80+ Children’s Books That Feature Kids Of Color Just Being Kids
Written by Katie Hintz-Zambrano, Erin Feher
Over the last couple of years, we’ve seen the children’s section at the bookstore and library explode with diversity when it comes to the types of lead characters and cultural perspectives that are offered. In fact, when we look at the list of critically acclaimed books of the past year and the winners of the 2022 Newbery Medal, Caldecott Medal, and Coretta Scott King Award for kid-lit—books featuring majority white characters and white authors/illustrators are now far from the norm.
Of course, this wasn’t always the case. Out of the 3,134 children’s books published in 2018, 50% feature main characters who are white. Which wouldn’t sound too terrible until you hear that another 27% feature main characters who are animals, so that leaves only 23% to split up between American Indian/First Nation (1%), Latinx (5%), African/African American (10%), and Asian Pacific Islander/Asian Pacific American (7%) characters.
Back in 2014, when the stats about diversity in kids’ books were even more abysmal (a 2013 study revealed that of 3,200 children’s books published that year, just 93 were about Black people), author and illustrator Christopher Myers wrote poignantly about the apartheid of literature: “in which characters of color are limited to the townships of occasional historical books that concern themselves with the legacies of civil rights and slavery but are never given a pass card to traverse the lands of adventure, curiosity, imagination or personal growth.” Naturally, the lack of children’s books featuring kids of color just being kids can have a big effect. Studies have shown that recognizing oneself in a text and understanding that your life and lives of people like you are worthy of being told and celebrated helps kids develop a crucial type of self love.
As author and mother Christine Platt wrote about on MOTHER, in a piece titled “Why Diverse Books Matter,” stocking your child’s shelves with books featuring a diverse array of characters is key for many reasons. One, she points out, is the importance of having both “windows and mirrors”—in essence, being able to see yourself in a book (a mirror) as well as being able to peek into the lives of others (a window).
To help families strengthen the offerings in their own bookshelves with plenty of windows and mirrors for your children, we’ve rounded up dozens upon dozens of great books featuring main characters from a variety of backgrounds. If your favorite is missing off of our list, please let us know in the comments!
For even more great diverse kids books recommendations, check out our roundups on Latinx Books For Kids, Kid-Lit Recommendations from AAPI Moms, Black History Books For Kids, Kids’ Books By Native Authors + Illustrators, Kids Books About Gender, Children’s Books That Spotlight LGBTQ+ Characters, Books That Shine A Light On Disability, Children’s Books About Nature, Kids’ Books That Celebrate Muslim Faith & Culture, Kids Books About Dads, Books With Strong Female Leads, and our favorite books-themed Instagram accounts to follow!
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