*Disclaimer – some of these books have been gifted in return for inclusion in this post. Others are books I already owned. All are books I would recommend.
The last few months have meant we have all had more time to think. For me – as a lover of children’s books – that has meant time to really reflect on whether I am doing a good enough job of making sure the children in my classroom are reflected on my classroom bookshelves.
What I started to realise however, was that finding books which reflected my pupils was harder than I expected. This list is therefore intended as a resource to help other teachers on a similar mission. I am not an expert in diversity, and do not profess to be so. What I am, is a classroom teacher who is determined to learn as much as I can, in order to be the version of me my pupils deserve.
Some of these books have been gifted to me for inclusion, others are books that I already had on my shelves. Some are books I have taught, others ones my pupils have enjoyed and yet more are ones that I hope over the course of the year we will delve in together. Even as I write this, the list continues to evolve and I will endeavour to keep it as current as possible as I discover new reads.
What Can A Citizen Do?
Without doubt one of the most empowering books for young children I have ever read. This easy to access book shows children that they can make a difference to their world and shows them exactly how to do so.
How To Write A Story
The perfect stimulus for children who get nervous about putting pen to paper, this fantastic book takes children step by step through the writing process. Complete with illustrations that will help to spark ideas it is a book that will undoubtedly help children to improve their written work.
The Quickest Kid In Clarksville
A story about two little girls who both love running and their heroine Wilma Rudolph. It’s a story that explores poverty, but more than that it is a story of friendship transcending that, and two girls realising what is important in life.
My Bed is an Air Balloon
A delightful book which explores and plays with language. Perfect for those lessons where you want children to use their imaginations. With made up words and beautiful illustrations this is perfect for sharing with a class and talking about word meanings.
My Daddy is Hilarious
This fantastic fun story explores a child’s confusion, when his normally perfectly ordinary family start to act strangely. It stars with daddy’s pink hair but before he knows it Grandma is an astronaut and Mummy is a witch. Thankfully he realises it’s all good fun and they are less crazy than he thought.
This fantastic picture book features a wide variety of black hairstyles as a little girl decides how she would like her hair styled for her birthday. She looks around her family at the many ways they style their hair, before she decides that an Afro is her style of choice. The author is also black.
It’s Your World Now
A book full of life lessons that are equally relevant at 90 as at 4. Filled with a wide range of characters, who are encouraged to go out, live their dreams and make the world their own. Inspiring words and eye catching pictures, this is a book that adults and children alike will love.
Never Never Give Up
A warm hearted rhyming picture book, which aims to celebrate the good in the world that we see around us. It’s aim is to encourage children to take pleasure in the little things around them. Both protagonists are black.
I Need More Space
This is a book full of adventure and even more full of love. A book about a boy who wishes for Space, but who soon realised that all he really wants are those he loves. The family featured in the story are black.
Errol loves gardening, but living in a tower block a traditional garden doesn’t seem like an option. Until that is his neighbours step in to help and create a wonderful rooftop garden for everyone to enjoy. The protagonist and his family are black. The book also features other diverse characters.
A fabulous story about how positive the impact of migration can be on other pupils in the class. A book filled with realisations of how children are children, no matter which country they come from or which language they speak.
Veronica Twitch the Fabulous Witch in Double-Bubble Girl Band Trouble
The ideal story for children who love magic. Veronica, Figgy and Pru are three child witches (Who also happen to be best friends) on a mission to rescue Double-Bubble. Perfect for those children looking to move to their first chapter book. Pru is black.
A fantastic starting point for discussing African culture, this story features a little boy and his mum who explore many colourful, fun and exotic things about Africa at a cultural festival. The protagonist is black but the book features characters of a range of ethnicities. The author is African Australian.
Written partially in creole, this beautiful poetic story would make a fabulously diverse addition to a unit on poetry for children of any age. Cleverly written and presented it is a celebration of the difference football can make in children’s lives. The story is set in Saint Lucia, the author’s birthplace.
Romani/ Roma Characters
The Lost Homework
A delightful story depicting daily life in the traveller community which contains fabulous links between learning that happens at school and at home. Beautiful pictures and a story which children can’t fail to enjoy. The author is Romani.
Yokki And The Parno Gry
A traditional Romani tale which inspires hope. This is a wonderful story for showing children the power of their imagination and encouraging them to dream big dreams about their futures. It offers a fascinating insight into travelling lifestyles. The author is Romani.
