Children's Reading List

Children's Books That Celebrate

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging

Children's books are a beautiful way for everyone, young and old, to connect. They entertain of course, but also teach us new things, foster reflection, celebrate our differences, and we hope, inspire change.

On social media, HTEI will often publish children's literature reading lists to compliment heritage months, holidays, and events throughout the year. You can also find these lists right here.

Check back often for updates, feel free to send us suggestions, and be sure to support your local public libraries and independent book stores. Happy reading!

Juneteenth, June 19

Opal Lee and What it Means to Be Free, by Alice Faye Duncan

Just out this year (2022), this is a beautiful retelling of "the true story of the Grandmother of Juneteenth," Opal Lee. Lee led the movement to make Juneteenth a national holiday, and saw her goal realized, in 2020 at 94 years old. An inspiring story for all!

Juneteenth for Mazie, by Floyd Cooper

Readers young and old will enjoy watching Mazie prepare to celebrate Juneteenth with her family in this classic by award-winning illustrator, Floyd Cooper.

Pride Month, June 1-30

It's hard to narrow down the long list of amazing children's books to read in celebration of Pride month! Below are three suggestions for exploring the history of the pride movement--for preschool, lower elementary grades, and 10+ ranges--as well as a great pick for discussing pronouns and two heartwarming stories about love. For even more picks, scroll down to October, which is LGBTQ+ History Month!

Rainbow: A First Book of Pride

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

Pride: An Inspirational History of the LGBTQ+ Movement

What Are Your Words?

Grandad's Camper

Prince & Knight

Immigrant Heritage Month, June 1-30

Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers

It's hard to think of a better book to read to children in celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month! By pointing out that Lady Liberty's right foot is posed in a walking position, Eggers reminds readers that, like her, we, too, should always be moving forward, welcoming immigrants to our country.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

There are SO many gorgeous books celebrating immigrants and their incredible stories, including this beautiful one by Morales.

Carribbean American Heritage Month, June 1-30

  • Freedom Soup by Tami Charles

  • All the Way to Havana by Margarita Engle

  • Coqui in the City by Nomar Perez

These are all beautifully written and illustrated books about home, family, and celebrating Caribbean culture and identities.

Mother's Day, May 8 2022

As we celebrate Mother's Day, let's remember ALL the people in our lives who love and take care of us! Stella Brings the Family is a heartwarming picture book--perfect for the holiday and for celebrating diverse families. When her class is invited to bring someone special to a Mother's Day party at school, Stella feels stuck: she has two dads, Daddy and Papa, who love her very much, along with Nonna, and Uncle Bruno, Aunt Gloria, and cousin Lucy. Who should she bring? Eventually, with help from Daddy, Papa, and her friends, Stella decides to do the best thing of all--bring the whole fam! One classmate brings both of their mothers, one brings Grandma, and everyone has a wonderful time!

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, May 1-31

Watercress

2022's Caldecott and Newbery winner, don't miss Andrea Wang and Jason Chin's gorgeous story about family, loss, and love.

'Ohana Means Family

With a fun, repetitive story in the style of The House that Jack Built, kids will delight in watching a Hawaiian family prepare for a luau.

Eyes that Speak to the Stars

This is the beautiful follow-up to Eyes That Kiss in the Corners, both celebrations of identity and what makes us special.

Drawn Together

When language forms a barrier between a grandfather and grandson, they learn to speak through drawing. Such a heartwarming read!

Yes We Will: Asian Americans Who Shaped the Country

Just out in spring of 2022, this collective biography by Yang is sure to inspire. Kids love Yang's fiction, too!

Jewish American Heritage Month, May 1-31

A Hat for Mrs. Goldman: A Story about Knitting and Love

This is a heartwarming favorite celebrating mitzvhas--good deeds--and the love they spread.

Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer's Fight for the Statue of Liberty

Kids will enjoy this interesting and true story about famous journalist and Jewish immigrant Joseph Pulitzer, who organized a community fundraising campaign to purchase a much-needed pedestal for the Statue of Liberty.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: The Case of RBG and Inequality

Biographies are an excellent way to celebrate! While there are many about RBG for young readers--this one is a top pick, inspiring to kids and adults alike.

The Language of Angels: A Story About the Reinvention of Hebrew

A lively, fun story about Eliezer Ben-Yehuda, credited for modernizing the Hebrew language in the mid 1900s.

