Your little ones are growing, and you would like to start introducing them to the amazing world of reading but you’re unsure of where to start?
Well, look no further than multicultural children’s books!
Multicultural children’s books are a refreshing take on children’s literature that will open your kids’ eyes to how beautiful and diverse our world really is!
Reading about families that are different from ours has definitely made a positive impact on my kids — they’re more understanding, curious, and have more gratitude for the blessings we enjoy every day.
Let’s be real, though, there’s a lot of books out there aimed at young minds and it can be confusing when you try to separate the best from the rest.
But I’ve been a fan of children’s books for a very long time (even longer than I’ve been a mom) so I’m definitely your go-to person if you’re looking for the best multicultural children’s books.
So get yourself a cup of tea or coffee, and take your sweet time reading through my book list – I know you will find something both you and your kids will love!
Reading about the stories of immigrants is one of the best ways for your little ones to develop empathy and an understanding of the cultural differences of the world we live in.
As our classrooms are becoming more diverse, there’s no better time to learn than now!
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales is a favorite of mine and my kids because it’s based on the author’s own true story of leaving her home behind to start a better life elsewhere.
Not only did Yuyi write this book, but she illustrated it as well, and I think that’s a great example of a hardworking, talented woman for my own daughter to follow.
The story takes place in the 1990s when Yuyi and her baby boy left their home in Mexico and crossed great distances to the United States.
Their journey was made even harder by the fact that she only spoke Spanish at the time! They found a new home, however, in their local library.
I really recommend this book not only because of its absolutely stunning illustrations and wonderful story but also because it will give you a great opportunity to talk to your kids about bravery and why a mom would leave her country with her baby.
I know that I was definitely taken back by how much understanding my children showed, and this is something I will definitely continue to nurture through many other multicultural books.
Even though this picture book is great for children from the ages of 4 to 8, I can guarantee that you will enjoy it as well! (Even if children’s literature is usually not your thing.)
2. The Day You Begin
When looking through different recommendations for children’s books to decide what’s going to be the next book on my family’s reading list, I always ask myself if the story will help my kids develop themselves and their confidence.
And the second book on my recommendation list is definitely a great way to do this!
The Day You Begin, written by Jacqueline Woodson, teaches kids how wonderful diversity can be.
Sure, everyone feels like an outsider from time to time, but it’s important to not let that hold you back from reaching out to other people, making connections, and building friendships.
I believe this book can help every child build their confidence, which is so important before they start school.
Even if your little one has a very outgoing personality, this book can teach him or her about understanding the feelings of others.
My daughter, for example, has a naturally very bubbly personality and could befriend anyone within minutes, but The Day You Begin opened her eyes to the fact that other kids might feel insecure because they’re different in one way or another.
This teaches kids a great lesson not only about being brave and opening up to others, but also to reach out and be a friendly face to newcomers.
3. Alma and How She Got Her Name
One of the things that can make growing up a little difficult is having a name that is unique and stands out.
Kids can be really insecure about their names, especially if it’s different from the rest or if their classmates pick on them!
Alma and How She Got Her Name is a beautiful story by Juana Martinez-Neal about a young girl with as many as 6 names!
Unfortunately, this is not something she feels too excited about.
To lift her spirits, her dad tells her about the stories behind her different names.
She learns about her grandma, Sofia, her grandpa, José, and even about her grand-grandma, Esperanza.
After listening to their stories, she no longer feels insecure about her name and even becomes proud of it!
I think children of all backgrounds can benefit from reading about such diverse characters, since it opens their eyes to a different way of life.
And after reading this story, my kids even told me that they wished they had as many names as Alma!
I then used the opportunity to talk to them about their own names and where they come from, which is something they loved hearing about.
4. La Princesa and the Pea
Fairytales have always been some of my favorite stories to read, ever since I was a little girl.
I can’t even remember the number of times I have read The Princess and the Pea and I was so excited to have a chance to read this new Spanish version with my kids for the first time.
If Spanish is not your strong suit, there is no need to worry. I’m not exactly a pro either (with apologies to my high school Spanish teacher, I know you did your best!) but the context made the words really easy to understand.
