Why are multicultural children’s books so important?

with 23 Comments

The importance of multicultural children's books


As an adoptive mom of two little Black girls, I am always on the search for multicultural children’s books that reflect the diversity of our world in an empowering and non-stereotypical way.

It’s good to see an increasing number of children’s books about transracial adoption and about different skin colours out there. Sadly though, there still seems to be a lack of multicultural children’s books with just “normal” everyday-type-of-stories, books in which the skin colour isn’t the main point of the story.

According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center (CCBC) the number of multicultural children’s books published in the United States increased by only 4% over the last 20 years – still a long way to go!


Multicultural Children's Books Infographic 2015


Sometimes people ask me if multicultural children’s books really are that important; if it really matters to children which skin colours they see in the books they read. These questions always leave me baffled (needless to say they always come from white people…).

To me, the answer is as simple as it is obvious: We live in a multicultural world, so yes, of course, it matters! I usually respond with a counter question though: How would you have felt if there hadn’t been any white characters in your childhood books?

All children deserve and need to see themselves reflected in the books they read. As famous children’s book author Ezra Jack Keats said: “My book would have him [a little black boy] there simply because he should have been there all along.”

Having worked as a Social Worker for a Fostering Agency in the UK for many years, I have witnessed and first-hand dealt with the self-esteem issues children of colour experience growing up in white-dominated communities.

No doubt, reading is an important factor in any child’s development (and I strongly believe that all children should be exposed to multicultural children’s books in order to learn to respect people of all races and cultures).

For children of colour, however, having access to books that positively reflect their own ethnicity can play an essential role in building a positive sense of identity and good self-esteem. Through books, children learn about themselves and the world, and every child should be able to see their ethnicity and their culture reflected in children’s literature.

I spend a lot of my spare time searching the internet for good quality multicultural children’s books, i.e. books that have a strong and positive message about children of colour, and that do not support stereotypes.

When I talk to other adoptive parents and/or parents of colour, they often tell me that they also struggle to find good quality multicultural children’s books. So I thought it would be a nice idea to create a resource website where I can share my book findings – Colours of Us was born!

I’m only just starting and will constantly be adding new books, so please do come back often!

If you would like to know more about me, go to About.

Browse some of our most popular posts & pages:

400+ Multicultural Children’s Books listed by age and ethnicity

70+ Picture Books about Mixed Race Families

 25 Multicultural Children’s Books teaching Kindness & Empathy

55 Multicultural Picture Books About Strong Female Role Models

100 Children’s Books to help talk about Racism & Discrimination

50+ Multicultural STEAM Books for Children

30 Multicultural Picture Books about Immigration

25 Multicultural Books About Children Around The World

Multicultural Disney Toys Multicultural Games & Puzzles Multicultural Barbie Dolls
Multicultural Dolls & Puppets Multicultural Play Figures Multicultural Arts & Crafts

Multicultural Children's Clothes

23 Responses

  1. Beatrice Zamora-AGUILAR
    | Reply

    Your blog/website looks awesome. Thank you for doing this important work. As a parent of adult children, I always looked and rarely found the types of books that reflected my children’s existence back in the day, so your website/blog is fulfilling an important need,
    As a retired educator very involved in my Chicano/Mexican-American community, I have published two picture books over the last two years. The first book has won several book awards, published in 2020, fully bilingual in English/Spanish is called The Spirit of Chicano Park/El espíritu del Parque Chicano. The book tells the story of the founding of an historic park in San Diego that is now a National Landmark. It is about community voice and people of color mattering.
    The second book just came out in June, 2021 and is called, Am I Blue or Am I Green/ Azul o verde. ¿Cúal soy yo? This is a story of a child exploring identity, enoying a bi-cultural life, and whose parents are unauthorized immigrant residents. The child deals with the “othering” that occurs in our society and in the end reaches a resilient and beautiful solution.
    Please contact me if you would like to include the books in your listing at toltecapress@gmail.com or you can visit my website at toltecapress.com. The books are also available on the internet at all the usual sources.
    Thanks again for your great work

  2. Samantha Baheti
    | Reply

    I have recently self-published a book, which I think will make an excellent addition to your website.

    Counting to Diwali: A Celebration in Numbers is a book that captures children’s imaginations on many levels. As the parent of multicultural children, I was inspired to write this book as a way to bring elements of Indian culture into our family, in a meaningful way. It teaches children how to count from one to ten in Hindi, all while learning about the elements that make up the festival of Diwali.

    I hope you enjoy reading my book and should you wish to learn more, or if you would like to include it on your website, please do not hesitate in contacting me.

    SC Baheti

    • Colours of Us

      Hi, when I next update my Diwali book list, I will consider adding your book if it is a good fit.

