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  • Writer's pictureAngie

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Books: May Edition

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (or DEI) may be a bit of an educational catch phrase right now, but I think that it is so much more than a trend or short term goal, it is something that all people need exposure to and that should start right from a young age. I usually read books with my students that feature diverse characters and discuss ideas or beliefs that relate to inclusion and I think that's a great first step for me and my class, but I think that the next thing would be to make sure that my classroom library reflects these ideals and beliefs. I would love to have an endless supply of new books added to my library, but unfortunately there is 0 funding for that and I'm just a poor teacher trying to find my way out of student debt! That being said, when you do get a chance to add to your class library, it is important to be ready! Here is a list of some up-and-coming books that feature diverse characters or inclusive ideas that you might just want to hold on to incase a library fairy happens to sprinkle some money on you one day soon!


Medieval Mashup

By: Charlene McIver

Medieval Mashup is a picture book about three friends raiding a garage to find items to make costumes for a medieval dressup day. Leigh, a boy in a wheelchair, has some normal kid anxieties about not wanting to look silly matched with some anxieties about navigating in his wheelchair in particular costumes. His friends give lots of a ideas that involve hiding him and the wheelchair, including a large box and a giant bucket. Leigh becomes frustrated (imagine if your friends kept giving you ridiculous costume advice that involves not being able to move or see) and he takes a little break. When he comes back he and his friends find the perfect materials to make a great costume. I like this book because it is a story about a child in a wheelchair that is not about being in a wheelchair yet it still demonstrates some of the day to day challenges people with disabilities face. His friends do not treat him any differently (despite maybe making some not very nice costume suggestions that would actually be hiding the wheelchair) and show him participating in an activity with other kids his age. I think it is so important for children to see a variety of characters in stories demonstrating their diverse interactions with our world and communities without being focused on their diversity. Yes, the wheelchair is a part of this story, as it is for anyone who needs a wheelchair, but this is not a story about wheelchairs and people in wheelchairs, it is a story about how some kids have anxiety about dressing up and this is only magnified when you add the challenge of being disabled and attempting to navigate an able-body designed world, which is unfortunately a fact of life for many people with disabilities.



Me and My Dysphoria Monster

By: Laura Kate Dale

Nisha is a child who experiences gender dysphoria, and describes this feeling as a monster that grows each time someone discusses their gender, because this leads them to feel less and less like themself. When Nisha meets Jack, a trans man, he teaches Nisha how to shrink the dysphoria monster and validates this scary and difficult situation Nisha is facing.


This is a totally age-appropriate picture book that explains gender dysphoria in a way that children can understand, using real examples of situations that might be challenging for children and adults. There are also resources within the book for children and adults explaining terminology and for those seeking further information about gender dysphoria.


I think this is a great book for children in the 5-10 age range to read with and without adults. I think this book opens up doors for discussion and normalizes the gender spectrum and gender identity.



The Reluctant Penguin

By: Edwin Radin

This book tells the story of two animals, a turtle and a penguin who sneak into a house in New Zealand during passover. They stumble upon the delicious smelling gefilte fish being served for the holiday, and can't help but steal some! Later they feel guilty and apologize for stealing the fish, and are invited to enjoy passover with the family they stole from. The story ends with some information about Ashkenazi Jews and the traditions related to Passover as well as a recipe for Gefilte Fish.


This is a great story for teaching about diverse celebrations from the perspective of some fun animals. I think this book would be perfect for families and teachers of children in the age 5-10 range. The pages are usually text on one side and pictures on the other. The pictures are detailed and interesting. There is a fair amount of text per page so I would recommend it for mainly shared reading or read alouds with younger children but I think that older children who are able to read independently would enjoy the story as well.



Yasmin the Detective

By: Saadia Faruqi

This book is part of a larger series all featuring the main character, Yasmin. This book features Yasmin becoming a detective, while some of the other books show Yasmin as a doctor, scientist or singer. Yasmin is a young girl, I would guess around age 6 who is proud of her Pakistani culture. She is a great role model for young children and books like this one are the perfect opportunity for more children to see themselves in the books they are reading. The author Saadia Faruqi is a Pakistani American which is another great positive.


