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25 Contemporary Picture Books To Help Parents, Teachers, And Kids Talk About Diversity

Talking about race, gender, age, disability and orientation are difficult to talk about with adults in real life. Now, trying talking about all of those things with 5-10 year olds! Not to worry, here are 25 picture books that address these issues....and do it WELL!

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1. Firebird (2014) By Misty Copeland, Illustrated by Christopher Myers

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Even though it isn't available until September 4th of this year, this book is by an author who was the only African American woman dancing as the lead soloist in the American Ballet. This book addresses gender issues and is a good book for young girls who struggle with the confidence to achieve their dreams.

2. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker (2014) By Patricia Hruby Powell and Christian Robinson

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This is the true story of Josephine Baker, an African American Woman who was active in the Civil Rights Movement. In addition, Baker performed all over the United States, and was one of the richest African American women in the world.

3. A Dance Like Starlight (2014) By Kristy Dempsey, Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

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This book tells the story of an African American girl living in Harlem in the 1950's who is inspired by one of the of first Prima Ballerinas of color: Janet Collins.

4. Walking Home to Rosie Lee (2011) By A. Lafaye, Illustrated By Keith Shepard

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Walking Home to Rosie Lee is the tale of a young boy who attempts to reunite with his mother after the end of the Civil War. This book highlights the difficulties that children and parents of African American families faced during reconstruction.

5. Mr. Lincoln’s Way (2001) by Patricia Polacco

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Even though most of the children at school really like their principal, Mr. Lincoln, Mean Gene doesn't. Still, instead of getting angry, Mr. Lincoln attempts to help Gene address issues of race in a positive way.

6. Freedom Summer By Debora Wiles, (2005) Illustrated By Jerome Lagarrigue

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Two boys living in the south in 1964 are excited when a law is passed that allows them to swim at the same public pool. But the friends are surprised when they discover that a law is not enough to ensure them equal access.

7. 14 Cows for America (2009) By Carmen Agra Deedy, Illustrated by Thomas Gonzalez, Collaborator Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah

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The people in a small Messai town in Kenya hear about the September 11th attacks and decide to present a gift of 14 cows to a US Diplomat to demonstrate their compassion for the pain of the families in New York.

8. Mali Under the Night Sky: A Lao Story of Home (2010) By Youme Landowne

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This is the story of Malichansouk Kouanchao, a refugee from a war in Laos. Mali moves with her family in order to escape the war when she is five, but she carries the memories of her home with her.

9. Uncle Peter’s Amazing Chinese Wedding (2006) By Lenore Look, Illustrated by Yumi Heo

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Jenny's favorite uncle is getting married and everyone is so excited. Jenny, on the other hand, is not. She hopes that she can stop the wedding so that she can remain her uncles "best girl." This book highlights the many traditions of the Chinese wedding ceremonies while engaging students in Jenny's scheme.

10. The Name Jar (2006) By Yangsook Choi

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This book is the story of Unhei, a new student in the United States. Because she is worried about how others will pronounce her name, Unhei decides to have her classmates pick a new name by putting suggestions in a jar. Suddenly the jar goes missing and Unhei decides to teach her classmates how to pronounce her Korean name.

11. My Name is Yoon (2014) By Helen Recovits, Illustrated by Gabi Swiatkowska

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This is the story of Yoon, who comes to the United States and has to learn to write in English. While Yoon likes the way her name looks written in Korea, she isn't sure she likes the way it looks written in English, or for that matter living in a new place. This book focuses on adapting to a new place and a new culture.

12. Dear Juno (2001) By Soyung Pak, Illustrated by Susan Kathleen Hartung

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This story is the story of how Juno, who cannot write yet, communicates with his grandmother, who writes in Korean, through pictures. The two share pictures of their lives and send them overseas in order to foster understanding and love.

13. Saltypie (2010) By Tim Tingle, Illustrated By Karen Clarkson

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Tim's grandmother is a Choctaw, and faces hardship throughout her life. Yet, instead of letting her troubles get her down, Mawmaw rises and teaches her family about the sweetness in bitter times.

