Children’s Books That Tackle Race and Ethnicity

The movement calling for more diversity in children’s books has been growing over the past few years, and publishers are responding. Maria Russo, the children’s books editor at the New York Times, has put together a list of children’s books that feature characters of different races and ethnicities. One book from her list, “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Peña, is the story of an African-American boy named CJ who rides the bus every week with his grandmother, a woman who makes him turn his complaints into gratitude and positivity. This emotional and thought-provoking picture book won the Newbery Award last year, only the second time a picture book has won the prestigious prize for Overall Best Children’s Book. Another, by Duncan Tonatiuh, “Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote” tells the story of a rabbit family that faces hardship as they try to migrate north after their lettuce fields dry up. The book was the winner of  the Pura Belpre award in 2013. Books like these can play a hugely important role in the lives of young minority children, giving them license to become the protagonist in their own stories. All too often, in stories aimed at youth, children of color do not get to see representations of their own race as leaders. The passport to adventure is thus commonly restricted to white children, and even more often, white males. But there is an additional benefit. Books that feature a minority character in a leading role can not only prove beneficial to the development of minority children–but for white children as well. When white children have more exposure to people of different ethnicities playing diverse roles in children’s books, they can develop a sense of commonality, leaving a feeling of deeper connection toward all their classmates. Read the full New York Times story and see all the books Here