This book is an early chapter book with 3 chapters, each about 5 pages long and includes full and part page pictures that are detailed and in full colour. The font is accessible and there are 20-60 words per page, depending on whether or not there is a picture on the page. Many of the words are decodable or sight words at the grade 1-3 level. At the end of the book there are reading comprehension/discussion questions which are perfect for parents unsure how to support early readers. There is a glossary of Urdu terms, as well as information about Pakistan and an activity or recipe (in this book it is how to make toilet roll binoculars. I would recommend this book to parents and teachers of children in Grade 1-4 which the target audience likely grade 2s. Children at this age are excited about early chapter books, but still need support such as pictures and decodable text in order to be successful in reading. In my opinion, this book definitely fits in that category!



Sparkles of Joy

By: Aditi Wardhan Singh

This book teaches children about a variety of holidays including Diwali, Holi, Christmas and Hanukkah, with a focus on Diwali and Christmas. The story shows that the celebrations are similar and different in many ways but each involves family, traditions, food and culture. This is a great book for teachers to add to their classroom libraries about holidays. I would recommend this book to parents and teachers of children in the 3-8 age range. The font and text is large and fairly accessible for developing readers but I can also definitely see this book being enjoyed as a shared reading or read aloud experience.


Big Bold Beautiful Me

By: Jane Yolen & Maddison Stemple-Piatt

This book by Jane Yolen and Maddison Stemple-Piatt, a Grandmother-Granddaughter writing duo, is about loving our bodies no matter what they look like. Each double page spread has at least two colourful and detailed pictures, and 2 rhyming couplets. Most words are decodable or sight words so it would be a good fit for most readers in the early years.


Each of the characters in the story has some physical trait that is commonly seen as less attractive, for example curly hair or broad shoulders, but they repeat the affirmation "I look in the mirror and what do I see? Big and bold and beautiful me." Each character also points out the positives of each of these features like legs being able to jump farther or arms giving great hugs. The characters in the story have a variety of skin tones, include one character with hearing aids. and one of the characters marches carrying a sign related to some sort of activism movement. I feel like this book does so many things well, not just body positivity, but also promoting mental wellness, diversity, inclusion, and activism, even in young children!


I could definitely see this book in my classroom library! I would recommend this book to parents and teachers of children in the age 4-10 range. The repetitive and rhyming text would be something that even beginning readers could read with support.


All the Families in My Town

By: Ophelie Celier & Thomas Piet

This beautiful picture book tells the story of nine different families who live in a small town and are all very unique. From LGBTQ+ family members, to single parent and blended families to fostering and adopting and even family members with disabilities. No matter what the make up of a child's family is, I'm pretty confident they can connect with at least one of the characters in this book. The artwork and illustrations are beautiful! I believe they are made using water colour paint, and there are mainly warm colours, which I think was used intentionally to create a feeling of warmth and belonging among the community members within this story. I could definitely see having this book in my classroom library, and would recommend this book to parents and teachers of children in the 4-10 age range who want to open up discussions about diversity and acceptance of others.


An ABC of Families (Volume 2)

By: Abbey Williams

This story follows an alphabet approach where each page represents a different element of families for each letter. For example, adoption, blended family and foster family. The story perfectly articulates that all families are different and special and that no matter how your family is made up, what is important is that it is yours. The diversity and acceptance within this story makes it a fantastic addition to any early years classroom library. As a teacher, I would recommend this book for teachers and families of children ages 3-9, especially for those looking for texts that demonstrate the value of diverse families.



My Trip to the Fair

By: Mallika Appana

This book tells the story of a boy and his mom who are on a vacation in India and plan to visit a fair while they are there. The book showcases several images of Indian culture through both the illustrations and the text. The font is fairly easy to read, though at times it covers quite a bit of the picture. I also find some illustrations better than others, some are a bit blurry and while I think this is on purpose, I think that it takes away from the stunning, colourful and detailed backgrounds and objects that help tell this story. That being said, I still think it is a great book for introducing different cultural backgrounds and for sharing a part of India that many children are probably not familiar with. I would recommend this book to parents and teachers of children in the age 4-9 range.



