The Best Kid’s Chapter Books About Diversity

A young boy wearing a yellow jacket and a green knit beanie is intently reading a colorful children's book. He is resting his chin on his hands and appears focused on the book's content. The background shows a comfortable living room with a grey couch and patterned cushions.

As parents, we want our children to interact with generosity and grace when they see something out of their ordinary. When one of their classmates dresses differently or uses a mobility aid to get around. When a friend celebrates different holidays or brings a dish from a different culture to a class picnic. That’s why chapter books about diversity for early readers are so important.

On a larger scale, teaching white children, early and often, that individuals who look and speak differently from them have equal value, worth, and importance could go a long way to helping reduce racism and unconscious bias in future generations.

Kid’s Chapter Books on Diversity

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

Full review

A Girl Named Misty: The True Story of Misty Copeland by Kelly Starling Lyons

Full review

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Full review

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Full review

Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older

Full review

Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton

Full review

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins

Full review

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

Full review

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas

Full review

March Trilogy by John Lewis

Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl by Tonya Bolden

Full review

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson

Full review

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich

Full review

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki

Full review

Zoey and Sassafras series by Asia Citro

Full review

Middle Grade Chapter Books about Diversity

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander


Book Details

  • Newbery Award Winner
  • Coretta Scott Kind Honor
  • 256 pages
  • Ages 8-13

“With a bolt of lightning on my kicks . . .The court is SIZZLING. My sweat is DRIZZLING. Stop all that quivering. Cuz tonight I’m delivering,” announces dreadlocked, 12-year old Josh Bell. He and his twin brother Jordan are awesome on the court.

But Josh has more than basketball in his blood. He’s got mad beats, too, that tell his family’s story in verse, in this fast and furious middle grade novel of family and brotherhood from Kwame Alexander. Josh and Jordan must come to grips with growing up on and off the court to realize breaking the rules comes at a terrible price, as their story’s heart-stopping climax proves a game-changer for the entire family.

A Girl Named Misty: The True Story of Misty Copeland by Kelly Starling Lyons


Book Details

  • 48 pages
  • 5-11 years
  • Great for kids interested in dance

Misty Copeland became the first African American Female Principal Dancer for the American Ballet Theatre, but how did she get there? A Girl Named Misty describes the defining moments that made up her childhood and adolescence with full-color illustrations throughout. In addition to stories and facts about Misty’s upbringing and accomplishments, the book includes a timeline and a glossary, plus a profile of a noteworthy and contemporary American girl following in Misty’s graceful footsteps to lead the way for African American women in the arts.

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed


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Book Details

  • 240 pages
  • 9-14 years

The compelling story of a girl’s fight to regain her life and dreams after being forced into indentured servitude.

Life is quiet and ordinary in Amal’s Pakistani village, but she had no complaints, and besides, she’s busy pursuing her dream of becoming a teacher one day. Her dreams are temporarily dashed when–as the eldest daughter–she must stay home from school to take care of her siblings. Amal is upset, but she doesn’t lose hope and finds ways to continue learning. Then the unimaginable happens–after an accidental run-in with the son of her village’s corrupt landlord, Amal must work as his family’s servant to pay off her own family’s debt.

brown girl dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson


Book Details

  • National Book Award winner
  • Newbery Honor Book
  • Coretta Scott King award
  • 368 pages
  • 9-12 years

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

Dactyl Hill Squad by Daniel José Older


Book Details

  • 288 pages
  • Ages 8-13
  • First book in a series

It’s 1863 and dinosaurs roam the streets of New York as the Civil War rages between raptor-mounted armies down South. Magdalys Roca and her friends from the Colored Orphan Asylum are on a field trip when the Draft Riots break out, and a number of their fellow orphans are kidnapped by an evil magistrate, Richard Riker. Magdalys and her friends flee to Brooklyn and settle in the Dactyl Hill neighborhood, where black and brown New Yorkers have set up an independent community — a safe haven from the threats of Manhattan. Together with the Vigilance Committee, they train to fly on dactylback, discover new friends and amazing dinosaurs, and plot to take down Riker. Can Magdalys and the squad rescue the rest of their friends before it’s too late?

Fatty Legs by Christy Jordan-Fenton & Margaret Pokiak-Fenton


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Book Details

  • Based on a true story
  • 112 pages
  • 9-13 years

Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools. At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret.

Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school. In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.

Complemented by archival photos from Margaret Pokiak-Fenton’s collection and striking artworks from Liz Amini-Holmes, this inspiring first-person account of a plucky girl’s determination to confront her tormentor will linger with young readers.

Fred Korematsu Speaks Up by Laura Atkins


Book Details

  • Carter G. Woodson Book Award Winnter
  • New-York Historical Society Children’s Book Prize
  • Social Justice Literature Award Winner
  • 112 pages
  • 8-14 years

Fred Korematsu liked listening to music on the radio, playing tennis, and hanging around with his friends—just like lots of other Americans. But everything changed when the United States went to war with Japan in 1941 and the government forced all people of Japanese ancestry to leave their homes on the West Coast and move to distant prison camps. This included Fred, whose parents had immigrated to the United States from Japan many years before. But Fred refused to go. He knew that what the government was doing was unfair. And when he got put in jail for resisting, he knew he couldn’t give up.

Inspired by the award-winning book for adults Wherever There’s a Fight, the Fighting for Justice series introduces young readers to real-life heroes and heroines of social progress. The story of Fred Korematsu’s fight against discrimination explores the life of one courageous person who made the United States a fairer place for all Americans, and it encourages all of us to speak up for justice.

Ghost by Jason Reynolds


Book Details

  • National Book Award Finalist
  • Part of a series of four books
  • 208 pages
  • 10-12 years

Ghost. Lu. Patina. Sunny. Four kids from wildly different backgrounds with personalities that are explosive when they clash. But they are also four kids chosen for an elite middle school track team—a team that could qualify them for the Junior Olympics if they can get their acts together. They all have a lot to lose, but they also have a lot to prove, not only to each other, but to themselves.

Running. That’s all Ghost (real name Castle Cranshaw) has ever known. But Ghost has been running for the wrong reasons—it all started with running away from his father, who, when Ghost was a very little boy, chased him and his mother through their apartment, then down the street, with a loaded gun, aiming to kill. Since then, Ghost has been the one causing problems—and running away from them—until he meets Coach, an ex-Olympic Medalist who sees something in Ghost: crazy natural talent. If Ghost can stay on track, literally and figuratively, he could be the best sprinter in the city. Can Ghost harness his raw talent for speed, or will his past finally catch up to him?

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas


Book Details

  • Middle East Book Award for Youth Literature, Honorable Mention
  • 384 pages
  • 9-13 years

Zomorod (Cindy) Yousefzadeh is the new kid on the block…for the fourth time.

California’s Newport Beach is her family’s latest perch, and she’s determined to shuck her brainy loner persona and start afresh with a new Brady Bunch name—Cindy.

It’s the late 1970s, and fitting in becomes more difficult as Iran makes U.S. headlines with protests, revolution, and finally the taking of American hostages. Even puka shell necklaces, pool parties, and flying fish can’t distract Cindy from the anti-Iran sentiments that creep way too close to home.

March (Trilogy Slipcase Set) by John Lewis


Book Details

  • National Book Award
  • Coretta Scott King Honor Book
  • 576 pages
  • 13-16 years

Discover the inside story of the Civil Rights Movement through the eyes of one of its most iconic figures, Congressman John Lewis. March is the award-winning, #1 bestselling graphic novel trilogy recounting his life in the movement, co-written with Andrew Aydin and drawn by Nate Powell. This commemorative set contains all three volumes of March in a beautiful slipcase.

Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl by Tonya Bolden


Book Details

  • Coretta Scott King Honor Awardee
  • Evocative text, photographs, and archival material
  • 56 pages
  • 8-13 years

Discover the remarkable story of a free Black girl born during the days of slavery in Tonya Bolden’s Coretta Scott King Honor Award–winning picture book, Maritcha.

“To do the best for myself with the view of making the best of myself,” wrote Maritcha Rémond Lyons (1848–1929) about her childhood.

Based on an unpublished memoir written by Lyons, who was born and raised in New York City, this poignant story tells what it was like to be a Black child born free during the days of slavery. Everyday experiences are interspersed with notable moments, such as a visit to the first world’s fair held in the United States. Also included are the Draft Riots of 1863, during which Maritcha and her siblings fled to Brooklyn while her parents stayed behind to protect their Manhattan home. The book concludes with her fight to attend a whites-only high school in Providence, Rhode Island, and her victory of being the first Black graduate.

