As an educator and a parent, I have come to the conclusion that one of the most meaningful ways to promote positive change in this world is through literature. Reading to our young children intentionally can have lasting effects on how they view the world and their place in it. The characters and stories in the books that we read to our children do more than just create new worlds to get lost in, they show them what we value, who we deem to be important and what stories deserve to be told. By intentionally creating a home library full of diverse backgrounds, protagonists and experiences, you are showing your children that difference is valued, respected and important in your home.
I have been fortunate enough to be reminded of this lesson time and again by fellow mamas, inspiring librarians and coworkers and my own family. We aren't perfect, we can always be doing more, but the books that are on our shelves now are the beginning to what I hope will be a home library full of diverse voices, characters and stories to enrich our lives and inspire a genuine love of all people. Some are in Spanish, some are in English- all are loved by my children.
1) El Día en que Descubres Quién Eres
(The Day you Begin- English)
This book is an amazing way to spark conversation about exclusion and feeling left out with your children. Talking about different ways in which children could feel isolated due to difference, it reminds them that the uniqueness of their lives is what makes our world beautiful. Encouraging children to stand strong in their differences and celebrate their stories, El Día en que Descubres Quién Eres is a beautifully illustrated story you don't want to miss.
2) This is How We Do It
How many times have my children asked to look at this book with me? They are absolutely captivated by the stories and pictures of this one. Looking at the lives of children all over the world, it explores the beautiful ways in which life can vary depending on where you live and what your background is. From traditions with food and walking to school, to helping around the house, this book allows you to give your kids an inside look into the diverse ways in which other children live and thrive in different countries.
3) Around the World in a Bathtub
Like mother like daughter, my children are obsessed with baths. There are many reasons why I love this book. I love that it shows all different types of baths, in a familiar bathtub, a square one, a river and even a volcano- it helps introduce the idea that not everyone has equal access to running water throughout the world which can help plant seeds of gratitude for those that do while normalizing outdoor bathing for ones that don't. I also love that it introduces different ways of saying "no" and "yes" in many different languages.
4) Marlon Bundo (also available in Spanish)
Oh. My. Gosh. I love this book. It is so much fun to read and my children are obsessed with the characters. A book for families wanting to expose their children to relationships that are not the standard "boy-girl" this book is about two boy bunnies who fall in love. It sparks wonderful conversations about standing up for what you believe in and being an ally. The overall message- Different is special.
5) Julian is a Mermaid
A book about mermaids, with a Spanish flair that encourages gender fluidity? Sign me up. This book is a must read for all families but especially those whose children don't like to fit into the gender norms perpetuated by society. Boys can wear pink, girls can wear blue, and everyone can like mermaids.
If you want to check out even MORE book, here are two UBAM lists I compiled that focus on having diverse voices, non-White protagonists and Black authors.
Of course, simply reading diverse books to our children is not enough to combat the systemic racism and marginalization that is so entwined in our society, but it is a start. My hope is that by reading these books, they spark conversations that will take you deeper into the work we all must put in to help create a world where all voices and stories are valued.
We cannot leave this up to chance with our children, we must be intentional when it comes to choosing the books we read and make sure we take advantage of the power of literature in their lives. Please share other family favorites that you love to read so we can all benefit!