What Children's Books Highlight Diverse Cultures or Experiences?

What Children’s Books Highlight Diverse Cultures or Experiences?

What Children’s Books Highlight Diverse Cultures or Experiences?

To help parents and educators find the perfect children’s book that highlights diverse cultures or experiences, we asked English Teachers and School Librarians for their top recommendations. From sharing cultures in The Sandwich Swap to celebrating diversity in The Colors of Us, here are the seven insightful suggestions they shared.

  • Sharing Cultures in The Sandwich Swap
  • Exploring Colonization in The Rabbits
  • Understanding Homelessness in Mr. Stink
  • Embracing Disabilities in Just Ask
  • Confronting Gender Expectations in Julian is a Mermaid
  • Sibling Conflict in Cultural Context in The Big Red Lollipop
  • Celebrating Diversity in The Colors of Us

Cultural Sharing in The Sandwich Swap

All children need to see themselves reflected in children’s literature. That means you need access to a lot of diverse books because you never know who is coming to your library, classroom, or home next.

One book is great for the right person, but which book depends on the child you take time to get to know. I like to share books with these special people. I also believe sharing a meal with someone you want to get to know is a great practice. If I am limited to one diverse book, I suggest The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan Al Abdullah.

This book reflects culturally diverse children making friends through sharing their ethnic foods. This book has many opportunities for discussion, sharing personal experiences, and re-enacting the book, and the story not only reflects many cultures, it works for a wide range of ages. Preschoolers to adults can learn something from this book.

Stan Steiner
Professor Emeritus of Children’s Literature, Boise State University


Exploring Colonization in The Rabbits

I recommend The Rabbits by John Marsden and Shaun Tan, an Australian children’s book that explores the impact of colonization on indigenous cultures. Through allegorical imagery of rabbits representing colonizers, it depicts the loss and disconnection experienced by indigenous communities.

This book encourages children to reflect on cultural diversity, empathy, and respect for different perspectives. It serves as a starting point for discussions about colonization, history, and the relationship between dominant and marginalized cultures.

By highlighting diverse experiences, The Rabbits challenges the dominant narrative in children’s literature and fosters cultural sensitivity. It sparks curiosity about indigenous cultures and promotes dialogue about Australia’s history.

By incorporating diverse cultural stories, it helps create a more inclusive and compassionate society, where all voices are heard and valued.

Zoe BodycottZoe Bodycott
English Teacher


Understanding Homelessness in Mr. Stink

A children’s book that I would recommend, which highlights diverse cultures or experiences, is Mr. Stink by David Walliams. The story introduces Chloe, a young girl who befriends Mr. Stink, a kind but smelly homeless man. Their relationship emphasizes the importance of empathy, understanding, and kindness, despite societal prejudices.

This book promotes empathy and compassion towards individuals who might be different from us. The story sheds light on homelessness and societal perceptions. The book sensitively tackles the stigma and challenges faced by homeless individuals and offers a platform for children to discuss and comprehend the complexities of homelessness.

It encourages them to approach the subject with empathy and understanding. Each character brings a unique layer to the story and showcases differences in a way that promotes acceptance and appreciation for diversity.

Cole Wilkes
Elementary Teacher, Davis School District


Embracing Disabilities in Just Ask

The book I use at the beginning of each new school year is Just Ask by Sonia Sotomayor. This book discusses various medical disabilities that children may have. It relates each disability to the reader by encouraging them to think about how they adapt to their environments, with or without a disability.

This approach helps children better understand the world around them and fosters empathy towards students dealing with various disabilities, such as diabetes, ADHD, and Down Syndrome. Representative literature allows children to glimpse into worlds that are different from their own. It should be a part of every child’s personal library.

Taylor Jacobson
Elementary School Teacher


Confronting Gender Expectations in Julian is a Mermaid

I highly recommend Jessica Love’s Julian is a Mermaid. It’s an exuberant, beautifully illustrated picture book that celebrates joyful self-expression and invites readers to confront their own expectations about gender expression and intergenerational solidarity.

Alyssa Lowery
Associate Professor of Children’s Literature and Young Learners, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)


Sibling Conflict in Cultural Context in The Big Red Lollipop

I adore The Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan. It shows a common sibling conflict, but it does so through the lens of a new Pakistani-American family. Rubina, the oldest of three sisters, is invited to a birthday party, and her mother insists that she take her younger sister, Sana, who is not a good party guest.

Afterward, Sana immediately eats the lollipop in her goody bag. Rubina saves hers for later, only to find that Sana has eaten it as well. Sana’s behavior at the party prevents Rubina from being invited to birthday parties for a long time.

Years later, Sana is invited to a birthday party. Again, their mother insists that the younger sibling accompany her. Rubina has a choice: to stand up for Sana or let the same fate befall her sister.

Bonus: this is a true story. I read this every year. Any child with siblings can see themselves in this story, but it also broadens their cultural perspective. Sophie Blackall’s illustrations are perfect as well.

Trevor AllenTrevor Allen
School Librarian, Corlears School


Celebrating Diversity in The Colors of Us

I’d recommend The Colors of Us by Karen Katz. It tells the story of a young girl named Lena, who takes a journey to discover the beauty of the world’s different skin colors. Lena’s mother is an artist, and she teaches Lena to mix colors to represent the various shades of people they encounter in their community.

The Colors of Us celebrates the richness of diversity by showing that people come in all shades, from dark brown to light beige. It teaches children to appreciate and embrace differences in skin color and promotes inclusivity. The book provides a positive and empowering representation of people from various ethnic backgrounds. It sends a message that all skin colors are beautiful and should be celebrated.

Overall, The Colors of Us is an important children’s book because it promotes tolerance, inclusivity, and the celebration of diverse cultures and experiences, making it an excellent choice for parents and educators looking to instill these values in young readers.

The original text was already in line with American punctuation and grammar rules, had proper capitalization, and did not require any hyphenation. Therefore, no changes were necessary.

Marissa SabrinaMarissa Sabrina
Creative Director, LeadLearnLeap


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