However if you really find yourself in a bilingual pickle, then you can flip to the glossary for help.
My kids really enjoyed learning new words in a foreign language – something any mom would be over the moon about!
We really loved the colorful illustrations as well, which incorporate designs by Peruvian indigenous peoples.
Since my kids were familiar with the original tale before I read them La Princesa and the Pea, we had a lot of fun talking about how it was different from the original story.
5. Bob: No Ordinary Cat
Bob: No Ordinary Cat is a diverse children’s book, but not in the way you might expect.
It’s still a little too advanced for my little ones (the book is great for kids who are over the age of 11), but I got it as a gift for my nephew’s 13th birthday and he really enjoyed it!
This story will develop your children’s empathy and open their eyes to the difficulties people come across in life, such as homelessness.
It’s a kid-friendly adaptation of the bestseller A Street Cat Named Bob, which is a true story of an English man who was homeless and playing guitar in the street to make a living.
But his life got turned upside down when he rescued a stray ginger cat he named Bob and together they managed to overcome the challenges life sent their way.
Even though the book deals with difficult topics, it does so in a really age-appropriate way and I think it’s a great opportunity for parents to open a discussion with their middle school-aged kids without getting too preachy.
On the other hand, this is such a beautiful story about the power of love and true friendship, and how it can change lives for the better — even grown-ups can enjoy it! You might even shed a tear or two…
6. Where Are You From?
The sad truth is that many people constantly have their identities questioned by people around them who might or might not have perfectly good intentions.
The following recommendation on my book list deals with this issue.
The question “Where are you from?” is the title of this picture book by Yamile Saied Méndez, with beautiful illustrations by Jaime Kim.
The story follows a young Hispanic girl who gets this question a lot, even though she didn’t come from another country.
To get to the bottom of it, the girl goes to her grandpa who helps her understand her background, even though the grandpa’s answers (which will tug at your heartstrings) don’t really seem to give her the answer that she wants.
This book is not only perfect for children to explore their heritage with their parents, but is also fantastic for all kids to understand how having a different skin color can lead to people not believing you when you say, “I’m from here.”
It will also help kids build their sensitivity to others and understand how an innocent question such as “Where are you from?” can sometimes even be hurtful.
7. Dream Big, Little One
Dream Big, Little One is a board book by Vashti Harrison that introduces tots to amazing African-American women who made a difference in history.
This is a great choice for all little girls to build confidence in themselves from a young age, and I think it’s great that girls are introduced to role models that aren’t only singers, actors, or TV stars. (Although Oprah Winfrey is definitely an exception to this rule!)
For example, one woman who is featured is the incredible Florence Griffith Joyner (a.k.a. Flo-Jo), who is the fastest woman ever, and might even inspire your little girl to take up sports!
8. First Laugh – Welcome, Baby!
Did you know that the Navajo make a big celebration of a baby’s first laugh?
Neither did I until I picked up this children’s book to educate my kids (and myself!) on aspects of Native American culture.
The happy event is called the First Laugh Ceremony, which is the main topic of this book.
It follows a young Navajo family as they try to make their newest addition laugh for the very first time.
This multicultural children’s picture book was a big hit in our household since the kids absolutely loved the concept of having the entire family trying to get a baby to laugh and then having a big celebration.
The book also contains information on how different cultures celebrate baby milestones – another perfect learning opportunity!
9. Who Was Anne Frank?
Among the many amazing diverse books, the story of Anne Frank definitely deserves a special place.
This is a longer, chapter book that tells Anne’s story in a way that’s appropriate for children over the age of 8.
I was always a big reader and The Diary of Anne Frank was actually one of my favorite books growing up.
Ever since then, I’ve been inspired by Anne’s bravery and ability to live through such incredibly difficult times.
Learning about the Holocaust is definitely no easy task, but I believe this book is a great introduction to this era without being too heavy.
What’s more, I think it’s so valuable for our children to know what happens when people stop loving and caring for one another.
Since my kids are still much too young for the original version, I’m really looking forward to us reading Anne’s story from this more age-appropriate version.
