50 Best Books to Educate Kids & Teens About Race, Racism and Diversity

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Introduce concepts of race, diversity and inclusion to your kids by reading books about different characters, families and cultures. As a woman of colour, raising a biracial daughter in Australia, I’m always looking for diverse children’s books. Here a range of books by Australian and international authors for different age groups which cover different representations of colour, creed and culture. These books cover the spectrum sharing stories from Indigenous, Asian, Latinx and Black authors and are great to build a diverse home library for your family. They also include books about activism and anti-racism to educate. The list includes age-appropriate books for different age groups from baby, toddler, preschool as well as primary and secondary school age.

Picture Books

A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara – A is for Activist is an ABC board book written and illustrated for the next generation of progressives: families who want their kids to grow up in a space that is unapologetic about activism, environmental justice, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, and everything else that activists believe in and fight for. A is for Activist is published by Seven Stories Press.

Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara – Counting on Community is Innosanta Nagara’s follow-up to his hit ABC book, A is for Activist. Counting up from one stuffed piñata to ten hefty hens–and always counting on each other–children are encouraged to recognize the value of their community, the joys inherent in healthy eco-friendly activities, and the agency they possess to make change. A Counting on Community is published by Seven Stories Press.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi – With bold art and thoughtful yet playful text, Antiracist Baby introduces the youngest readers and the grown-ups in their lives to the concept and power of antiracism. Providing the language necessary to begin critical conversations at the earliest age, Antiracist Baby is the perfect gift for readers of all ages dedicated to forming a just society. Antiracist Baby is published by Penguin.

Ten Little Finger and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox – This book was a favourite of ours when my daughter was young. With its rhyming text, this book written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury is a delight to read to a baby. The illustrations are beautiful featuring babies from different lands. Ages 1 – 3. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes is published by Penguin Viking.

Hello by Tony Flowers – Meet 12 Australian friends who can speak different languages. They tell us how to count from 1 to 10, say hello and goodbye and lots of other words in their languages about play, food, hobbies and clothes. This book is an introduction to 12 languages spoken most frequently in Australian homes, plus three Indigenous languages. Ages 3 – 6.  Hello is published by National Library of Australia Publishing.

I Love Me by Sally Morgan – This book by Aboriginal artist and writer Sally Morgan is a celebration of individuality and joyous self-esteem, in bouncy, rhythmic prose and riotous colour. It encourages kids to love all parts of themselves including their body, skin colour and hair. Ages 4 – 6. I Love Me is published by Fremantle Press.

Big Rain Coming by Katrina Germein and Bronwyn Bancroft. A lyrical story about waiting for the rain to come to an isolated Aboriginal community. Tension in the community builds as the rain clouds thicken and grow dark. Everybody waits. When will the rain come? Big Rain Coming is published by Picture Puffin.

Hair Love by Matthew Cherry. The heartwarming story of a dad learning to do his daughter’s hair for the very first time. Tender and empowering, Hair Love is an ode to loving your natural hair – and a celebration of daddies and daughters everywhere. Hair Love is published by Puffin.

Green is a Chile Pepper by Roseanne Thong. In this picture book children discover a world of colors all around them: red is spices and swirling skirts, yellow is masa, tortillas, and sweet corn cake. Many of the featured objects are Latino in origin, and all are universal in appeal. With rich, boisterous illustrations, fun-to-read rhyming text, and an informative glossary, this playful concept book will reinforce the colors found in every child’s day! Green is a Chile Pepper is published by Chronicle Books.

You & Me, Murrawee by Kerri Hashmi. ‘We walk this same brown earth – you and me, Murrawee . . . ‘ In this lyrical, beautifully observed picture book, we see through the eyes of a young girl camping on the river with her family, life as it would have been two hundred years ago. You and Me, Murrawee is published by Picture Puffin.

Our Island by Children of Gununa with Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey. In this lyrical celebration of place, the children of Mornington Island explore their home in words and pictures. This is a collaboration with much-loved children’s picture-book creators authors Alison Lester and Elizabeth Honey.Our Island is published by Picture Puffin.

Rocky and Louie by Dub Leffler, Phillip Walleystack and Raewyn Caisley A heartfelt story about the bond between two brothers and their special connection to country. Illustrated by CBCA award-winning picture-book creator Dub Leffler, and written by acclaimed singer/storyteller Phil Walleystack and award-winning children’s author Raewyn Caisley Louie’s big brother, Rocky, has big dreams and wants to chase them. But Louie doesn’t want him to forget where he belongs. Rocky and Louie is published by Puffin.

