As part of my commitment to raising race-conscious children, I’ve been diversifying our bookshelves—purchasing and checking out books from the library that feature faces and characters from all different races and ethnicities. I want my kids, who are white, to see people who look different from them, but even more important than just exposing them to diversity, I want to point out and talk about those differences. Diverse books give me opportunities to do that, and they spark conversations about race and culture.
It’s even important for my 18-month-old, especially since research shows that babies as young as 6 months notice skin color and try to understand its meaning. To that end, I’ve been getting board books for her (many of which my 4-year-old also enjoys) that feature faces of color.
Here are some of my family’s favorite diverse board board books for the youngest readers.
Please Baby Please (Spike Lee & Tonya Lewis Lee, illus. by Kadir Nelson)
This book takes the reader through the ups and downs of a family’s day with their active baby/toddler, from a (very early) wakeup to an overturned bowl of peas to a sweet ending at bedtime. My kids love the different variations of “please baby please” on each page—it’s now a common phrase in our house—and seeing the baby do the same things they do.
Baby Goes to Market (Atinuke, illus. by Angela Brooksbank)
This is one of my absolute favorites that both of my children enjoy. The joyful, vibrant illustrations take you through an African market with a baby and his mom. The text is really fun to read, which is a huge plus for a parent! There are also opportunities for older kids to practice counting.
Who Says I Love You? (Highlights)
There are a lot of animal books for babies, but to me this one stands out for the adorable photography, the clean design, the fun text, and of course the diverse babies. Great for practicing animal sounds and includes a nice mirror at the end.
In the Rain (Elizabeth Spurr, illus. by Manelle Oliphant)
We love being outside, even when it’s raining, so this was an instant favorite. The simple rhyming text and expressive illustrations capture everything my kids love about playing in the rain, from stomping in puddles to making mud pies.
“More More More” Said the Baby (Vera B. Williams)
The mini love stories of three babies and their loved ones are whimsical and poetic, with a rhythm that’s fun for little ones to listen to and for adults to read.
Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race (Megan Madison & Jessica Ralli, illus. by Isabel Roxas)
I got this book because I was looking for something that explicitly discussed race in an approachable way that my 4-year-old could grasp. (It is too advanced for my 18-month-old but still has illustrations she can enjoy.) The book encourages discussion by asking questions like “What skin colors do you see?” and “What groups do you belong to?” It explains what racism is, gives examples, and touches on how we can make things better.
Whose Knees Are These? (Jabari Asim, illus. by LeUyen Pham)
I love the playful text and the bold illustrations of two cute, squishy brown knees. Perfect for little ones who are learning the names of body parts. Also by the same author is “Whose Toes Are Those?”
Whoever You Are (Mem Fox, illus. by Leslie Staub)
This book eloquently points out that the many differences between people around the world, as well as the things we all experience, like joy and pain. It sounds a little elevated for a board book, and it is, but both my kids loved listening to it, and for my older child it has encouraged conversations about different cultures.
Who? A Celebration of Babies (Robie H. Harris, illus. by Natascha Rosenberg)
I love this book because it gives my toddler a chance to say her three favorite words (baby, mama, and dada) and practice animal sounds, her other favorite thing to do. Each page asks, “Who? Who’s that?” and then gives the answer. Super simple, but most of our favorite board books are!
Peekaboo Morning (Rachel Isadora)
Another book that gives my youngest a chance to practice her words and point out her favorite animals. Add in her favorite game, peek-a-boo, and this book is a winner.
Global Babies (Global Fund for Children)
This book features full-page photos of babies from all different countries, from Thailand to Guatemala to Greenland to Mali, many of whom are wearing traditional cultural clothing. A great book that illustrates how our differences are beautiful.
Baby Dance (Ann Taylor, illus. by Marjorie van Heerden)
This sweet book encourages you to move, sing, and dance with your little one. I also love that it shows the special relationship between a little girl and her dad.
Rapunzel / Snow White / Cinderella (Chloe Perkins, various illustrators)
These books in the “Once Upon a World” series imagine the princesses in different countries —India, Japan, and Mexico—for a multicultural spin on the classic fairy tales. The stories remain mostly unchanged, but the vibrant illustrations transport you around the world. Both my youngest and my 4-year-old love these.