The evocative text, photographs, and archival material make this book an invaluable cultural and historical resource. Maritcha brings to life the story of a very ordinary—yet remarkable—girl of 19th-century America.

The Parker Inheritance by Varian Johnson


Book Details

  • Coretta Scott King Author Honor book
  • 368 pages
  • 8-13 years

When Candice finds a letter in an old attic in Lambert, South Carolina, she isn’t sure she should read it. It’s addressed to her grandmother, who left the town in shame. But the letter describes a young woman. An injustice that happened decades ago. A mystery enfolding its writer. And the fortune that awaits the person who solves the puzzle.So with the help of Brandon, the quiet boy across the street, she begins to decipher the clues. The challenge will lead them deep into Lambert’s history, full of ugly deeds, forgotten heroes, and one great love; and deeper into their own families, with their own unspoken secrets. Can they find the fortune and fulfill the letter’s promise before the answers slip into the past yet again?

The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich


Book Details

  • 256 pages
  • 7-11 years

In this story of a young Ojibwa girl, Omakayas, living on an island in Lake Superior around 1847, Louise Erdrich is reversing the narrative perspective used in most children’s stories about nineteenth-century Native Americans. Instead of looking out at ‘them’ as dangers or curiosities, Erdrich, drawing on her family’s history, wants to tell about ‘us’, from the inside. The Birchbark House establishes its own ground, in the vicinity of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s ‘Little House’ books.

Trickster: Native American Tales, A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembicki


Book Details

  • 232 pages
  • Ages 9-15

All cultures have tales of the trickster – a crafty creature or being who uses cunning to get food, steal precious possessions, or simply cause mischief. He disrupts the order of things, often humiliating others and sometimes himself. In Native American traditions, the trickster takes many forms, from coyote or rabbit to raccoon or raven. The first graphic anthology of Native American trickster tales, Trickster brings together Native American folklore and the world of comics. In Trickster, 24 Native storytellers were paired with 24 comic artists, telling cultural tales from across America. Ranging from serious and dramatic to funny and sometimes downright fiendish, these tales bring tricksters back into popular culture. 

Zoey and Sassafras series by Asia Citro


Book Details

  • Series of books 1-6
  • 5-12 years
  • Great for kids interested in STEM

With magical animals, science, mystery, and adventure — the Zoey and Sassafras series has something for everyone! Easy-to-read language and illustrations on nearly every page make this series perfect for a wide range of ages.

Each story features a new magical animal with a problem that must be solved using science. There isn’t a set formula for each book; Zoey sometimes needs to run experiments, while other times she needs to investigate a mystery, and yet other times she needs to do research. Zoey models how to keep a science journal through her handwritten entries in each story. Each story is complete with a glossary of the kid-friendly definitions for scientific terms used. 

What Finding Books with Diverse Children Might Look Like for Your Family

For those parents raising white children who identify within other dominant social groups (such as cis-gendered, heterosexual, neurotypical, and able-bodied), the vast majority of books published for children function as both windows and mirrors.

There is a high likelihood that the main character of any book you pick up will resemble your child. With a little extra work, you could customize a reading list to reflect even more specific preferences!

For example, you could easily find a stack of books for middle grade readers about a white boy who likes dinosaurs. Or a set of picture books about going to school for the first time that features a young white, able-bodied, neurotypical girl. 

The downside to this abundance of mirrors is that children from dominant groups get a distorted sense of their place in the world. 

If every character they read about looks like them, celebrates the same holidays as them, and eats the same kind of food as them, they will be less prepared to interact with other children and adults who are different from them

And, as Danielle from Mamademics reminds us, it’s important that her son “has books with lots of brown characters, so that he sees himself and his family in the characters.” She’s also cognizant that her children need to see books with families who don’t look like theirs, as well. 

Final Thoughts on Diversity-Forward Chapter Books for Kids

Imagine what our society might look like if every child was allowed equal space within the classroom and on library bookshelves. This is what kids books about diversity can do!

With that said, let us know your favorite books that center children and customs that look different from your own family’s. What did you learn while reading them?