Becoming Brianna

Part of a wildly-popular graphic novels series for ages 9+, this endearing story follows Brianna as she prepares for her bat mitzvah

Passover, April 15-23 2022

Sammy Spider's First Passover, by Sylvia A. Rouss

Kids will love following Sammy as he celebrates his first Passover. An excellent addition to a beloved series.

Meet the Matzah: A Passover Story, by Alan Silberberg

This delightful, silly follow-up to Meet the Latkes will have kids giggling on every page.

Easter, April 17 2022

The Easter Egg, by Jan Brett

Brett's stories and illustrations are always beautiful, loved by kids and their grown-ups alike. A fun addition to anyone's Easter basket!

Egg, by Kevin Henkes

A heartwarming story for younger readers, especially toddlers and preschoolers. It starts with 4 eggs, 3 of them hatching to reveal baby birds. But what will happen with the last egg? Kids will love guessing and finding out!

Arab American Heritage Month, April 1-30

The Proudest Blue, by Ibtihaj Muhammad

From Olympic Medalist and social justice activist Ibtihaj Muhammad comes a lovely story about identity, family, and being proud of who you are. Faizah beams with pride as her older sister Asiya celebrates her first day wearing hijab to school. The hijab she picks out is, of course, beautiful, very special, and the proudest shade of blue.

The Cat Man of Aleppo, by Irene Latham and Karim Shamsi-Basha

This inspiring true story about Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel, known around the world as the Cat Man of Aleppo, is wonderful. An ambulance driver during the Syrian Civil War who courageously rescued hundreds of abandoned animals--particularly cats-in his beloved, war-torn city, the Cat Man's story is one of hope and compassion.

Other Words for Home, by Jasmine Warga

This beautifully written novel in verse won is a 2020 Newbery Honor winner, perfect for grades 3 and up. Readers will love Jude, a young Syrian refugee trying to make a new home with her mother in the US. It's a story of identity, friendship, loss, and hope.

Autism Awareness Month, April 1-30

A Friend for Henry, by Jenn Bailey and Mika Song

This is a warm, heartfelt story about making friends, told from the perspective of a boy on the autism spectrum.

The Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Temple Grandin, by Julia Finley Mosca

A great illustrated biography of Dr. Temple Grandin, sure to inspire. There's even a note from Dr. Grandin at the end!

All My Stripes: A Story for Children With Autism, by Shaina Rudolph

With the help of his mama, young Zane the Zebra learns to love all his stripes--the many things that make him special!

Ramadan, April 2-May 2, 2022

Lailah's Lunchbox, by Reem Faruqi, illustrated by Lea Lyon

The Gift of Ramadan, by Rabiah York Lumbard, illustrated by Laura K. Horton

Under the Ramadan Moon, by Sylvia Whitman, illustrated by Sue Williams

Purim (March 16-17, 2022) and Holi (March 18, 2022)

Is it Purim Yet? by Chris Barash, illustrated by

Sammy Spider's First Purim, by Sylvia A. Rouss, illustrated by

Festival of Colors, by Kabir and Surishtha Sehgal, illustrated by Vashti Harrison

Holi Colors, Rina Singh

Women's History Month, March 1-31

Celebrating Women's History with stories is more fun than ever, thanks to awesome series like Rebel Girls and Little People Big Dreams (both feature women leaders, young and old, past and present, in beautifully-illustrated and engaging pages that kids adore). There are also so many wonderful picture books to help you celebrate, too! Below are 3 favorites, as well as a handful of other suggestions we couldn't bear to omit!

Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World, by Susan Hood

This is an inspiring collection of poems about 14 young women from history, beautifully illustrated by women picture book artists. Readers will learn about leaders such as Ruby Bridges, Maya Lin, Mary Anning, Nellie Bly, and Pura Belpré. Featured artists include Sophie Blackall, Oge Mora, LeUyen Pham, and more.

Love is Powerful by Heather Dean Brewer and LeUyen Pham

A great read for not only Women's History Month, but also discussions about community and activism, this is a heartwarming story of a young girl joining her mother at a peaceful protest, based on the author’s experience with a friend’s daughter at the 2017 Womens March in NYC.

Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley

This brightly illustrated picture book introduces readers to women’s rights activist Mary Edwards Walker, who challenged gender norms when she dared to wear pants--instead of a dress--to school as a child. Walker persevered and grew to become a key women’s rights activist, surgeon, and decorated military veteran.