Dream Little One, Dream by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina. From sunrise to night-time, celebrate the wonders of nature with this rhythmic and radiant bedtime story by Sally Morgan and Ambelin Kwaymullina. When Moon shines and earth breathes a breath of deepest night dream, little one, dream into the peace of a wonderful world. Dream Little One, Dream is published by Puffin.

The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin. By the author of the autobiographical Mao’s Last Dancer, this is the true story of a poor Chinese peasant boy, who at the age of ten was plucked unsuspectingly from millions of others across the land to be trained as a ballet dancer. Li tells his story with disarming simplicity and charm, with humour and compassion, and here he speaks directly to the small child, his special audience. The Peasant Prince is published by Picture Puffin.

Little Leaders: Brave Men in Black History by Vashti Harrison – This beautifully illustrated volume educates and inspires as it relates true stories of black men in history. Among these biographies, readers will find aviators and artists, politicians and pop culture icons. Little Leaders: Brave Men in Black History is published by Puffin.

Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison – This beautifully illustrated volume features 40 trailblazing black women in the world’s history. This book educates and inspires as it relates true stories of women who broke boundaries and exceeded all expectation. Among these biographies, readers will find stories of both iconic and lesser-known female figures of black history. Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History is published by Puffin.

Multicultural Me by Taku Mbudzi – Multicultural Me is a children’s book full of cartoons to celebrate the cultural diversity and friendship of kids in Australia. After doing a talk at a school on Harmony Day Taku who emigrated from Zimbabwe decided to write a book that highlights the things that ARE different about us, but also the wonderful things we have in common with each other. Multicultural Me is available on iBooks. 

I’m Australian Too by Mem Fox – I’m Australian Too celebrates multicultural Australia and its rich diversity of citizens. No matter what we look like or where we’re from, Mem Fox reminds us that we’re all Australian with our own story. From an indigenous Australian boy reminding us that his mob has been here forever to a refugee hoping to be granted a visa, the book is filled with different Australians sharing their stories. Ages 4 -8. I’m Australian Too is published by Omnibus Book, a division of Scholastic Australia

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson – Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael Lopez’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway. The Day You Begin is published by Penguin.

This is the Rope by Jacqueline Woodson – Jacqueline Woodson–New York Times Bestselling, National Book Award and Newbery Honor winning author writes a rich story of a family adapting to change as they hold on to the past and embrace the future. During the time of the Great Migration, millions of African American families relocated from the South, seeking better opportunities. The story of one family’s journey north during the Great Migration starts with a little girl in South Carolina who finds a rope under a tree one summer. She has no idea the rope will become part of her family’s history. This Is The Rope is published by Puffin.

Last Stop On Market Street by Matt de la Pena – Winner of the prestigious Newbery Award, this groundbreaking picture book explores urban life through the eyes of a young boy and his nana. CJ discovers that there is beauty, interest and excitement everywhere he looks, in this evocative story told through the rhythms and poetry of real life.. Last Stop On Market Town is published by Puffin.

Primary Books

The Little Refugee by Anh Do – Anh Do’s inspirational story about his family’s incredible escape from war-torn Vietnam and his childhood in Australia, told especially for children. Ages 4 -8. The Little Refugee is published by Allen & Unwin.

An Aussie Year by Tania McCartney – An Aussie Year: Twelve Months in the Life of Australian Kids is a picture book bursting with national pride. It covers an entire year and features a month-by-month feature of culture, lifestyle and traditions across our country. It features five Australian kids who represent a multicultural blend of culture and race that make up modern Australia. Ages 4 – 12. An Aussie Year is published by EK Books.

We Rise, We Resist, We Raise Our Voices by Wade Hudson – Fifty of the foremost diverse children’s authors and illustrators–including Jason Reynolds, Jacqueline Woodson, and Kwame Alexander–share answers to the question, “In this divisive world, what shall we tell our children?” in this beautiful, full-color keepsake collection, published in partnership with Just Us Books. We Rise ,We Resist, We Raise Our Voices is published by RH USA Kids Trade.

My Culture and Me by Gregg Dreise – Beautifully written and illustrated, My Culture and Me is a heartfelt and stirring story of cherishing and sustaining Indigenous cultures. It covers the importance of pride, respect and maintaining culture. Ages 6 – 8. My Culture and Me is published by Penguin Australia.

The Burnt Stick by Anthony Hill – John Jagamarra grew up at the Pearl Bay Mission for Aboriginal children in the far north-west. It was beautiful there, but it wasn’t home. This is a tale for everyone about the pain of separation, and the strength of the human spirit. The Burnt Stick is published by Puffin.

