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Books for and about young kids of color!

Updated: Sep 9, 2019

As parents of kids of color, it can be hard to find the right children's books. We want titles that will help our young ones sees themselves in a positive light, challenge them to learn about other cultures, develop empathy and curiosity, and of course, engage and entertain!

Here are a few of Thinking In Full Color's favorites for Elementary School kids (ages 12 and under, skewing younger), all recommended by parents and educators. Each of these books can be the perfect gift or classroom companion. Or, check to see if they're at your local library!

Watch our blog for more recommendations for older kids and teens, too!

grade level: pictures all ages, text grades 3 to 6

text: Summer Dawn Reyes

art: Nerissa Tutiven, Vanessa Velez, Hiyasmine "Queen" Gaskins, Emily Mun and Nala Wu

Growing up, we all have heroes -- from cartoon characters that remind us of us, to famous people who've overcome the same challenges we face. But finding these heroes isn't easy for everyone, especially young girls of color.

That's why we made Girls Who Colored Outside the Lines, a coloring book featuring groundbreaking women of color. We want to tell a dozen stories and inspire hundreds of girls. By giving young women of color positive role models who look like them, we help them visualize a world where they become heroes, too.

Our pages pay tribute to Maya Angelou, Pura Belpré, Angela Davis, Katherine Johnson, Rita Moreno, Ibtihaj Muhammad, Mithali Raj, Naoko Takeuchi, Kara Walker, Anna May Wong, Holly Woodlawn and Malala Yousafzai! If you grab our book online, you'll also get Crayola's multicultural crayons -- which feature real skin tones!

grade level: P to 3

text and art: Jessie Sima

This heartwarming and adorable debut picture book tells the story of a young unicorn who was born under the sea to a family of narwhals -- a "fish out of water" feeling that many children of color may relate to, especially if they are adopted or raised in an area where there are few kids who look like them.

Growing up in the ocean, Kelp has always assumed that he was a narwhal like the rest of his family. Sure, he’s always been a little bit different—his tusk isn’t as long, he’s not as good of a swimmer, and he really doesn’t enjoy the cuisine. Then one night, an extra strong current sweeps Kelp to the surface, where he spots a mysterious creature that looks just like him! Kelp discovers that he and the creature are actually unicorns. The revelation leaves him torn: is he a land narwhal or a sea unicorn? But perhaps, if Kelp is clever, he may find a way to have the best of both worlds.

grade level: P to 3

text, art: Jessica Love

While riding the subway home from the pool with his abuela one day, Julián notices three women spectacularly dressed up. Their hair billows in brilliant hues, their dresses end in fishtails, and their joy fills the train car. When Julián gets home, daydreaming of the magic he’s seen, all he can think about is dressing up just like the ladies in his own fabulous mermaid costume: a butter-yellow curtain for his tail, the fronds of a potted fern for his headdress. But what will Abuela think about the mess he makes — and even more importantly, what will she think about how Julián sees himself? Mesmerizing and full of heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a jubilant picture of self-love and a radiant celebration of individuality.

grade level: P to 3

text: Grace Byers

art: Keturah A. Bobo

This is a gorgeous, lyrical ode to loving who you are, respecting others, and being kind to one another—from Empire actor and activist Grace Byers and talented newcomer artist Keturah A. Bobo.

This book is a New York Times bestseller and also a Goodreads Choice Awards picture book winner!

grade level: P to 1

text: Jessica Walton

art: Dougal MacPherson

"Introducing Teddy" introduces the youngest readers to understanding gender identity and transition in an accessible and heart-warming story about being true to yourself and being a good friend.

Errol and his teddy, Thomas, are best friends who do everything together. Whether it's riding a bike, playing in the tree house, having a tea party, or all of the above, every day holds something fun to do.

One sunny day, Errol finds that Thomas is sad, even when they are playing in their favorite ways. Errol can't figure out why, until Thomas finally tells Errol what the teddy has been afraid to say: "In my heart, I've always known that I'm a girl teddy, not a boy teddy. I wish my name was Tilly, not Thomas." And Errol says, "I don't care if you're a girl teddy or a boy teddy! What matters is that you are my friend."

grade level: K to 6

text: LaTashia M. Perry

art: Bea Jackson

This book is a fun and easy read following a little girl who doesn't like that her naturally curly hair looks different from the other kids around her. On her quest to find someone with hair like hers, she soon realizes we are all unique and special in our own way. The same author also has other delightful titles about self-love and acceptance called "Skin Like Mine" and "Imagination Like Mine"

grade level: P to 1

text: Soyung Pak

art: Susan Kathleen Hartung

Juno's grandmother writes in Korean and Juno writes in drawings, but that doesn't mean they can't exchange letters. From the photo his grandmother sends him, Juno can tell that she has a new cat. From the picture he makes for her, Juno's grandmother can tell that he wants her to come for a visit. So she sends Juno a miniature plane, to let him know she's on the way. This tender tale won the author an Ezra Jack Keats award, and is a perfect introduction to the concept of foreign cultures and far-off lands.

text: Gabi Garcia

art: Charity Russell

What we tell ourselves matters! This is just as true for kids as it is for adults. This book can help your child tap into their inner strength and find the encouragement they need to navigate their daily environments.

It is also available in Spanish as "Yo Puedo Hacer Cosas Dificiles: Afirmaciones Concientes Para Niños!"

Looking for more recommendations? Check out EmbraceRace's list of books that support conversations on race, racism and resistence! Or, this list featuring kids of color being themselves by Medium. Also, check out winners of the Pura Belpré Award -- Pura is one of the heroines featured in "Girls Who Colored Outside the Lines," and a library and storytelling pioneer!


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