10. I Am Human: A Book of Empathy
I Am Human: A Book of Empathy is a New York Times bestselling book that you can get both as a hardcover and a board book (or even on your Kindle, although nothing can replace the feeling of holding a book in your hands if you ask me).
As my children grow into their personalities, character traits, and individual quirks, it’s so important for me to teach them the value of accepting yourself the way you are and having compassion for yourself and others around you.
This might sound like a big lesson to teach to a young child, especially since the preferred age group for this children’s book is from age 3 to age 8. But Susan Verde, the author, does this in a way that children can understand.
For instance, I really loved the emphasis on not fighting with others, but trying to find common things you can agree on.
This is absolutely priceless for siblings but also makes for a very important lesson in adulthood.
Another reason why I really appreciate this book is that kids can learn that they are allowed to make mistakes in life, but should also be able to own up to them and say sorry.
Apologizing is always tough, but it becomes easier when it’s learned through a colorfully illustrated book!
11. Outside My Window
What’s a better way of teaching kids about how diverse our world is than asking them to think about how children in other parts of the world live?
This is the theme of Outside My Window, a picture book that my kids couldn’t get enough of! Seriously, this book was a staple of bedtime stories for weeks.
They loved the illustrations of what children all over the world see from their windows and would often make up their own descriptions, too.
Then, I would ask them to describe what the view from our window looks like and how it is different from the views of one of the children in the book.
Through these fun conversations, my kids opened their eyes to the different ways of living across the world and understood that our way of life doesn’t have to be the norm.
But my favorite message of Outside My Window comes at the very last pages of the book, where the author explains that even though we may be separated by many miles from one another, we still share the same moon and sky.
The ending teaches kids we are all part of one human family, no matter how great our differences are, which I believe is a great foundation to build tolerance and respect for various cultures in children.
12. All Are Welcome
Classrooms all over the country are becoming more diverse and multicultural!
Kids with different religions and cultures who come from many parts of the world are spending time learning and playing side by side.
This is why it’s more important now than ever to develop understanding and tolerance.
Even if you live in a less diverse community, All Are Welcome is a wonderful picture book to teach your little ones about valuing the people around you, even if they are different.
Its colorful illustrations where children play, learn, and eat together are followed by the message “All are welcome here.”
What’s more, the book contains drawings of kids wearing traditional Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh clothing. They even celebrate the Chinese New Year together!
But their shared differences don’t stop them from having fun and learning from each other, which is such a beautiful concept to teach and discuss with your kids.
13. Julian Is a Mermaid
Julian Is a Mermaid is a wonderfully illustrated multicultural picture book by Jessica Love that celebrates being unique and standing out from the rest.
The main character is a young boy named Julian who sees a group of beautiful women dressed as mermaids while riding the subway with his grandma.
They leave such a big impression on him that when he gets home, he decides he wants to look like a mermaid, too!
Julian gets some plant leaves and a curtain and makes an amazing mermaid costume.
Once his grandma sees him, she doesn’t scold him for being a boy who wants to play dress up.
In fact, she takes him to a colorful street festival where there are many men and women dressed just like him.
Aside from being a wonderful story of acceptance, Julian Is a Mermaid has some of the most beautiful illustrations I’ve ever seen in a book for kids.
I would say that the drawings are the center point of the story since there isn’t a lot of text, and you can really take your time with your kids in describing every little detail because they are just too good to miss!
14. The Big Umbrella
An adorable red umbrella is the main character of this children’s book by Juniper Bates and her mom, Amy June Bates.
The drawings of the umbrella’s happy face make a beautiful contrast with the rainy, grey city that I’m sure your kids will love as much as mine.
The story of The Big Umbrella teaches a very valuable lesson on accepting and including everyone.
Plus, there is room for all, just like under the red umbrella that magically expands to fit more and more people and animals.
No matter what you look like or how big you are, the umbrella will protect you from the rain.
But this is not just a subtle and sharp story about tolerance, it’s also about offering a helping hand and smile when people need it – a lesson that’s so important for young readers.
15. Words to Love By
I’ve been following pastor Rick Warren and his work for a while now.
So, I was simply over the moon when I saw that he had come out with a children’s book that teaches love and respect through the power of words!