Aussie Kids: Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek by Paul Seden & Brenton McKenna – Aussie Kids is an exciting new series for emerging readers 6-8 years. Hi! I’m Sam I have a new throw net. My cuz, Peter and I can’t wait to try it out. We want to catch a BIG barra! Meet Sam at the Mangrove Creek is published by Puffin.

Stories for Simon by Lisa Miranda Sarzin – When Simon unwraps a beautiful boomerang wrapped in an old newspaper, he learns of the national apology to the Stolen Generations. Who were the Stolen Generations and how can saying ‘sorry’ help? Through a new friendship and a magnificent collection of stories, Simon gains a deep appreciation of the past and a positive vision for the future. Stories for Simon is published by Random House Australia.

A Ghost in My Suitcase by Gabrielle Wang – When thirteen-year-old Celeste travels to China to visit her grandmother, she uncovers an incredible family secret. An award-winning magic realism story for 10+ readers about finding yourself, ghost-hunting, Chinese mythology and culture. A Ghost in My Suitcase is published by Puffin.

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman – A story of adventure, ball control and hope. Jamal and Bibi have a dream. To lead Australia to soccer glory in the next World Cup. But first they must face landmines, pirates, storms and assassins. Can Jamal and his family survive their incredible journey and get to Australia? Sometimes, to save the people you love, you have to go overboard. Ages 8 – 10. Boy Overboard is published by Puffin.

Two Hands Together by Diana Kidd – When the Rileys move in next door, Lily and Ella become the best of friends. But Lily can’t understand why her Dad doesn’t like the Rileys. Why doesn’t he want them to go over there? Why is he being so horrible and mean? Does something big have to happen to change his mind? Two Hands Together is published by Puffin.

WeirDo Series by Anh Do – Follow the adventures of Weir Do. With an unforgettable name, a crazy family and some seriously weird habits, fitting in won’t be easy. There are 11 books in total to enjoy. Ages 6 – 12. The WeirDo Series is published by Scholastic.

Bold Australian Girl by Jess Black – Do you know what my Mum whispers as she straightens out a curl? ‘You can do anything. You’re my bold Australian girl.’ This delightful picture book written by local Newcastle author Jess Black encourages girls to do anything. Focusing on a nurturing relationship between a young Indigenous girl and her mum, this book celebrates everything from football to friendship, reading to surfing. Ages 7+. Bold Australian Girl is published by Scholastic.

Our Australia Girl Series – Set against the backdrop of Australian history, the Our Australia Girls series features brave and diverse girls. The books cover pivotal moments in Australian history including the convict era and colonisation, European migration, and the Stolen Generation. Age 9+. Our Australian Girl series is published by Penguin Australia.

Thai-Riffic series by Oliver Phommavanh – This series written by Thai-Australian writer shares the challenges of growing up in Australia to immigrant parents. Albert s finding it hard being Thai, especially when you live in Australia, your house is a Thai cultural shrine, your parents run a restaurant called Thai-riffic! and you’re desperate for some pizza! Funny but poignant. Ages 9 – 12. Thai-Riffic Series is published by Penguin Australia.

Mango, Abuela and Me by Meg Medina – Mia’s Abuela has left her sunny house with parrots and palm trees to live with Mia and her parents in the city. The night she arrives, Mia tries to share her favorite book with Abuela before they go to sleep and discovers that Abuela can’t read the words inside. An endearing tale from an award-winning duo that speaks loud and clear about learning new things and the love that bonds family members. Ages 5 – 8. Mango, Abuela, and Me is published by Candlewick Press.

The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh – Award-winning author Duncan Tonatiuh reimagines one of Mexico’s cherished legends. Princess Izta had many wealthy suitors but dismissed them all. When a mere warrior, Popoca, promised to be true to her and stay always by her side, Izta fell in love. The emperor promised Popoca if he could defeat their enemy Jaguar Claw, then Popoca and Izta could wed. . Ages 6 – 9. The Princess and the Warrior is published by Abrams.

Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson. From slavery to freedom, through segregation, freedom marches and the fight for literacy, the tradition they called Show Way has been passed down by the women in Jacqueline Woodson’s family as a way to remember the past and celebrate the possibilities of the future. Beautifully rendered in Hudson Talbott’s luminous art, this moving, lyrical account pays tribute to women whose strength and knowledge illuminate their daughters’ lives. Show Way is published by Putnam.

Young Dark Emu by Bruce – Young Dark Emu: A Truer History reveals that Aboriginal culture was much more advanced than originally thought. In this non-fiction book aimed at kids, Bruce Pascoe uses first-hand accounts such as diaries and sketches of early British explorers and colonists to explain that the Aboriginals weren’t just nomadic hunter-gatherers as commonly believed. Instead, indigenous people had communities and built permanent homes, dams and aquaculture systems and farmed the land with grass crops, yams and wheat. It offers a different version of traditional Aboriginal lifestyle and the history of British colonialism. Ages 9+. Young Dark Emu is published by Magabala Books.