Ossiri And The Bala Mengro
A story about a girl who follows her dream. Determined to be a musician but unable to afford an instrument, Ossiri makes her own. Encouraged by her grandparents she continues to practice, until that is her playing is discovered by an Ogre… The characters and author are Romani.
Kaya’s Heart Song
When Kaya’s mum tells her she should find her own heart song, Kaya things it is impossible. Until that is she finds an elephant carousel deep in the Malaysian jungle. A story full of magic and hope. The author is also Malaysian.
Frida Kahlo And Her Animalitos
The beautiful book tells the inspirational true story of Frida Kahlo in a way that young children will understand. Focusing on her triumph through adversity, and her perseverance through illness this is a story that will show children they really can achieve anything they put their mind to. The author has Peruvian and Jewish heritage.
Sri Lanken Characters
Brave Adventures Little Girl
A beautiful book filled with a grandfather’s adventures, as he shows his granddaughter that it’s ok to be nervous of new experiences. A warm hearted story featuring characters with Sri Lanken heritage which goes on a journey across the world. The author is Australian with Sri Lanken heritage.
Set In Other Countries
A story of leaving home, sadness and hope. The Journey tells the story of a mother and her two children who escape their war torn home and begin a journey to a new life. Equally appropriate for use in lower KS2.
This lovely little book, discusses ex-pat life through the eyes of a young child. Set in Nepal, it covers leaving home, moving to a new country and leaving again three years later. A good book for sharing with those beginning a new life in this country or moving elsewhere.
Global Sebbie Goes To India
A fabulous book which talks about Indian culture, festivals, good and way of life in a way that will really engage young children. Bright colourful pictures depict the text. Sebbie is White, his friend is Indian. The Author is Mauritian.
Where Do Teachers Go At Night and Where Do Teachers Also Go At Night
These two books provide a humorous trip around the world guided by pupils’ imaginations of what their teachers get up to outside the hours of school. Featuring characters of a range of nationalities and ethnicities, they are books that will be sure to make any class giggle. The author is Australian.
A beautifully illustrated book that explores the loss of a parent with both realism and sensitivity. The book is particularly adept at discussing the grief process. Families with a range of skin colours are featured in the images though the protagonist is white. The author is white British.
A woolf met a sheep. They fell in love got married, and had a son. Woolf – half woolf, half sheep – doesn’t fit in with the wolves, nor does he fit in with the sheep. Instead he stays true to who he is and finds a pack who respect that. A wonderful exploration of what it feels like to be different from those around you.
Home and Dry
A beautiful story about recognising the importance of family. Home and Dry challenges gender stereotypes and has a mixed race family at its centre. Stunningly illustrated, and containing drama this is a beautiful book to read aloud.
Same Sex Relationships
Emmett and Caleb
A story of friendship, love and happiness. Emmett and Caleb is the story of two people living next door to each other who spend their days making each other happy. Both protagonists are Male, and take the form of humanistic animals. The author and illustrator are French.
Celebrating Individual Differences
We’re All Works Of Art
A book that openly points out how we all differ to each other using various styles of art to do so. This is a book equally applicable in art as it is in PHSE. It’s a book that will make children and their teachers think about just how much we should celebrate and appreciate our differences – whatever they might be.
You Can Respect Differences: Assume Or Find Out?
I absolutely love the interactive nature of this fabulous book. Instead of telling children what to do, it shows them the impact of the choices they make. A fabulous addition to any classroom.
The Lost Stars
A delightfully inclusive picture book, which features characters of different races, characters with disabilities and a range of different families as a backdrop to a beautiful story about just how busy our lives are.
Elephants In The Custard
Elephants In The Custard is the perfect book to share with young children who feel overwhelmed by their worries. Sensitive yet humorous, this is a book which really reflects how worries grow when you don’t talk. A positive ending which reflects how helpful sharing fears can be. Protagonist is white, however the book also features a black family member and a family member in a wheelchair.
What’s In Your Mind Today
A beautiful book which talks about how our thoughts can slip, slide and move away as well as how they can make us feel. Simple yet thought provoking, this colourful book features characters who are a range of different ethnicities.
A story of kindness and hope. In art class, one little girl can never draw anything – she seems to have a black cloud above her head. Until that is a friend starts to draw with her. Every week the friend draws alongside her, until the whole class are drawing together and the little girl’s black cloud disappears.
Alfred and the Blue Whale
Alfred is scared of everything, especially speaking in front of his class. Until that is he starts to learn about Blue Whale. Despite wanting to run away and hide, he amazes his teacher and classmates with all the incredible things he has discovered, but most of all he realises he can also be proud of himself. The author is Norwegian.