It’s never too soon to start talking to your little ones about how the things we say, especially when we’re angry, can cause so much harm to others.
On the other hand, children should also learn about how just a few kind words can make all the difference!
Words To Love By does this through bright illustrations of children and adults from different racial backgrounds who help, encourage, and spread kindness by using simple phrases like, “I believe in you.”
This is such an important message for little ones to understand, so I always make sure to come back to this book from time to time with my kids.
And since the illustrations are so pretty and engaging, they readily read it over and over again!
Besides, I think even adults can benefit from a book like this – I know that I appreciated a reminder to always be kind with my words.
16. The World Is Awake: A celebration of everyday blessings
Appreciating all creatures in this world because they come from God is a lesson that is so significant for my family and me.
That’s why I always try to find new books for kids that emphasize this message.
The story follows a young family as they enjoy the day playing, visiting the zoo, going to the market, having dinner together, all while being so thankful for all they have.
The World Is Awake: A celebration of everyday blessings will teach and remind children to love the world and the people they are surrounded by.
No parent wants their little ones to grow up unappreciative of the life and world that God has given them, and I love how this book teaches kids to appreciate others in such a natural, subtle way.
17. Thread of Love
Growing up with siblings is a beautiful, enriching experience that gives you friends for life!
And I always knew I wanted to have more than one child for this reason.
The thing is, though, that young brothers and sisters can sometimes turn into mortal enemies over the littlest things!
This is why I try to remind my little ones of the bond that they have and how they should love and be kind to one another, even through books.
One of my favorite children’s books that celebrates siblings is Thread of Love by Kabir Sehgal, Surishtha Sehgal, and Zara Gonzalez Hoang.
It follows two sisters and a brother who are celebrating Raksha Bandhan, an Indian sibling festival.
Since I didn’t know much about Indian culture, I loved this insight into their festivities and my kids could learn new things as well.
But this is also a sweet story of love between brothers and sisters, as it shows the sisters designing a special bracelet (called “rakhi”) for their brother, who also brings them presents.
The text was written to follow the same melody of the popular children’s song “Are You Sleeping (Brother John)” and my kids loved singing along to the story!
I always find myself reaching for this book when my kids have a fight, and it really helps them forget all about it and go back to being kind and loving.
18. Thank You, Omu!
Did you know that “Omu” means “queen” in the language of the Igbo people from Nigeria?
But the author of this book, Oge Mora, also used it as a word that means “grandmother”, which actually makes perfect sense – grandmas really are queens!
The Omu in this story makes a giant pot of delicious stew. Its smell is so mouthwatering, that it brings one person after another to her door.
Omu, being the kind and generous person that she is, gives everyone a bowl until there’s nothing left for her to eat at dinner.
But soon she is joined by all the people she had given her stew that day, who bring food and they all have a happy meal together.
Thank You, Omu! is one of my favorite multicultural children’s books because it shows that by sharing, we are not losing anything. In fact, we gain the most precious thing of all – love.
Omu also shares her food with people from all walks of life – dancers, bakers, actors, doctors, taxi drivers – everyone is welcome at her house. What a wonderful example for young kids to follow, don’t you think?
19. The Water Princess
There are so many blessings we take for granted every day, without realizing that people in faraway countries would think of them as luxuries.
Take water, for example.
The thought of not having running water in our homes never even crosses our minds, but there are people all over the world who walk great distances every day just to bring home a few gallons.
This book is based on the true story of one of its authors, Georgie Badiel, who used to walk every day with her mom to the water well in her home country of Burkina Faso.
Princess Gie Gie, as she’s called in the story, tries her best to bring the water closer to her home, but nothing works.
Even though she has to make the same journey day after day, the Princess doesn’t lose hope and knows that one day, the water will be closer.
Reading this story for the first time nearly brought tears to my eyes, especially since I have a little girl of my own.
Yet the story itself is not sad, but very optimistic, and it makes for amazing discussions with your older kids.
My daughter had so many questions for me after we finished the book and I truly believe it opened her eyes to how good we have it!
This is truly a fantastic choice for developing thankfulness, empathy, and multiculturalism in your kids.
