Books on Diversity and Civil Rights

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I’m hearing a lot of calls right now for help identifying books that teach about diversity and civil rights.  Regardless of your political persuasion, these are concepts we can all get behind, and that will benefit our kids as they try to understand the emotion in post-election America.  The more books we read that contain diverse characters and difficult topics, the better we and our children will be equipped to talk about race, religion, sexuality, and other differences that make us whole we are.  A word about the links: the title for each link is meant as a shorthand for the predominant topic or a description of the main characters.  These are all books for all of us!  So, choose a list and head to your local library or bookstore!

So here are links to a number a of book lists that focus on these topics.  Know of other book lists that are helpful, or have a favorite that isn’t listed?  Please comment!

Books to teach about diversity
50 books discussing diversity
Books on diversity and bullying

Books about religious diversity
Books on transgender and gender non-conforming kids
LBGTQIA books

Books that Affirm Black Boys – scroll down for books about black boys, divided into age categories 

Books that Affirm Black Girls – scroll down for books about black girls, divided into age categories

More books with black main characters
Books about black history in America
10 books on the Civil Rights Movement
15 books on the Civil Rights Movement
A comprehensive list of multicultural children’s books
Good list of Latino children’s books, but difficult site organization
Hispanic heritage picture books
Asian children’s books

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Diversity in Books, Diversity in Life

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There was an interesting piece on Tell Me More yesterday (a radio program on NPR), describing some of the challenges of getting kids to read and also of finding books that represent the world and not just one corner/version of it.  The show looks specifically at books that have Latino characters or settings, but isn’t exclusively focused on that (e.g., one recommendation is for Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.)  I particularly liked the show because they came up with suggestions for all different aged readers. There is both an audio and a transcript version, so don’t feel you need to listen if you would prefer to read it.

Why does diversity in books matter?  I’d say the same reason that it matters in life.  We live in a diverse world and we can only begin to understand and relate to it if we are exposed to it.  I’m reminded of dogs (I have a habit recently of comparing people and dogs, which got me in hot water in a recent conversation, but anyway…), and how puppies need to be exposed to people of different ages, ethnicities, and races in order to help them not be afraid as adult dogs.  The more the exposure, and the younger it happens, the better we can remember that we are all people – a person’s a person, no matter how small (or what color).  Reading books from different view points helps with this expansion of perspective.

Additionally, if your kids are minorities in any way, it can help them feel more comfortable with themselves. One of my kids is totally laid back about being black/brown, whereas the other struggles with it.  The aware one is absolutely attuned to representation of race in tv, movies, books, music, and life.  Hearing comments about “just like me” are heartwarming, whereas “is it ok for blacks to…” (fill in any activity currently on the radar) make me wish we lived in a more diverse area. Whatever you may think of him politically, President Obama helps fill the same role – reminding kids that they do not have to be a certain religion, sex, race, etc. to do or be something. Diverse books help in a similar way – showing kids they possible (or the imaginable).

I also had to chuckle, and wish I could have called in, because there was a section of the show where they were talking about getting kids to read more.  One of the parents said the Kindle helped with his son (as it did with my daughter), but they talked some about the need to choose something like the Paperwhite, which doesn’t have apps and games on it.  The goal is reading, not playing.  It reminded me of my recent post on ereaders.

Thanks, Michel, for another great show.

We will definitely be digging into the list this summer!  Happy reading!