Multi-Cultural Books to Celebrate Diversity in your Classroom Library

Inside: Looking for diverse books for your classroom? Give these books a try!

Diverse Books to Share with Your Students

It’s more important than ever to share stories that not only showcase diverse voices but also encourage empathy. When choosing diverse books to share with your students, first find books that are written by those voices. Help your children who come from diverse backgrounds see themselves in these stories. It’s also just as important for white children to be exposed to diversity in literature. To begin with, here are some diverse books to share with your students.

We’ll be sharing some great book choices you can add to your classroom library, and we’ll be linking to Ashay by the Bay, one of the leading independent bookstores. We love supporting family-run businesses!

Young, Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes From the Past and Present

by Jamia Wilson, Illustrated by Andrea Pippins First, it is important to have nonfiction titles on your shelf that showcase black voices. Not only is this book written and illustrated by black females, but it also tells the stories of 52 black heroes. This book tells stories of black heroes that don’t always get the attention in our history books. Of course, there are pages dedicated to Harriet Tubman and George Washington Carver, but your students will also learn about Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Cathy Freeman, and Yannick Noah. Politicians, singers, actors, athletes, philanthropists, and more. Overall, there are so many incredible black men and women showcased in this book perfect for grades 2-5.

Hip Hop Speaks to Children: A Celebration of Poetry with a Beat (A Poetry Speaks Experience)

by Nikki Giovanni and multiple illustrators Reading + music makes elementary students so happy! Even older students enjoy these poems by black poets and the corresponding audio interpretations. There are more than 50 songs and poems on the CD that is included with the beautifully illustrated book. Poet Nikki Giovanni compiled this text with poems and songs from writers and artists like Queen Latifah, Gwendolyn Brooks, Langston Hughes, A Tribe Called Quest, and more. Some poems and music include:

  • Langston Hughes’s “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”
  • A Tribe Called Quest’s “Ham ‘N’ Eggs”
  • Sterling A. Brown’s “Long Track Blues”
  • Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool”
  • Kanye West’s “Hey Mama”
  • Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech
  • Bring black voices in poetry and music to your elementary classroom. This text is perfect for grades 3 and up.

    Hair Love

    Hair Love is an adorable children’s book about a little girl and her father. My daughter instantly fell in love with Zuri, the main character in the book. She asks to read this book over and over again!

    Let’s Talk About Race

    by Julius Lester and Karen Barbour Start conversations about differences and what makes each individual special with this book appropriate for even the youngest readers in your classroom. Lester shares his own personal story and helps children of all races recognize what makes them unique, understanding that race is just one part of what makes them who they are. One of my favorite quotes that Lester shared about his book is “I write because our lives are stories. If enough of these stories are told, then perhaps we will begin to see that our lives are the same story. The differences are merely in the details.” It’s really powerful to have students see the similarities in their lives without overlooking that they are each unique and different.

    Well-Read Black Girl: Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves

    by Glory Edim This book is a compilation of essays from female black writers that help young black girls find themselves in the pages of the books they read. Too often, school curriculums have showcased white protagonists in books for elementary, middle, and even high school readers. This collection makes sure those diverse voices are heard. Some of the authors featured include:

  • Jesmyn Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing)
  • Lynn Nottage (Sweat)
  • Jacqueline Woodson (Another Brooklyn)
  • Gabourey Sidibe (This Is Just My Face)
  • Morgan Jerkins (This Will Be My Undoing)
  • Tayari Jones (An American Marriage)
  • Rebecca Walker (Black, White and Jewish)
  • Barbara Smith (Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology)
  • This book is perfect for upper elementary and middle school readers.

    This is How We Do It

    This book follows 7 children from different countries around the world throughout their day. It gives children a window into how children live, play, go to school, eat, and more in other countries.

    Bud, Not Buddy

    by Christopher Paul Curtis If you are looking for chapter books for 4-8 graders, you can’t go wrong with Christopher Paul Curtis’s powerful voice. His stories, including Bud, Not Buddy typically take place in Flint, Michigan, a place many readers are familiar with after the news coverage of systematic racism and lack of clean water for its residents. Curtis’s character of “Bud” is an orphan living in Flint during the Great Depression, but there’s something all readers can relate to in his powerful story of overcoming adversity. Other books by Curtis include The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 and The Mighty Miss Malone, both set in Flint. These diverse titles will help readers in your classroom explore differences and similarities and dialogue about race and diversity in light of current events. It’s important to showcase diverse voices in literature, not by just sticking these titles in your classroom library, but actually sharing books with your students that help them see themselves and others in the books they read.

    We hope this list helped you find a new title or two for your classroom library! Stay tuned as we plan to write a second edition to this blog post. For now, be sure to sign up for our FREE research worksheets. We love using RESEARCH as a way to learn about other cultures.

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