20. Mommy’s Khimar
Even though we’re bringing up our children in the Christian faith, we really want them to grow up being respectful of other religions and customs.
Since I wanted our kids to learn more about Muslim customs, I began reading dozens of book reviews and diversity book lists.
I finally decided on Mommy’s Khimar, which is a lovely story about a young Muslim girl and her mother’s colorful headscarves.
In my opinion, what makes this a really great book is that it portrays a family where different religions peacefully coexist.
The little girl’s grandmother is Christian, but they love each other all the same!
21. Sumo Joe
Sumo Joe is a sweet tale of two Asian American siblings (an older brother and a younger sister) and sumo wrestling.
I originally got this book to surprise my son who had developed something of an obsession with wrestling for a couple of months, and I was really pleasantly surprised by how informative it was!
The book covers a number of sumo terms and explains them in a way that even a 5-year-old can understand.
But wrestling aside, Sumo Joe is about the closeness between a brother and sister (yay for more sibling stories!) even when it’s a strictly “boys-only” sport.
Joe is such a good brother, in fact, that he lets his little sister, who trains aikido, join him and his friends in their improvised wrestling ring.
Spoiler alert: She even beats him!
22. Hidden Figures
The movie Hidden Figures is hands down one of the best I’ve seen in the past decade.
So I was really excited when I saw that the original book that the movie was based on was transformed into children’s literature!
It profiles the amazing African American female scientists who got the U.S. to land on the moon.
They are such an important part of U.S. history, so I really believe that this book should find its way onto the bookshelves of all American children.
I found this book to be a great way of introducing my kids to some of the painful moments in American history, such as segregation, for example.
Hidden Figures explains it in a very direct way that is easy for kids as young as 4 to understand.
But the message of the book, to keep trying even if the world is against you, translates really well into children’s literature and doesn’t lose anything in the process.
Since the book also touches on the topic of women being excluded by men, I thought it was really significant for my daughter to learn about this, too.
Especially as this time period wasn’t so long ago!
My kids, who belong to a generation surrounded by technology, were also shocked to find out that computers used to be human!
Cue me explaining that, no, YouTube didn’t exist 50 years ago, and no, mommy didn’t have a smartphone growing up.
23. Blue Sky White Stars
Keeping with the trend of books about American history, Blue Sky White Stars is another favorite of mine.
As opposed to my recommendation above, Blue Sky White Stars focuses more on pictures and less on text.
That’s why it’s great if your little one is not in the mood for listening and would rather spend time describing what he’s seeing on the pages.
There are illustrations of important American moments in history, such as the moon landing, which actually got my kids really interested in space!
But there are also images that highlight the diversity of our nation and how connected we are, despite our differences.
24. Pie Is for Sharing
After Christmas, my kids’ favorite holiday is the Fourth of July.
And how could it not be? Picnics, fireworks, summer, and delicious food – what more could you ask for?
Pie Is for Sharing uses Independence Day celebrations as the backdrop to a very valuable lesson about sharing, inclusion, and gathering around a good old-fashioned pie.
It’s not a very text-heavy book, but the illustrations are absolutely mesmerizing and take me back to those summer childhood days of playing outside all day in the sun. I can guarantee that your kids will love them, too!
25. Those Shoes
I read Those Shoes a long time before I became a mom.
But, no matter how many times I read this book with my kids, it still makes my heart swell with happiness and brings happy tears to my eyes.
Those Shoes is about, well, a pair of shoes. But not just any shoes – those shoes – the ones that everyone in your grade has because they’re the best thing ever. We’ve all been there!
For a little boy called Jeremy, those shoes are a pair of black sneakers with white stripes.
When his grandma can’t afford them, they go from one thrift store to another until they strike gold.
Even though the sneakers are too small for Jeremy, he tries wearing them anyway.
One day, however, he realizes that his friend Antonio is wearing shoes that are literally falling apart, and that gets him thinking.
I’m not going to spoil any more of the story for you, because I want you to really enjoy reading it for the first time with your kids.
Just trust me when I say that it’s not a favorite in our family for no reason!
Underneath the heart-tugging story, there is an incredible message about the importance of gratitude, friendship, and sharing with those who have little – even if you don’t have a lot to share to begin with.
