3 Important Reasons to Introduce Your Kids to Picture Books With Diverse Characters

Why do you need to be introducing your kids to picture books with diverse characters? Here are a few significant reasons.

“Why is she dressed like that?” “What does she smell like?” “Why can't I understand what she's saying?” 

Have you ever been in one of those situations of embarrassing-things-kids-say-about-people-in-the-grocery-store? No? Maybe it's just me.

We have been fortunate. We live in a college town with a university that includes a population of international students. My in-laws were involved with an international friendship program when my kids were younger. And I have a sister-in-law who is Malaysian and whose parents moved to the U.S. when my kids were young. My children have been around people of many different nationalities for much of their lives.

But I've still been in a situation similar to that above. 

Kids are curious. They are eager to learn more about people who aren't necessarily like them. And that curiosity can come out in a way that makes them seem rude at times. I thoroughly believe that the best thing to do in that situation is answer questions as thoughtfully as you can while employing some distraction that might allow you to move to the car or out of earshot for a more detailed conversation. But I also think it's a great thing to proactively make opportunities to teach kids about diverse people and cultures. And picture books with diverse characters can be a great way to do this.

Picture books with diverse characters
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Here are just a few reasons to introduce your kids to picture books with diverse characters. I'm also sharing my read for Multicultural Children's Book Day for this year. And there is information about this yearly event that can help you learn more about introducing your kids to characters with diverse backgrounds and cultures. It's a great way for kids to experience the world through books!

Three Reasons to Introduce Your Kids to Picture Books With Diverse Characters

Children have a natural curiosity about the world around them from the time they are young.

When a young child sees someone wearing cultural dress or speaking a different language out in public, they ask questions, not because they are rude, but because they are curious. Kids want to make sense of the world around them. They want to understand how different people “fit” into what they know of the world.

The people kids are the most familiar with are the ones in their immediate family, and then they become familiar with others, like extended family or chosen family or social communities. But if those groups are made up all of similar people, kids will be very curious when they meet diverse people out in public. Instead of waiting for that, introduce your kids to these diverse people with books and demonstrate your desire to know about people who are different from you.

Introducing people of different cultures, backgrounds, gender, etc. through books provides a safe way for kids to ask questions.

Those curious kids are going to ask questions when they come across someone who is different. But you can plan when to have those questions and conversations when you use good books to introduce your kids to diverse people. You still might not avoid all awkward conversations at the grocery store, but when you introduce kids to diverse characters through books, you give them a safe space in which to ask questions, to understand.

When kids read picture books with diverse characters, they may feel more comfortable when they meet people with those characteristics in real life.

Giving kids an opportunity to experience things through books can be a great way to prepare them for experiencing those things in real life. The same can be true when it comes to introducing your kids to all different kinds of people. When they “meet” book characters who are diverse, they can know what to expect when they meet people who are different from them in real life. They'll know a little about why people dress or act or speak differently because of the characters they've met in their books.

Sumo Joe by Mia Wenjen

Sumo Joe is a charming, rhyming picture book by Mia Wenjen. Joe and his friends like to make a dohyo ring and practice sumo wrestling. But Joe's little sister wants to participate. And girls aren't traditionally allowed. 

This book is written for kindergarten and primary-aged kids. And the back has an author's note, as well as a glossary, that will guide you in talking with your kids about the Japanese arts of sumo and aikido. This picture book is a great bite-sized introduction about this element of Japanese culture, and a look at some traditions surrounding it from a kid's perspective.

Picture books with diverse characters

Multicultural Children's Book Day, 2023

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2023 (1/26/22) is in its 10th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those books into the hands of young readers and educators.

Ten years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about our Mission & History HERE.

MCBD 2023 is honored to be supported by these Medallion Sponsors!

FOUNDER’S CIRCLE: Mia Wenjen (Pragmaticmom) and Valarie Budayr’s (Audreypress.com)

🏅 Super Platinum Sponsor: Author Deedee Cummings and Make A Way Media

🏅 Platinum Sponsors: Language Lizard Bilingual Books in 50+ Languages

🏅 Gold Sponsors: Interlink Books, Publisher Spotlight

Classroom Kit Poster: Led Bradshaw

MCBD 2023 is honored to be supported by these Author Sponsors!
Authors: Sivan Hong, Amanda Hsiung-Blodgett, Josh Funk, Stephanie M. Wildman, Gwen Jackson, Diana Huang, Afsaneh Moradian, Kathleen Burkinshaw, Eugenia Chu, Jacqueline Jules, Alejandra Domenzain, Gaia Cornwall, Ruth Spiro, Evelyn Sanchez-Toledo, Tonya Duncan Ellis, Kiyanda and Benjamin Young/Twin Powers Books, Kimberly Lee, Tameka Fryer Brown, Talia Aikens-Nuñez, Marcia Argueta Mickelson, Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Jennie Liu, Heather Murphy Capps, Diane Wilson, Sun Yung Shin, Shannon Gibney, John Coy, Irene Latham and Charles Waters, Maritza M Mejia, Lois Petren, J.C. Kato and J.C.², CultureGroove, Lindsey Rowe Parker, Red Comet Press, Shifa Saltagi Safadi, Nancy Tupper Ling, Deborah Acio, Asha Hagood, Priya Kumari, Chris Singleton, Padma Venkatraman, Teresa Robeson, Valerie Williams-Sanchez and Valorena Publishing, Martha Seif Simpson, Rochelle Melander, Alva Sachs, Moni Ritchie Hadley, Gea Meijering, Frances Díaz Evans, Michael Genhart, Angela H. Dale, Courtney Kelly, Queenbe Monyei, Jamia Wilson, Charnaie Gordon, Debbie Ridpath Ohi, Debbie Zapata, Jacquetta Nammar Feldman, Natasha Yim, Tracy T. Agnelli, Kitty Feld, Anna Maria DiDio, Ko Kim, Shachi Kaushik, Shanequa Waison-Rattray, Susan S. El Yazgi, Shirim Shamsi

MCBD 2023 is Honored to be Supported by our CoHosts and Global CoHosts!

MCBD 2023 is Honored to be Supported by these Media Partners!

Check out MCBD's Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board!

📌 FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day

📌 Register for the MCBD Read Your World Virtual Party

Join us on Thursday, January 26, 2023, at 9 pm EST for the 10th annual Multicultural Children's Book Day Read Your World Virtual Party!

This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas.

We will be giving away a 10-Book Bundle during the virtual party plus Bonus Prizes as well! *** US and Global participants welcome. **

Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation, and connect with like-minded parts, authors, publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians. We look forward to seeing you all on January 26, 2023, at our virtual party!

Link up your book reviews here and use this collection to discover new titles and authors for your home and classroom bookshelves. #ReadYourWorld


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

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