Celebrating Diversity

The Children’s Book Council and the Association of Library Service to Children sponsored a Day of Diversity: Dialogue and Action in Children’s Literature and Library Programming at the 2015 ALA Midwinter conference. A white paper, “The Importance of Library Programs and Materials Collections for Children,” is available.

Building a classroom and library collection that represents diverse populations should always be on the radar of teachers and librarians, but now is an especially good time to conduct a cultural inventory of materials. Does the collection represent all cultures that make up this nation? Is there a balance between historical and contemporary literature? How accurate are the materials? How often do these materials circulate? What can be done in library programming to promote cross-cultural materials?

There are a number of books about traditions and holiday celebrations of other cultures. There are also a number that are historical. This column will focus on books that celebrate diversity in an everyday and contemporary setting.

  • Ask readers to define diversity. Then have them name the different cultures in their classroom. What might we learn from one another?
  • Children’s Book Week is the first week in May. Ask readers to design a Children’s Book Week poster that focuses on Books & Diversity.
  • Have readers read a book about another culture. Then have them design a placemat that features the book. During Children’s Book Week, ask permission to distribute the placemats in the school cafeteria.
  • Suggest that older readers write a guest editorial for the school newspaper about the importance of diversity in books. Have them include specific titles.
  • Display books about diverse populations.

Some suggestions for books featuring diverse characters from Random House include:

Picture Books

Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco

Piano Starts Here by Andrew Parker

The Name Jar by Jangsook Choi

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark & illus. by Patrice Barton

Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth

Yang the Third and Her Impossible Family by Lensey Namiok

I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora & Libby Martinez


The Jackson Jones series by Mary Quattlebaum

Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear by Lensey Namioka

Alvin Ho by Lenore Look & illus. by Leuyen Pham

Brendan Buckley’s Universe and Everything in It by Sundee Frazier

The Calvin Coconut series by Graham Salisbury

The Stories Julian Tells by Ann Cameron & illus. by Ann Strugnell

Junebug in Trouble by Alice Mead

Ready? Set, Raymond! By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson & illus. by Derek Anderson

Thank You, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by Eleanora Tate

Cleversticks by Bernard Ashley

The Tia Lola stories by Julia Alvarez

Middle Grade

Small Steps by Louis Sachar

Project Mulberry by Linda Sue Park

Half and Half by Lensey Namioka

Darnell Rock Reporting by Walter Dean Myers

The Secret of Gumbo Grove by Eleanora Tate

The Whole Story of Half a Girl by Veera Hiranandani

Young Adult

145th Street: Short Stories by Walter Dean Myers

Hoops by Walter Dean Myers

Orchards by Holly Thompson

Bindi Babes Narinder Dhami

Words by Heart by Ouida Sebestyen

Join In by Donald R. Gallo

The Living by Matt de la Pena

Finding Miracles by Julia Alvarez

Outcasts United by Warren St. John

NOTE:  The various cultures aren’t specified here so that inclusiveness is celebrated.

Random House Teachers and Librarians