Forever Cousins

By: Laurel Goodluck

This book tells the story of two cousins who are similar in age and live far away from each other but visit each summer. This reminds me a lot of my cousins from Hamilton who come visit at the cabin each summer. Usually the first few days is about reintroducing ourselves and catching up on what happened in the last year or two of everyone's lives, then after a few days we are one tight unit again, before feeling sad that they have to leave. What is much more interesting about this story though is the connection to the forced relocation of Indigenous people in the United States, which accounts for why these cousins live so far apart. From the small details like sweet grass braids on the dash board to the mention of fry bread, Indigenous cultural symbols are woven throughout this story. The author describes herself as an intertribal Native American and gives lots of background information for anyone unsure of this part of history. I love to see more books written by Indigenous authors about what took place in the United States. While Canada still has a looooonng way to go before we can truly learn from the crimes of our history, I do think that Canadians are more interested in learning about the past and sharing stories about poor treatment of Indigenous people than in the States so I am glad to see more children's books about these parts of history pertaining specifically to the situations that occurred on the south side of the border.


I also love that the book contains some really beautiful artwork and illustrations. I think that the technique of the artwork would be something that I could study with my students. It is a perfect example of texture.


I highly recommend this fantastic book that just begins to touch on the crimes of the past that separated families and changed Indigenous people's lives forever. Even though I am from Canada I could still see myself reading this book with my class. I would absolutely recommend it to families and teachers of children in the age 5-10 range in the United States, but also see the benefit of this book for Canadian teachers too.




Riley the Brave’s Sensational Senses

By: Jessica Sinarski

This is a fantastic book! Many children have challenges related to sensory processing, whether they don't want their food to touch, or hate that the cute design on their sock means a tangle of strings in between their toes, or the argument over not wearing that same fuzzy red sweater for 74 days in a row! With growing awareness of autism in recent years, more people are beginning to understand that sometimes sensory processing can cause challenges for people, but it is important to realize that not all children with autism have sensory issues and fairly neurotypical children can have some major sensory challenges. I love how this book is written for young children in a way that they can understand and with strategies they can use, and told with a positive mindset, but it also has so much great information for adults. I also love that they include three additional senses, proprioception, interoception and vestibular system/balance, which most people are probably not aware of. I would definitely recommend this book to parents, support workers and teachers of children in the age 4-10 range. The more we normalize the fact that we all have sensory preferences and we need to respect the sensory preferences of those we share our lives with, the more kind and compassionate we can all be towards each other, and that starts with the little people!


Bharatanatyam in Ballet Shoes

By: Mahak Jain

This story is about a little girl whose mother dances a traditional cultural dance called Bharatanatyam. When Paro begins ballet lessons she is very worried that she will not be good enough because she is more familiar with other dance moves. Through the course of the story she comes to see that there are many types of dance, each unique and special, and that dancers can learn any style.


As a grade 3 teacher I could definitely see having this book in my classroom library or using it to introduce a lesson on cultural traditions and acceptance of diversity. The book is suggested for K-2 or ages 4-7 which I think is appropriate, but I think my Grade 3s would enjoy it as well. I would definitely recommend this to other early years teachers.




Mother of a Movement

By: Rob Sanders & Sam Kalda



I love this book. The text is short, repetitive and accessible for younger readers, while discussing topics that are often not very accessible or discussed with children in early years.


The story starts with describing what a mom does, and what a teacher does and then begins to explain what a particular mom, Jeanne Manford, did when her adult son came out as gay. In age-appropriate descriptions, the author describes the hate crimes directed toward LGBTQ+ people in the 1970s. The story also shows each step of Jeanne's journey, from writing to newspapers to marching in pride parades to founding an organization that supports parents, families and allies of LGBTQ+ people.


The book ends with discussion questions, a glossary, and biographical information about the Manford family, the PFLAG organization, and historical events described in the book, as well as a list of sources and resources. As a grade 3 teacher I could definitely see this book being a part of my classroom library. I think that it would be a great opportunity to discuss human rights, LGBTQ+ history and hate/discrimination or activism. I would recommend this book to parents and teachers of children in the 5-13 age range. I think all elementary and middle grade students could benefit from some part of this book, whether it be the simple message that mothers should love their children no matter who they are, or the historical and biographical information about the time period and the organizations described in this book for a research project on human rights.



Each of the books mentioned here today were given to me as ereader ARCs through NetGalley and their publishers. I read A LOT of books, and have chosen the best of the best to share with you here on my blog! These reviews are 100% voluntary and I'l sharing them because I really think they belong in classrooms.

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