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!
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
Mother's Day (May)
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
'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.
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
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.
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.
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!
Purim (March) and Holi (March)
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.
Black History Month, February 1-28
Written by Kwame Alexander, Illustrated by Kadir Nelson
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!
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)
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
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
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
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
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)
We Are Water Protectors
By Carole Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goade
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
Written and illustrated by Yuyi Morales
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.