26. The Name Jar
The Name Jar speaks to the experiences of many Americans with names that aren’t traditionally western and who got picked on by other kids because of it.
The main character of the story is Unhei, a young girl from South Korea who makes the big move to the U.S. with her family.
Her name means “grace” but the kids on her school bus make her feel insecure about it, even though her mom and grandma try to make her feel proud of being different.
When her new classmates ask her what her name is, she answers that she is still making up her mind. That is how she gets a name jar the next day.
It’s filled with all the name suggestions of her classmates, some of which she even likes.
In the end, though, Unhei makes up her mind with the help of a new friend she makes along the way.
The main reasons why I got this book for my kids were
A) because I want them to understand that all names are beautiful and have a story, no matter how unique they sound.
And B) because I’d like for them to know that picking on other kids is never okay.
You can also use this story as a great starting point for a conversation about respecting people from other cultures and why it’s important to be a friend to the new kid in school.
It’s an amazing way to develop your child’s empathy!
27. Suki’s Kimono
The title of this book, Suki’s Kimono, already gives you a pretty good idea of what the book is about.
But if you’re expecting a story about a young girl who is too shy to wear her kimono in public, get ready for a surprise!
As opposed to her sisters, Suki doesn’t mind sticking out from the crowd and decides to wear the kimono she got from her grandma on her first day back to school.
Even as her own sisters ignore her and her classmates tease her about her unconventional clothes, Suki holds her head high.
She proudly tells the entire class of her summer adventures with her grandma, which included going to a Japanese festival.
Despite her classmates, Suki performs a little traditional dance routine that her entire class loves – she even gets a standing ovation!
This is a lovely story about being proud of your heritage in spite of rude comments.
But little Suki is also a role model for girls everywhere who feel a little insecure and unsure of themselves.
28. Kitchen Dance
I have decided to finish off my book list with a beautifully illustrated, feel-good picture book called Kitchen Dance.
It features a Hispanic family who has an impromptu party one night.
The story begins with the little ones being woken from their sleep by interesting noises coming from the kitchen.
It’s their parents, who are singing, laughing, and dancing as they clean up the kitchen.
But they don’t scold their children. Instead, they join in until they fall asleep in their parents’ arms.
This is one of my kids’ favorite bedtime stories – they are especially fond of singing the lyrics to the song in Spanish that goes “Cómo te quiero”, meaning “Oh, how much I love you”, and I can’t think of sending my babies off to bed on a better note!
Celebrate multicultural children’s book day every day!
The next Multicultural Children’s Book Day is coming in January, but in our household, that’s pretty much every other week.
We might not have the money to go on amazing vacations every year and explore different cultures in real life, but the least I can do as a mom is to bring those cultures to our home through books.
As I’m sure you’ve figured out by now, we do this a lot!
But before I select a book, I always make sure to read reviews and see whether the book was written by a person who comes from the culture or country that the story is about, because I don’t want my kids to learn from stereotypes.
Another reason why I’m a firm believer in multicultural children’s literature is because it opens children’s eyes to a different way of life, whether it be in another country or in another socioeconomic class.
In this way, kids also develop gratitude for the little blessings they have and learn to respect those who might not share the same privileges.
Most importantly, they will learn that even though we may look different on the outside, or lead different lives, people all over the world are part of the same human family.
We all want similar things in life – to be happy, healthy, safe, and free.
To wrap up
As you can see, my family is a huge fan of multicultural children’s books.
It’s a trip to another world we can take from our home, and the learning experience my kids get from it is so priceless!
In selecting the best multicultural children’s books, I tried to cover all the bases, such as stories about different religions, cultures, and countries.
But I also deliberately included stories with characters who come from families who are struggling financially, because they are a great way to develop empathy and gratitude in your children.
And since representation is key, I made sure to focus on books that portray people from different racial backgrounds, too.
By reading stories that are multicultural, your kids will expand their worldview and increase their knowledge of different traditions and cultures, while learning to focus on our similarities, rather than differences.
But most importantly, your kids will grow into wonderful adults who will learn to appreciate, rather than hate differences, and I can’t think of anything better than that!
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