Diverse Children’s Books We’re Reading to Coco

Jenna Kutcher 

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March 27, 2020


In scary and uncertain times, the things that ground me the most are often the simplest, smallest things. A good cup of coffee in the morning. A bundled-up walk with my little fam. A gritty, motivational ride on my Peloton. Sitting with Coco in our comfy chair and reading books that remind me (as much as they teach her) that we are capable and brave and worthy and strong, even when things get shaky. I don’t take these small privileges for granted, and right now I’m more aware than ever how blessed I am to be able to be with my family and soak up this time together.

I think it’s important to take into consideration the messaging children get on a daily basis, whether it’s needing to be saved by a handsome prince or needing to take care of men or other people. For me raising a little girl especially, I’m hyper-focused on the messaging she’s taking in right now, and since we don’t live in an incredibly diverse area, I want her to be exposed to differences of all kinds so that she becomes a compassionate human being who celebrates them.

Diverse children’s books to read your little ones

I want her to regularly see different leading characters, different skin tones and hair textures, different abilities, and different desires and likes. I want her to see little girls going into science or politics or engineering or entrepreneurship. It’s less about the story arc and more about the messaging we’re given, and for me, if we want our kids to believe they can do anything, they need to know and see that anyone is capable of doing anything. It’s something that’s really close to my heart — I don’t want her reading about pretty girls who feel the need to take care of others and are primed for marriage by age 2.

I mentioned this intention of ours in an Instagram story a couple months ago, about how we are trying to choose books with diverse characters for Coco to learn and see people other than her, and I got a TON of suggestions for more books and a ton of requests for a list. I compiled everything people sent me in my DMs and ones that we have and love that I thought would be helpful to share here. I know many of our lives have slowed down quite a bit lately and so if you’re looking for more diversified books to read with your littles, I hope you’ll consider a few of these!

*Note: All funds collected from affiliate links used in this blog post are being donated to support our global mission with Healing Waters International.

01. Dream Big, Little One by Vashti Harrison

This incredible book tells the real-life stories about 18 black women through history who have blazed trails, led heroically, and stood up for good.

02. Hair Love by Matthew Cherry

This daddy-daughter story seriously fills my heart with so much love as this dad teaches his girl to embrace her natural hair the way it is.

03. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox

This sweet storybook shows your little ones what babies look like from all over the world and the thing they have in common: ten fingers and ten toes.

04. Prayers for Bedtime by Pamela Kennedy

I love this book for teaching babes how to pray in the simplest way using words and concepts that are easy to understand.

05. When God Made You by Matthew Paul Turner

It’s important for Coco (and all kids) to know that she is deeply loved and was knit together with special gifts to give the world, and this book illustrates just that.

06. All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

The world is full of big and little importances, from seashells to family to the open sky, and this sweet book points out all those good things in the world we could all stand to pay attention to more.

07. The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

The first snowfall brings magic and wonder, especially in the eyes of this little boy adventuring in the city.

08. Ten, Nine, Eight by Molly Bang

Another dad and daughter story that warms my spirit, this one turns bedtime into a playful game with rhymes and fun.

09. The Girls by Lauren Ace

Four best friends navigate the world together — even when life takes them in different directions. This book is such a good testament to female friendship, embracing differences, and walking alongside others we believe in.

10. A Is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

Learning the ABCs has never been more progressives … and I LOVE it.

11. Love Is a Truck by Amy Novesky

Learning about trucks and all the various types is fun, enticing, and seriously adorable with this book.

12. Every Little Thing by Bob Marley

“Every little thing is gonna be alright” and this story about a triumphant, can’t-be-stopped little boy shows that through and through. Coco loves when I sing it!

13. Princess Puffybottom … and Darryl by Susin Nielsen

I know I said princesses weren’t my thing but this is one I can get behind — and tells a story of an unlikely friendship.

14. Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty

Nothin’ says “girl power” better than this female scientist story of one smart chick who follows her curiosity and finds creative ways to think through challenges.

15. Julian Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

A little boy sees 3 fabulously dressed women and decides: he wants to be a mermaid. This smart story talks about how we might see ourselves differently than others do, and that’s okay.

16. Mary Had a Little Glam by Tammi Sauer

A modern take on Mother Goose classics where spicy little Mary decides to glam up her friends, like the kid who lives in a shoe and Jack whose crown broke. She teaches them a little somethin’ about style and that it’ll all be alright.

BONUS: Little Feminist Book Club

This is such a genius idea for kids to learn more about equality, empathy, and differences regularly, and they have monthly packages for 0-3 years old, 3-7 years old, and 7-9 years old that come with a few books, discussion cards, activities, and prompts for parents to easily talk with kids about the book topics.

Maybe it’s just me, but I am constantly paying attention to how children are spoken to and the messaging they receive from the time we’re born. While we can’t change or shift it all, we CAN do our part to raise kind, compassionate, open-minded little kiddos and that’s something I can definitely get behind. I hope these titles give you some heart warmth and inspiration next time you settle into a cozy chair with your littles for storytime. I know they’ve opened my eyes to a more inclusive world and hope they’re showing my daughter that we’re all capable of making a difference.

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A small town Minnesota photographer, podcaster, educator and puppy rescuer, my happiest days are spent behind my computer screen sharing my secrets with the world. I'm glad you're here.

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