  3. Karin
    | Reply

    Hi Svenja, I’m an Austrian author.
    Thanks for putting your energy into such an important subject!
    I write Middle Grade fiction about life experiences in little known cultures.
    I feel that our culture defines us, but that the values we live by have the power to unite us, with love being the greatest super power. I would love to have my books featured on your blog.
    Keep up the good work!

  4. Faruqe Abdullah
    | Reply

    Nice to read your article. I have never seen such an article before. I also think that children should be imparted knowledge about different cultures from an early age. If children get this kind of education at an early age, they will be able to be more aware of the way to future life. Thank you so much for gifting such an educational article.

  5. Svenja,
    Keep up the great work! My multicultural children’s picture book, Let’s Eat Snails! was just listed by Every Child a Reader, EveryChildaReader.net/cbw, as a SUPERPOWER BOOK FOR IDENTITY & CULTURE, May 2021 Children’s Book Week! I would love to email you a press kit for consideration onto one of your many important lists celebrating diversity, especially perhaps, Strong Female Role Models or multicultural children’s books Around the World.
    Thank you for your valuable time!
    Barbara Barcellona Smith

    • Colours of Us

      Hi Barbara, you can email the press kit to info(at)coloursofus(dot)com.

  6. ThomasJoe123
    | Reply

    Wonderful! This has been a really informative post. Thank you for sharing this information. looking forward to more posts.

  7. Kameel A Vohra
    | Reply

    Absolutely agree that the color of characters in childrens books is important. More than just color, the roles they play and the interactions they have – they shape our childrens expectations of normal. Really enjoying reading your blog!

    • Colours of Us

      Thank you! Glad you’re finding our blog useful!

    • Australia McArdle

      Everything Kameel just said! ❤️

  8. Jim Wasserman
    | Reply

    Hi, I just found your site. Very impressive. I am a retired American teacher/writer now living in Spain. I normally write in the fields of education and economics, but, as a member of a multiracial, multi-cultural family, I wrote a book for children just discovering that they “fall between the checked boxes that society tries to fit us into” (my son describes himself this way). I invite you to check out my book, Summa. It’s currently being used in India to teach about diversity and accepting everyone’s differences to make a greater community. Thank you, and be well.

    • Colours of Us

      Thank you, I will check it out!

  9. Lulu B
    | Reply

    I greatly appreciate your book lists, which I regularly share with my librarian friends. Currently, I’m seeking some recommendations for books to gift a 3 year old boy (African-American) who was recently adopted by the family who had been fostering him since he was a baby. I seek specifically books that reflect mixed-race families. Thanks in advance for your suggestions!

  10. Thomas
    | Reply

    Moin Svenja,
    ich hab Dich grad im Netz gefunden. Interessant was Du so machst und wo es Dich hinverschlagen hat. Alles gute dafür ?.
    Viele Grüße aus Schleswig-Holstein von
    Thomas Ehlers-Schirr

  11. Marin Darmonkow
    | Reply

    Hi Svenja,
    Greetings from Canada,
    Glad I came across a colourful and caring individual like you.
    This crooked world may have a chance…
    I am about to print my first 2GETHER book collection containing five picture book titles.
    Please use my personal email address and I’ll send you one of my stories (no strings attached).
    If you like it, share it with your little girls.
    Have a wonderful day to you and your gorgeous princesses.

  12. Matt Young
    | Reply

    Hi Svenja, thank you for your wonderful work with this site (I came across it by a link the comments here: https://theconversation.com/why-there-need-to-be-more-autistic-characters-in-childrens-books-90054).

    I work for Jessica Kingsley Publishers and we produce a number of books that are inclusive and diverse, please drop me a message if you are interested in receiving some for review.


  13. Becky Villareal
    | Reply

    I am a child from a multicultural background who has struggled with this my whole life. I have written two books that deal with this Gianna the Great and Halito Gianna: The Journey Continues. I wrote these for the children I have worked with as a teacher for the past twenty-three years and for the older children who need a hight interest low vocabulary book to read. That way they can all realize how very special and important they are especially in the times we live in.

    I would very much like to send you copies of my books so you could consider including them in your quest to help our multicultural angels who pass our way each and every day. Take care and be blessed.

    Becky Villareal

    • Colours of Us

      Lovely! Will contact you via email.

  14. Amal (AMB)
    | Reply

    Agreed. It’s important for children to identify with the characters in the books they read and to know that the mainstream culture respected the experiences of their communities enough to highlight them in books.

    I also think it’s important for children who grow up in racially/ethnically homogeneous communities–as so many do, unfortunately–to see experiences that are different from their own inside the books they read.

    • Colours of Us

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Yes, all children should read multicultural books.

Leave a Reply