agents, and readers all have the enormous task of pushing for more diversity, breaking down walls, and including characters from all different backgrounds in the works they champion. For children and young adults, this mission is especially important, because the books children read in their youth can help impact the person they grow up to be. And we want today's kids to grow up into thoughtful, empathetic, and kind human beings.
If you're a parent, teacher, or happen to know a child in need of some great new books — ones that feature people from all over the world — here are eight new diverse children's books:
1. Thunder Boy Jr. written by Sherman Alexie, illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Sherman Alexie, the author of the National Book Award-winning novel The Absolutely True Diary Of A Part-Time Indian, wrote a children's book, and it's absolutely lovely. Illustrated by Yuyi Morales, Thunder Boy Jr. is the story of Thunder Boy Jr., a boy named after his father who wants a name all his own. This gorgeous book celebrates the powerful relationship that exists between father and son.
2. Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees written by Franck Prévot, illustrated Aurélia Fronty
This colorful children's book celebrates Wangari Maathai, the Nobel Peace Prize winner who worked tirelessly to reverse the environmental damage inflicted by colonialism in Africa. Her organization planted over 30 million trees in 30 years, hence the title.
3. Last Stop on Market Street written by Matt de la Peña, illustrated Christian Robinson
Young CJ and his grandmother's journey home from church becomes a thoughtful teaching lesson about gratitude, privilege, and beauty. This book — which features diverse characters and is set in a diverse city — is the recipient of the Newbery Medal and a Caldecott and Coretta Scott King honor book.
4. Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
There are definitely not enough books that celebrate the incredible (and sometimes radical) women who have shaped the world. This children's book celebrates those women, exploring the lives of some of the most fearless females in history.
5. Grace for President by Kelly S. DiPucchio
When Grace's teacher reveals there's never been a female president, Grace decides she'll be the first during her school's mock election. But when a boy runs against her and secures all the male votes, Grace realizes this battle won't be an easy one to win. Exploring the complex American electoral system in a way children can understand, this exceptional book is a must-read — especially considering the historic nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic presidential candidate.
6. Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino
Morris loves to come up with ideas and paintings, and he also loves dressing up — specifically in his tangerine dress. But the rest of the kids don't understand his imagination or his choice in clothing. This book beautifully challenges the gender norms that exist in society.
7. Maybe Something Beautiful by F. Isabel Campoy
Mira is an artist at heart, and when she and her neighbors come together to bring color into their world, something amazing happens. Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, this children's book shows how art can inspire, transform, and bring together a diverse community.
8. Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford
This book tells the important history of Congo Square in New Orleans, a place where slaves could come together to enjoy their Sundays during the 19th century. This book doesn't make light of the suffering endured by slaves, but it does celebrate the joy of these days — a time when these slaves could dance and sing and make music and laugh.