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees

Dancing Hands: How Theresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln

Building Zaha: The Story of Architect Zaha Hadid

Amanda Gorman (One of the latest in the Little People Big Dreams series!)

The Watcher: Jane Goodall's Life With the Chimps

It Began With a Page: How Giyo Fujikawa Drew The Way

Black History Month, February 1-28

The Undefeated

Written by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson

An unforgettable, incredibly beautiful must-read for kids and adults alike. Alexander's "ode to black triumph and tribulation" won the 2020 Caldecott, Newbery, and Coretta Scott King Awards. Readers who want more--and they certainly will--can explore the back matter, which contains information about the historical figures and events celebrated.

The Year We Learned to Fly

Written by Jaqueline Woodson, Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

The exquisitely written and illustrated book follows two young black children who learn about the strength, resilience, and "beautiful, brilliant minds" of their ancestors. Inspired by Virginia Hamilton's collection of African American folktales, The People Could Fly, this is a fictional story that's sure to stick with readers long after they've finished it. It would be great to pair with African American folktales!

Young, Gifted, and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes From Past to Present

There are many great collective biographies for young readers, and this is a favorite. Kids will love reading about beloved black heroes and discovering new ones!

The ABCs of Black History

A perfect intro for preschool and Pre-K friends! This board book celebrates black history and culture with bright illustrations and creative, joyful text. Grown-ups can use the back matter for more in-depth information about the terms and events featured.

The Book Itch: Freedom, Truth, and Harlem's Greatest Bookstore

Lewis Michaux Sr. opened the National Memorial African Bookstore in Harlem in the 1930s, where it would stand as the heart of the community for over four decades. As Michaux says in the story, "Knowledge is power./You need it every hour./Read a book!"

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read

Kids are always shocked when they read that Mary Walker was 116 (yes, 116!) when she learned to read. Born in 1848 and enslaved until she was 15, Walker is a shining example of perseverance, dedication, and hope.

Lunar New Year (begins February 1, 2022)

Bringing in the NEW YEAR

Written and illustrated by Grace Lin

This simple classic is the perfect read for celebrating Lunar New Year with young readers. Lin, the 2022 recipient of the Children's Literature Legacy Award, tells the story of a Chinese American family preparing to celebrate the holiday.

Tết Together

Written by Alice Trinh, illustrated by Jade Le

Published in November 2021, this picture book celebrates Tết, the Vietnamese Lunar New Year. So many picture books focus on Chinese celebrations of the holiday, so it's great to see more books coming out for young readers like this one--spotlighting the beautiful, unique ways other countries, like Vietnam, celebrate!

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas

Written by Natasha Yim, illustrated by Grace Zong

This is a fun, festive take on Goldilocks and the Three Bears, starring a family of pandas who find a surprise visitor in their home during Chinese New Year. Kids will love this new spin on an old favorite, and there's even a recipe for turnip cakes in the backmatter!

Mindy Kim and the Lunar New Year Parade

Written by Lyla Lee, illustrated by Dung Ho

A great choice for independent readers 6 and up, this illustrated chapter book follows Korean American Mindy Kim, as she and her family prepare for Lunar New Year. Readers who become fans, rejoice Mindy Kim has an entire series of adventures just waiting on the shelves!

National Native American Heritage Month, Nov.1-30

Fry Bread, A Native American Family Story

Written by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

"Fry bread is food," starts this heartwarming story about a popular dish in Native American culture. But readers quickly learn that it's so much more than that--fry bread is family, community, history, time spent together. Kids love thinking (and chatting!) about other foods that are a special part of their identity, and how food brings us together. A member of the Mekusukey band of the Seminole nation, Maillard includes a history of fry bread in the backmatter, as well as a recipe.

My Heart Fills With Happiness

Written by Monique Gray Smith, illustrated by Julie Flett

This beautiful, heartwarming board book is dedicated to "former Indian Residential School Students and their Families." In each sunny page, children share things that make their heart happy--holding a loved-one's hand, the grass on bare feet, singing and dancing. It's impossible to read this one without smiling and feeling happy yourself, and the preschool set will no doubt want to share all the things that make their hearts happy, too.

We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know

Written by Traci Sorell, illustrated by Frané Lessac

From the creators of We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga comes a must read for, well, everyone! 12 Native American children portray the ongoing fight for Native American recognition and rights, each offering a resounding "We are still here!" This book provides a much-needed look at contemporary Native American life, an essential for school libraries.