Secondary Books

Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah – When sixteen-year-old Amal makes the decision to start wearing the hijab full-time, everyone has a reaction like her parents, her teachers, her friends, people on the street. But she stands by her decision to embrace her faith and all that it is, even if it does make her a little different from everyone else. Ages 12 – 14. Does My Head Look Big in This? is published by Pan Macmillan Australia.

Deadly, Unna? by Phillip Gwynne – This gutsy novel, set in a small coastal town in South Australia is a rites-of-passage story about two boys confronting the depth of racism that exists all around them. Dumby Red and Blacky don’t have a lot in common. Dumby’s the star of the footy team, he’s got a killer smile and the knack with girls, and he’s a Nunga. Blacky’s a gutless wonder, needs braces, never knows what to say, and he’s white. Deadly, Unna is published by Puffin.

Nukkin Ya? by Phillip Gwynne – Nukkin Ya is the sequel to Deadly, Unna?. Fifteen-year-old Gary Black, ‘Blacky’, isn’t sure what he wants or where he is going. The one thing he does know is that he wants to escape the small country town he’s grown up in.. Nukkin Ya is published by Puffin.

You Must Be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied – With her long skirt and headscarf Layla certainly stands out at her new high school. Everyone thinks they know her, just from a glance. But do they? And does Layla really know herself?Jam-packed with heart and humour, You Must Be Layla by Yassmin Abdel-Magied reveals a powerful new voice in children’s writing. Touching on the migrant experience and exploring thought-provoking themes relevant to all teens, this book shows the strength required to be a Queen with a capital ‘Q’. You Must Be Layla is published by Penguin.

The First Third by Will Kostakis – Life is made up of three parts: in The First Third, you’re embarrassed by your family; in the second, you make a family of your own; and in the end, you just embarrass the family you’ve made. That’s how Billy’s traditional Greek grandmother explains it, anyway. She’s given him her bucket list (cue embarrassment), and now, it’s his job to glue their family back together. Ages 13 – 16. The First Third is published by Penguin Australia.

The First Voyage by Allan Baillie – As the Yam tribe brave the perils of the sea, will they survive the voyage into the unknown, and what awaits them just over the horizon? An enthralling story about the plight of the very first boat people, of their desperation, bravery and hope. The First Voyage is published by Puffin.

Am I Black Enough for You by Anita Heiss – What does it mean to be Aboriginal? Why is Australia so obsessed with notions of identity? This is the story of Anita Heiss, an urban-based high achieving Aboriginal woman, successful author and passionate campaigner who is working to break down stereotypes and build bridges between black and white Australia. Am I Black Enough For You? is published by Bantam Australia.

Looking for Alibrandi by Melina Marchetta – In this classic book and film, a young Italian-Australian girl must deal with her cultural identity, racism, family and interracial relationships as well as meeting her estranged father in her final year of school . Age 13+. Looking for Alibrandi is published by Penguin Australia.

The Yield by Tara June Winch – Profoundly moving and exquisitely written, Tara June Winch’s The Yield is the story of a people and a culture dispossessed. But it is as much a celebration of what was and what endures, and a powerful reclaiming of Indigenous language, storytelling and identity. The Yield is published by Hamish Hamilton.

Living on Hope Street by Demet Divaroren – The YA book Living on Hope Street takes place on an ordinary street in suburban Australia. On this street, everyone comes from different places, but to find peace, they will have to discover what unites them. The characters include a Turkish neighbour who takes in a mum and her two kids escaping from family violence. Also on the street is an African refugee and a Vietnam vet with their own memories. Ages 14 – 18. Living on Hope Street is published by Allan & Unwin.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee – To Kill a Mockingbird is a coming-of-age story, an anti-racist novel, a historical drama of the Great Depression and a sublime example of the Southern writing tradition. To Kill a Mockingbird is published by Arrow.

How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi – In this rousing and deeply empathetic book, Ibram X. Kendi, founding director of the Antiracism Research and Policy Center, shows that when it comes to racism, neutrality is not an option: until we become part of the solution, we can only be part of the problem. How to Be an Antiracist is published by Bodley Head.

Stamped From The Beginning by Ibram X. Kendi – Stamped from the Beginning is a redefining history of anti-Black racist ideas that dramatically changes our understanding of the causes and extent of racist thinking itself. This ebook Stamped from the Beginning is published by Vintage Digital.

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