The Christmas Next Door
A beautiful story set at Christmastime. The Christmas Next door explores the true meaning of a family Christmas whilst recognising that sometimes both the build up and day itself can be challenging for parents and children alike. Particularly helpful to read in the run up to school Christmas shows. The protagonists are white, however a mixed race couple live next door and are also featured in the story.
SEN Superpowers – The Perfect Project: a book about autism
One of a series of books featuring characters with a range of Special Exucational Needs in a mainstream school setting. In this story Charlie’s passion for trains saves the day when his group do a presentation needing someone to talk about exactly that.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
A fabulously age appropriate look at the need to follow certain rules and rituals to get through each day… until something happens that shows Charlie, that even if he forgets some of his routines his day can still turn out well.
Characters with Physical Disabilities
Philomena The Cat Who Thinks She’s a Dog
Philomena (the cat) is desperate to prove that she really is a dog and sets about causing as much trouble as possible in her new home… This is a fun inclusive story that centres on the importance of being yourself. Sophie, Philomena’s child owner is in a wheelchair.
Thimble Monkey Superstar
Ideal for children in Upper Key Stage One, or Lower Key Stage Two this fabulously funny story, whose protagonist has cerebral palsy, tells the tale of living with a monkey. Unfortunately though, whilst Jams and his mum both adore Thimble, his dad has different ideas….
A wonderful and sensitively written story about a little boy whose Grandma has dementia. The book features her moving into a home and the feelings that surround that as well as the things they can still do together even when her memory fades.
The Blanket Bears
A warm hearted story about two little bears who are first fostered and then adopted. This book takes little ones through adoption the process in an age appropriate way without ever losing the magic of the story. Beautiful illustrations complete this lovely book.
But What Are You?
A child friend mini-autobiography of international adoption. The book allows for discussions around racism to be broached in an age appropriate way via a character the children can’t help but care about. The author is Vietnamese.
Standing Out From The Crowd
What Wesley Wore
This delightful story focuses on a weasel who doesn’t fit in. Wesley dances to his own tune, leading to him being bullied by those who simply don’t understand. A positive story in which Wesley moves on to brighter things, whilst those left behind realise just how special he was.
What’s A Penguin To Think When He Wakes Up Pink
When Patrick wakes up the only pink penguin in a sea of black, he isn’t so sure he wants to be different from his friends. It’s only after travelling across the world to meet some Flamingos that he realises that actually being different really isn’t a bad thing to be.
A Wider World View
Big City Atlas
Travelling through 28 world cities this fabulous book is a great way for lower KS2 children to explore the wider world. A fantastic and accessible resource to help pupils understand characters from different countries in the context from which they come. The author is British with Asian heritage.
Ancient Games: A History Of Sports And Gaming
A book that journeys through Ancient Games across the world; on a trip from Asia to Europe, from Egypt to America and from the Vikings to the Ancient Greeks right up to the Modern Olympics. This is a book that celebrates commonality as well as diversity.
We Are The Change: Words Of Inspiration From Civil Rights Leaders
Pitched at Upper Key Stage Two (if teacher led) and Key Stage Three (independently), this fabulous book would make a fabulous accompaniment to teaching children to write persuasive pieces. Packed full of bite size quotes from civil rights leaders throughout time, this is a book than cannot fail to inspire anyone who reads it.
Celebrating Diverse Characters
The Little People, Big Dreams Series
Ideally pitched at KS1/ lower KS2, this fabulous series introduces children to a wide range of influential characters – both historical and modern day. With colourful pictures and carefully selected information children are introduced to complex figures in an age appropriate way.
Libya: The Magnificent Musical Life Of Elizabeth Cotten
A stunningly beautiful picture book which tells the story of a talented musician who was discovered only after she became a housekeeper for a family of musicians. This is a book that shows that determination can take you a long way even when opportunities are limited.
Get Up, Stand Up
A book that tackles bullying in a proactive way. Ideal for reading PSHE or after an incident in the playground to lower KS2. This is a book that is bright, colourful and helps children to think about playing their role in doing the right thing.
Picklewitch and Jack
Picklewitch is full of mischief, Jack just wants to do his best. Intelligent and determined to be good Jack has just moved house… the very same house where Picklewitch lives at the bottom of the garden. An ideal chapter book for lower KS2 that shows that sometimes the unlikeliest of people can become best friends.
Olie Meadows and the Defiants
In this short chapter book, pitched at lower KS2, eight year old Olie meets an alien. Not content with that Olie goes on a mission to reunite a Olie with his family, despite the fact that the Defiants are determined to cause trouble along the way. The protagonist is black.
Young, Gifted and Black by Jamie Wilson
An anthology of 52 visionary leaders in their field, this fabulously pitched book talks about activists, musicians, chess players, super-models and even a president. A fantastic way to enable young people to see the wide range of choices open to them in the world. The author herself is also black.
The Faraway Truth
Zoe, lives with her mum. Her dad – who she has never met – is in prison. When he starts to write to her on her 12th birthday Zoe is surprised by how nice he sounds… Beautifully written and tackling both racism and injustice this is a book that needs to be read. The protagonist and author are black.
Freedom We Sing
A beautifully illustrated story which depicts the thoughts and feelings of a mother and child who, as refugees, contemplate what freedom really means. A powerful yet simple book with bright imagery. The characters and author are black.
Brownstone’s Mythical Collection: Kai and the Monkey King
This fabulous adventure through ancient China is a short book which contains lots of excitement. Accompanied by delightful illustrations, a mythical beast and a girl who is truly ready to face anything, it is a fabulous read.
Elise and the Second-hand Dog
A wonderfully humorous book about a girl who lives in Copenhagen with her dad whilst her mum is far away in Brazil. When Elise’s new dog comes into the mix, things start to get interesting. After all, he is no ordinary dog… The author is also Danish.
Ethiopian/ Eritrean Characters
As the first book I ever taught this one holds a special place in my heart. It has definitely stood the test of time. Caught between two countries at war, with an Ethiopian father and an Eritrean mother Alem sets off on a holiday with his father. Until that is he finds himself completely alone – a refugee in a foreign land. Suitable for year six upwards. The author is black.
Set in Ethiopia Boy 87 explores the incredible conditions that refugees often have to live and travel in before they reach their final destination. This book is a story of hopelessness and hope, of fear and of trust. More importantly it is a book that can’t fail to make people twice about the treatment of refugees once they arrive in our country.
Akissi: Tales of Mischief
A fabulous graphic novel in comic strip format, made up of a series of short stories about Akissi and her friends. Ideal for lower KS2 reluctant readers, this is a book that is backed to the brim with fun. The author is also Ivorian.
Asha & The Spirit Bird
An adventure through modern day India, Asha sets off from the foothills of the Himalayas to find her papa and save her home. Filled with danger, mysticism and magic; this is a book that truly celebrates cultural diversity. The protagonist and author are Indian.
Tiger Skin Rug
The story of two brothers who have left their home in India and arrived in Scotland. This is their path from being desperate to return home to India, to realising that their true home was now in Scotland. A fabulous adventure which involves a tiger that comes to life!
Dave is a pigeon, and therefore technically does not have a nationality. His author is British Indian, however, and says that the series very much reflects her experiences as a British Indian. It is funny, engaging, full of fantastic illustrations and fabulous for engaging reluctant readers.
The Island At The End Of Everything
An incredible tale of love, hope and friendship which can’t fail to keep readers on the edge of their seat. It deals with being taken into care, the death of a parent, disability and the unfairness of not being seen for who you are. The novel is set in the Philippines, the characters are Filipino.
The Dog Runner
Set in a future Australia, this exciting climate change adventure shows us just what could happen unless the issue is tackled. As the city starved, Ella and Emery set off on A dangerous journey to find his indigenous family, whose grain supply has the potential to save the world. The author is from New Zealand.
A Postcard to Ollis
An interesting book which explores changing family dynamics, from a new baby sibling, to a parent’s boyfriend moving in. When a mysterious postcard is found in the forest Ollis finds that even her relationship with her best friend is more complicated than she expected.
The Marsh Road Mysteries: Diamonds and Daggers
Ideal for children who love a good mystery, this fabulous book features five friends who don’t just love mysteries – they solve them. Featuring a famous Hollywood actress and a very expensive necklace. The gang set out to prove Plotr’s dad’s innocence. The protagonist and his family are Polish.
The Story of Babushka
A wonderfully detailed picture book perfectly pitched to KS2 in which Babushka searches for answers about the meaning of life. This a short chapter book in length with text alternating with pictures so ideal for those children who are visual learners and those who find large chunks of text off-putting.
When Stars Are Scattered
This fabulous graphic novel explores life in a Kenyan refugee camp seven years after two young boys arrive. This is a story that shows the reality of life for those children who have nowhere to go and the experience of finally being allocated a country in which to live. Ideal for those children who find large chunks of text difficult. The author is also black.