14. Chukfi Rabbit's Big Bad Bellyache (2014) By Greg Rodgers, Illustrated by Leslie Stall Widener

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When his friends ask Chukfi to help build a house for someone in the community, he is reluctant to help...until he finds out that there will be lunch! Instead of helping, however, Chukfi lays down by the river and eats all the butter for the bread. This Choctaw tale reveals community values.

15. Crossing Bok Chitto (2008) By Tim Tingle, Illustrated By Jeanne Rorex Bridges

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When a man and family need help to flee from slavery, a Choctaw community comes together to help them cross the river of Bok Chitto in order to arrive safely on the other side, where the family can be free.

16. Si, Se Puede/Yes, We Can: Janitor Strike in L.A. (2005) By Diana Cohn, Illustrated By Francisco Delgado

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Janitors and other workers struggle in Los Angeles to get the pay and hours that they deserve. Carlitos witnesses his mother working hard and helps her when the janitors in Los Angeles go on strike.

17. Efrain of The Sonoran Desert: A Lizard's Life Among the Seri Indians (2001) By Amalia Astorga, Gary Paul Nabhan, Illustrated By Janet K. Miller

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This book tells about the life of a lizard who lived near the Seri Indians, and discusses important issues about the eradication of Native populations in the US.

18. The Other Side (2001) By Jacqueline Woodson, Illustrated By E.B. Lewis

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Two girls of different races form a close friendship, though they are not allowed to go to the "other side" of town to see each other. The girls sit on the fence that separates the town in order to maintain their friendship and get around the grown ups' rules.

19. Harvesting Hope: The Story of Cesar Chavez (2003) By Kathleen Krull

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Cesar used to be a shy boy, but after he saw injustice for immigrant workers, he knew he had to speak up. This book tells the story of how Chavez came to lead a civil rights movement and his path to being a voice for workers.

20. The Pirate of Kindergarten (2010) By George Ella Lyon, Illustrated By Lynne Avril

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Ginny's double vision challenges her when she goes to Kindergarten, but with the use of an eye patch she is able to read, cut with scissors, and even run. Ginny faces difficulties, but is able to supersede them and come out on top!

21. Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and the Champion Runner George Mendoza (2014) By J.L. Powers, Illustrated By George Mendoza and Haley Morgan Sanders

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George Mendoza loves to run, but because of a degenerative eye disease, George starts to go blind. Instead of allowing his disease to slow him down, George continues to run, and eventually even becoming an artist. This book will be available in September.

22. Morris Mickelwhite & the Tangerine Dress (2014) By Christine Baldacchino, Illustrated By Isabelle Malenfant

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Some students in Morris' class think it is weird that he likes to wear the tangerine dress in the dress up center. They tease him so much that he decides to stay home from school. While at home, Morris imagines a space odyssey and when he tells two students at his school about it, they imagine an outer space adventure together.

23. The Treasure on Gold Street/El Tesoro en la Calle Oro (2003) By Lee Merrill Byrd

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Hannah has friend named Isabelle who is never bossy, likes to play games, and never criticizes. But Isabelle is an adult, and sometimes people don't understand why the children in the neighborhood play with her. Eventually though, everyone on Gold Street realizes how important and special Isabelle is. This book addresses sensitivity issues related to people with special needs.

24. Baba's Gift (2004) By Beverly Naidoo, Illustrated By Karin Littlewood

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A woman takes Lindi and her brother to the seashore for a picnic. Lindi brings along a little toy boat her grandfather made for her. Before she knows it, the boat is swept away by the sea. When they returns home, Lindi tells her grandfather that the boat is gone, but brings him a sea shell. Her grandfather shows her kindness and understanding, assuring Lindi that he can make another boat, but that the shell is beautiful and unique.

25. Buffalo Song By Joseph Bruchac, Illustrated By Bill Farnsworth

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Walking Coyote takes care of the buffalo after they are nearly eradicated by settlers and hunters. In the 1870's there are so few buffalo left that if it were not for Native Americans like Walking Coyote to take care of the calf orphans, they would die out.

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