Notable Native People: 50 Indigenous Leaders, Dreamers, and Changemakers from Past to Present

By Adrienne Keene

Collective biographies, like the Little Legends series or Rad American Women A to Z, make great read alouds, and this one is no exception! Notable Native People celebrates the contributions and stories of 50 Native Americans artists, athletes, scientists, and activists. Kids can learn about changemakers from the past, like Wilma Mankiller, and present, like NBA Star Kyrie Irving.

LGBTQIA+ History Month, October 1 to October 31

Rainbow: A First Book of Pride

By Michael Genhart, illustrated by Anne Passchier

A perfect intro to LGBTQIA+ history for the preschool set, this board book explains the meaning behind each color of the flag.

Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag

By Rob Sanders, illustrated by Steven Salerno

Young readers will learn about this history of the rainbow flag and activist and leader Harvey Milk in this moving, inspirational nonfiction picture book.

Stonewall: A Building, An Uprising, A Revolution

By Rob Sanders, illustrated by Jamey Christoph

From the author of Pride: the Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag, Stonewall is yet another empowering, essential picture book for young readers, this one telling the history of the Stonewall Inn, the raid of June 28 1969, and the birth of the LGBTQ rights movement.

Queer Heroes: Meet 53 LGBTQ Heroes From Past and Present

By Arabelle Sicardi, illustrated by Sarah Tanat-Jones

This collective biography is sure to inspire, with illustrated entries on 53 heroes from LGBTQ history, from ancient times to present day, including artists, musicians, athletes, writers, activists, and change makers.

Indigenous People's Day: October 11, 2021

We Are Water Protectors

By Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade

This Caldecott winner is a gorgeously illustrated story about the Indigenous fight to stop/prevent water pollution. A young Anishinaabe girl calls on readers to help protect the water, and all living things, including "...those who cannot fight for themselves." An author's note at the end connects the story to the events at Standing Rock. and readers can sign the "Earth Steward and Water Protector Pledge" on the last page. Lindstrom is Anishinabe/Métis and a proud member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe Indians. Goade is from the Raven moiety and Kiks.ádi Clan from Sitka, Alaska

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga

By Traci Sorrell, illustrated by Frané Lessac

Another award winning book, one that School Library Journal calls "an informative and authentic introduction to a thriving ancestral and ceremonial way of life." We Are Grateful is a beautiful look at contemporary Cherokee culture and celebrations, with an emphasis on gratitude--for one another, for all living things, and for the world around us. Sorrell is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives in Northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located.

National Hispanic American Heritage Month, September 15 to October 15

Dreamers

Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales

Morales shares the story of her immigration to the US from Mexico in 1994, with her infant son in tow. At first, Morales found comfort in the public libraries of San Francisco, exploring the shelves of the children’s rooms for hours on end. Eventually, she would also find inspiration there, too--going on to become an award-winning illustrator and author. A Spanish language edition, Soñadores, is also available. Please check this gorgeous story out, or even better, borrow it from your local library!

Alma and How She Got Her Name

Written and illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal

When little Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela tells her Daddy that she has too many names, he explains the beautiful story behind each one, connecting her to her ancestors and helping her see just how special her name really is. Martinez-Neal, a Peruvian American author and illustrator, tells the story of her own name, too, in the back of this lovely book, which also won the Caldecott Honor in 2019.

Islandborn

By Junot Díaz, illustrated by Leo Espinoza

Lola’s classmates happily draw pictures of where their families are from, but she can’t remember anything about “the Island” (the Dominican Republic). Worried, she turns to family and friends, who help her learn that, even if she can’t remember it, the Island will always be a big part of her identity. This is the first picture book by Díaz, a Dominican American and Pulitzer prize winning author, and it’s illustrated by Espinoza, who was born in Colombia.

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

By Anika A. Denise, illustrated by Paola Escobar

Dreamers won the Pura Belpré Medal in 2019, and Islandborn won the Pura Belpré Honor in the same year. After reading these books, follow up with this one--a beautifully illustrated biography of Belpré! The first Puerto Rican Librarian in New York City, she is honored for her tremendous contributions to children’s literature and storytelling. (Be sure to check out the list of all past recipients of the Belpré Award, too!) Denise has Puerto Rican roots, herself, and Escobar lives in Colombia.