The Boy At The Back Of The Class
One of my favourite texts to teach, The Boy At The Back Of The Class is a story about belonging, friendship and adventure. It’s a story that shows that our differences can bring us closer rather than divide us, and one that makes us realise that there are so often pupils with stories that we do not know. War, refugees, racism, single parent families and bullying are all themes within this fantastic text. The author is British Asian.
No Ballet Shoes In Syria
Moving, poignant and charming this fabulous story will virtually guarantee tears. Arya’s journey to England has not been easy, and at only eleven she is now responsible for her family. The threat of deportation looms just as Aut begins to find joy in ballet once again.
I Am Not A Label
An anthology of 34 tales featuring a wide range of influential disabled people. From artists and composers to athletes, astronomers and comedians. This is a book that will resonate with many young people who aren’t seeing themselves as the hero in so many of the texts they read. Written for exactly that reason by an author who was born with only one hand.
Charlie was born with a foot that twists inward, making walking challenging for him. That doesn’t stop him being a hero when he is needed however. This is a book about friendship, determination and courage – a book that shows being different definitely doesn’t mean being less.
Harriet is 11, she has thoughts, feelings and ideas just like her peers. Starting secondary school brings with it a whole range of difficulties; she uses a wheelchair and worries that her voice makes her sound as though she has learning difficulties. Harriet chooses therefore to be speechless, meaning no-one can see how funny, friendly and chatty she really is. Until…
Max and the Million
10 year old Max is an Orphan, who also has to wear two hearing aids to help him communicate with the world. This is a story in which escapes his daily life in a boarding school, where he feels as though he doesn’t belong, into a magical world where anything is possible.
Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
Eleven year old Felix’s life is ruled by the number two. He skips every second step, taps door handles twice and puts objects in pairs. In fact things became so bad that it looks as though he may be expelled from school…. until that is Charlie Pye arrives!
Dara Palmer’s Major Drama
Dara wants to be an actress, but when she doesn’t get a part in her school play she wonders whether it is because she doesn’t look like anyone else in her school. Adopted as a baby from Cambodia, Dara comes up with a plan not only to change her school, but to change the whole world. The protagonist is Cambodian. The author is half Irish and half Thai.
The Bird Within Me
A stunningly beautiful picture book, which is filled with equal amounts of sadness and hope. Tackling the death of a parent and a young girl’s desire to follow her own path, this is a book with simplistic language yet complex ideas. Based on a true story of Swedish artist Berta Hansson and written by a Swedish author, it is a book that also explores bullying and feeling different to those around us in a wider context.
Mo, Lottie and the Junkers
A book which so many children will see themselves echoed in. Mo isn’t quite sure how to handle moving in with his new stepdad and stepsisters, but life is about to get even more strange…. Lottie decides to find out exactly what is going on and ends up leading both her and Mo into danger. Mo is white and Lottie is black.
Long Way Down
Covering a time period that lasts only one minute and seven seconds, this fabulous free verse novel cover a boys thoughts in the seconds after someone he loves dies. Powerful, emotive and breath-taking. This is a novel that can’t fail to make young people think. The author is also black.
The Boy In The Black Suit
After Matt’s mum dies he feels lost and alone. He takes a job in a funeral parlour – it pays better than the jobs his friends are doing. Unexpectedly however, it’s a job that also helps him to heal. Because there he comes into contact with others who have lost people and realises he is no longer so alone. The author is also black.
Anna is a thirteen year old girl with Asperger’s. The book always deals with the death of a parent and estrangement from family members. Beautifully written, poignant and positive. This is a non-stereotypical honest portrayal of a character with Asperger’s written by and Autistic author. A modern day Pollyanna story, that will he loved by all who read it.
Asking For A Friend
This fabulous book, ideal for year nine students and beyond features three friends who decide to go on a study break. It is a book about facing fears, the depth of true friendship and coming of age. It is also a book that will have young people desperate to read the next page. Also featuring a character who has cancer and a character who is Black.
A Different Dog
This is a short book with lots of power. It explores how it feels to know you can talk, but to not be able to get the words out. Poverty, trauma and bullying are also central themes. Equally appropriate for year six, this is a book that will truly make children think.
The Stars At Oktober Bend
A story about lacking a voice; Alice – unable to talk due to a traumatic head injury leaves poems to be found around the town. Manny – a refugee – runs at night to escape his memories. Together the unlikely friends overcome poverty, bullying and feeling like outsiders.