As populations shift and cultures become increasingly global, our children need to recognize and value the ways in which people are the same — and not the same. This progressive kind of learning is known as anti-bias education, and it not only encourages self-esteem but also helps kids understand and appreciate the experiences of others.
Conscious anti-bias parenting is a great way to make the world a better place, but given the busy reality of caring for young children, it can seem daunting. That’s why it’s so important to weave anti-bias practice into the fabric of daily life. One of the most enjoyable ways to make this happen is by reading anti-bias children’s books with our kids.
This selection of our favorite titles is organized under the four goals of anti-bias education, as defined by Louise Derman-Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards in their book, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves.
Demonstrate self-confidence, family pride and positive social identities
ABC for You and Me, Meg Girnis and Shirley Leamon Green
This classic-style ABC book is playfully presented by a mixed-race cast of children with Down syndrome. With bright photographs and simple text, it enables younger kids to connect happiness to living with a disability. Babies and toddlers will have fun looking at the cheerful faces and recognizable play objects, while preschoolers will enjoy following along with the alphabet.
I Am Latino: The Beauty in Me, Sandra L. Pinkney and Myles C. Pinkney
Sandra Pinkney and her husband have collaborated on many gorgeous multicultural children’s books in photo-essay format, including the NAACP Image Award–winning Shades of Black. Their focus is on portraying and celebrating the racial ethnic diversity of all children. I Am Latino rejoices in the beauty of Latin descent by weaving moments of tradition with strong self-affirmations.
My People, Langston Hughes and Charles R. Smith Jr.
Hughes wrote this striking 33-word poem in the late 1920s. In setting images to Hughes’ words, photographer and poet Smith wanted to show that African-Americans, like every other group of people, come in “all shapes, sizes, shades, and ages, and that each of us is unique.” His work won the American Library Association’s Coretta Scott King Book Award for illustration in 2010.
Express joy with diversity, accurate language for differences and caring connections
Faces, Shelley Rotner and Ken Kreisler
Author, photographer and illustrator Rotner has produced many titles about “self-discovery and awareness through observations and diversity.” According to Rotner’s website, she hopes that “these books act as a catalyst to generate conversation and help children express their thoughts and feelings.” Faces shows our connections through sameness and difference.
Jingle Dancer, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Ying-Hwa Hu and Cornelius Van Wright
A special tale of empowerment especially for girls, this is the story of Jenna, a contemporary Muscogee (Creek) girl in Oklahoma who wants to honor her family’s tradition by jingle dancing at the next powwow — but she doesn’t have enough jingles for her dress. So Jenna turns to the women of her Native American family and community for help in giving her dance a voice.
The Colors of Us, Karen Katz
A classic anti-bias book, The Colors of Us explores the multitude of gorgeous skin shades through the eyes of 7-year-old Lena as she tries to paint her self-portrait. Reading this story together is a wonderful opportunity to discuss skin tone in a positive way with your kids. Katz’s illustrations are inspired by folk art from around the world.
Recognize and have language to describe unfairness, and understand that it hurts
The Name Jar, Yangsook Choi
New immigrant Unhei is nervous to start school in America, and she’s self-conscious that the other children won’t like her because of her Korean name. In the end, she finds that her classmates are far more accepting and open-minded that she thought. Author and illustrator Choi grew up in Korea and moved to New York City to study art.
Underground: Finding the Light to Freedom, Shane W. Evans
In one of the best picture books about slavery we’ve seen for young children, author-illustrator Evans does a phenomenal job of telling the story without overwhelming readers. Much is conveyed through poignant artistry rather than words, and there are different entry points into a conversation with your kids, from what it’s like to be scared all the way to what it means to be free.
Demonstrate empowerment and the skills to act against prejudice and/or discrimination
A Tale of Two Daddies, Vanita Oelschlager, Kristin Blackwood and Mike Blanc
This sleekly illustrated book shows a young girl’s confident conversation with her peers about having two fathers. It’s a great example of how children can deal with probing questions from playmates about non-normative identities. Her friends ask her about which of her dads does what, and our protagonist answers with ease and self-esteem.
A Is for Activist, Innosanto Nagara
Emphasizing community, equality and social justice, this board book depicts what activism looks like in an accessible way for babies through preschoolers. While the subject matter may seem serious, the book is fun to flip through, with colorful, interesting art and a black cat mascot to find on every page.
More great book roundups: