October is National Diversity Awareness Month

Children are taught that the United States is a “melting pot” where people of all cultures, races, religions, disabilities, and socio-economic groups contribute to society.  What they also need to know is that a diverse population includes all ages, genders and sexual orientations.   The best way to help children and teens become aware of diversity is to encourage them to read books with all types of characters.  Perhaps it’s a novel like Racing the Moon by Alan Armstrong where a girl aspires to be an astronaut.  They may gain empathy for those with disabilities after reading books like Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  And with the current national debate about immigration reform, readers need to better understand the plight of today’s immigrant.  Here are a few programming ideas for school and public libraries for National Diversity Awareness Month.

  • Ask readers to find out from their parents or older family members their country of origin.  Then have them seek books about that culture.  Are there family traditions that reflect that culture?  Why is it important to maintain these family traditions?
  • Sponsor a panel discussion of religious leaders in the community.  Have them focus on the aspects of their religion that are universal, and the theology that is different.
  • Invite a “new American” to speak to a group of children and teens.  Ask them to address the following questions:  Why did they come to the United States?  What has been their most difficult adjustment?  Have they encountered any cultural prejudices?  What do they miss about their homeland?  What advice do they give to immigrants seeking to make the United States their home?
  • Identify community organizations that help those from diverse populations.  Visit the website of these organizations and read their mission statement.  Maybe it’s a Senior Action Center, a Kroc Center, YMCA, YWCA, a literacy group, or community health organizations.  Then read a picture book or novel with a main character that might enjoy the services of one of these organizations. Suggestions from Random House include:


All Ages

Song and Dance Man (picture book) by Karen Ackerman & illus. by Stephen Gammell

Stitchin’ and Pullin’ (picture book) by Patricia McKissack  & illus. by Cozbi A. Cabrera

Alida’s Song (middle grade) by Gary Paulsen

Jake (middle grade) by Audrey Couloumbis

Gingersnap (middle Grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Lily’s Crossing (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff


Socio-economic Groups

Faith, Hope and Ivy June (middle grade) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor

The Mighty Miss Malone (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy (young adult) by Gary D. Schmidt


Disabilities, Disorders or Learning Differences

Annie and Helen (picture book) by Deborah Hopkinson & illus. by Raul Colon

All the Way Home (middle grade) by Patricia Reilly Giff

Beholding Bee (middle grade) by Kimberly Newton Fusco

Navigating Early (middle grade) by Clare Vanderpoole

Wonder (middle grade) by R. J. Palacio

Black Box (young adult) by Julie Schumacher

Small Steps (young adult) by Louis Sachar

Unraveling (young adult) by Elizabeth Norris



Harriet the Spy (middle grade) by Louise Fitzhugh

Hokey Pokey (middle grade) by Jerry Spinelli

The Girl Who Threw Butterflies (middle grade) by Mick Cochrane

Heart of a Shepherd (middle grade) by Rosanne Parry

Racing the Moon (middle grade) by Alan Armstrong

Lord of the Deep (young adult) by Graham Salisbury

The Chocolate War (young adult) by Robert Cormier


Nationalities and Cultures

Cuba 15 (middle grade) by Nancy Osa

How Tia Lola Came to Stay (middle grade) by Julia Alvarez

Return to Sender (middle grade) by Julia Alvarez

Enrique’s Journey (middle grade) by Sonia Nazario

Burning (young adult) by Elana K. Arnold

Mexican WhiteBoy (young adult) by Matt De La Paña



Tar Beach (picture book) by Faith Ringgold

Bud, Not Buddy (middle grade) by Christopher Paul Curtis

Burning Up  (young adult) by Caroline B. Cooney



Sunday is for God (picture book) by Michael McGowan & illus. by Steve Johnson & Lou Fancher

Amen, L. A. (young adult) by cherle Bennett and Jeff Gottesfeld

Days of Little Texas (young adult) by R. A. Nelson

Growing Up Muslim (middle grade – young adult) by Sumbul Au-Karamall

A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life (young adult) by Dana Reinhardt

Intentions (young adult) by Deborah Helllgram

Kindred (young adult) by Tammar Stein


Sexual Orientations

Boy Meets Boy (young adult) by David Levithan

Happy Families (young adult) by Tanita S. Davis

Two Boys Kissing (young adult) by David Levithan

Random House Teachers and Librarians