Any time I want to teach my daughter a lesson, especially social issues like diversity and tolerance for others, my first step is to see if there's a children's book that's already covered the topic. I find that children's books always manage to convey what I want to say beautifully, but in a subtle fashion, too. It's not a lecture to teach my daughter something, it's just fun to read a book and have her absorb the lesson organically. And for tough topics? Books are even better, which is why children's books that break racial stereotypes are a must for any family's bookshelf.
Smashing any and all stereotypes is a must for your children, but racial stereotypes huge. It may be 2016, but all over the country, there are plenty of things your kids can see, hear, and read that contradict what you're telling them — everyone is worthy and everyone is capable of being what they want to be. Personally, I'm grateful for shows like Doc McStuffins and Sesame Street for celebrating diversity, putting non-white characters in leading roles, and busting through racial stereotypes with almost every plot line. If I can continue that education through books, my daughter's favorite medium, then I absolutely should.
Whether you want your little one to know that there is no racial stereotype that can hold them back or you want to educate your kiddos, here are 13 children's books that break racial stereotypes for them to read.
1. 'Chicken Sunday' by Patricia Polacco
One of my absolute favorites growing up, Chicken Sunday is the story of a young Russian American girl and her connection to an African-American family. The two brothers take her in as though she's their sister and she sees their Gramma Eula Mae as a surrogate grandmother, eager to make her Easter something special. It's beautifully illustrated and such a wonderful book for introducing non-traditional families.
2. 'Ruby's Wish' by Shirin Yim Bridges
The tradition in old China was to have daughters grow up to marry men, but in Ruby's Wish, little Ruby is determined to go to university, just like all of the boys in her family. It breaks a lot of the stereotypes surrounding Asian culture, and is also a major plus for little girls.
3. 'Amazing Grace' by Mary Hoffman
A classic read, Amazing Grace tells the story of Grace, an African-American girl who loves any and all stories. When it's time for her to audition for Peter Pan, she wants the lead role, despite her classmates' words against her. Full of gorgeous illustrations and the lesson that anybody can do anything, regardless of race or gender, it's a favorite for all children.
4. 'Whoever You Are' by Mem Fox
Even the littlest ones in the family can learn about diversity with this adorable picture book, Whoever You Are. There are beautiful portraits of children from all over the world, and a sweet message proclaiming that no matter what, there are other children out there just like you, with the same joys, love, pain, and blood. Absolutely perfect and so fun for the whole family to flip through together.
5. 'The Name Jar' by Yangsook Choi
I just added this to my daughter's collection because I am obsessed with The Name Jar. Unhei has just moved to America from Korea, and she's very nervous that no one will like her. She decides to have the children in her class choose her new name so that she doesn't have to worry about her own Korean name being mispronounced. But the children in her classroom surprise her, celebrating who she is and her beautiful Korean name.
6. 'Freedom Summer' by Deborah Wiles
Set in the south in 1964, Freedom Summer tells the story of two best friends, Joe and John. But because John is black and Joe is white, the two have a hard time doing things together until anti-segregation laws are passed. The two boys are excited until they realize that not everyone agrees with them that friendship is colorblind. A great way to bring up the conversation of racism and breaking racial stereotypes, it's also a perfect history and life lesson.
7. 'We're Different, We're the Same' by Bobbi Kates
8. 'Mixed Me!' by Taye Diggs
9. 'Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows In The Bronx' by Jonah Winter
There are few public figures that have broken racial stereotypes more than Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. In Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows in the Bronx, your children will hear the story of her childhood, her rise to the Supreme Court, and how her hard work and determination never wavered, despite the obstacles in her way. It's a must-read for any child.
10. 'Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match' by Monica Brown
For another mixed race view, pick up Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match. The bright, fun story is about Marisol McDonald, a little girl with red hair and brown skin. Everyone tells her she doesn't match, but she proudly breaks the stereotypes by loving herself and all mismatched things, insisting that they all go together.
11. 'Black Is Brown Is Tan' by Arnold Adoff
12. 'Dancing In The Wings' by Debbie Allen
13. 'Esperanza Rising' by Pam Munoz Ryan
For the older children in your family, Esperanza Rising is a fantastic book about the human spirit and can break racial stereotypes. The story follows Esperanza, a young girl living with her family on a beautiful ranch in Mexico during the Great Depression. When a tragedy forces her and her mother to flee to California, they have to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers, where the labor is hard and everyone's spirits are low. But Esperanza is determined to rise above all of it for her and her mother. It's an absolutely beautiful book and is a great conversation starter about immigrants and the stereotypes surrounding them.