Using Children’s Books to Talk about Diversity and Justice

juliuslesterWhether you’re talking to your students or your own children, reading books together can be a wonderful way to introduce and discuss any topic, including diversity and justice.  On this page you will find suggestions of great books that deal with these subjects as well as ways to use them with kids of all ages.


Children’s Literature This list of 17 children’s books focuses upon issues of race and social justice. It includes summaries of each book and questions and a few activities that teachers can use to lead the class in discussions about general themes such as diversity, similarity, equality, justice, racism, and prejudice.

Looking at Race and Racial Identity Through Critical Literacy in Children’s Books This link takes you to one page of the Teaching Tolerance website, an invaluable project of the Southern Poverty Law Project, that has created extensive professional development and classroom resources (from lesson plans and free film kits to webinars) about diversity, equality and justice.

Open Circle A provider of curriculum and professional development for elementary schools, Open Circle’s website provides book recommendations divided into lists focusing upon social and emotional topics.  Each list’s titles reflect the diverse world around us.

Using Children’s Books to Talk About Race: A Bibliography This list covers books for preschool through 12th grade and includes other resources.  It was developed by Krista Waywalt Aronson, professor of psychology at Bates College and children’s book author Anne Sibley O’Brien.

Using Picture Books to Teach PreK-12 Keith Schoch, author of Picture Books Across the Curriculum, presents reasons and ways to effectively use picture books in all grades and for all subject matters.


nino           ugly vegetables            yoyes

A GROWING BOOKLIST  (suggested by individual educators)

Educators, contribute to this list by submitting your favorite books that tackle diversity and justice

Boelts, Maribeth.  Happy Like Soccer.  Somerville: Candlewick Press, 2014.

Cheltenham Elementary School Kindergartners.  We Are All Alike . . . We Are All Different.  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 1991.

Khan, Rukhsana.  Big Red Lollipop.  New York: Viking Books for Young Readers, 2010.

Kissinger, Katie.  All The Colors We Are – 20th Anniversary Edition: The Story of How We Get Our Skin Color (Bilingual, English/Spanish).  St. Paul: Redleaf Press, 2015.

Lester, Julius.  Let’s Talk About Race.  New York: HarperCollins, 2005.

Levine, Ellen.  Henry’s Freedom Box: A True Story from the Underground Railroad.  New York: Scholastic, 2007.

Lin, Grace.  Ugly Vegetables. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge Publishing, 2001.

Meyers, Susan.  New Shoes.  New York: Holiday House, 2015.

Morales, Yuyi.  Nino Wrestles the World.  New York: Square Fish, 2015.

Raschka, Chris.  Yo! Yes?  New York: Scholastic, Inc., 2007.

Tonatiuh, Duncan. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation.  New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2014.