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A Diverse Summer Reading List for Kids 4-8 Years Old

Summer break is almost upon us. In our household, summers tend to be busy with lots of activities for my daughter.

With all her activities, it is important for us to make time for summer reading.

Because of our multiracial and multicultural household, we prioritize a diverse book collection to be able to provide our daughter mirrors in the book characters as well as educating her on her own history and culture.Census results

As you think about summer reading for your child, remember that diverse books are for all kids and not just kids of color, especially since we lack diversity in our everyday life here in Vermont. A diverse book collection also gives you the opportunity to have deeper conversations with your children about race, different cultures and current social issues.

This list includes books with diverse, multicultural characters that focus on social and gender issues as well as books on black history and slavery. The list is geared toward children that are between 4 and 8 years old.

Action & Adventure

Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp by Mercer Mayor

This was one of my daughter’s favorite books in pre-kindergarten. Liza Lou is a fierce, delightful young girl who faces several unsavory characters. Full of adventure and girl power!

Self-Esteem & Self-Respect  

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

A girl who loves stories and loves to dream. This book has a great story about a strong, smart black girl with great illustrations.

The Colors of Us by Karen Katz

This book helps kids see the world around them in a different way. Celebrating similarities and differences.

I Love My Hair! by Natasha Anastasia Tarpley

Another favorite in our household. This book celebrates and encourages girls to love their natural hair. 

Multicultural Stories

Mama Panya’s Pancakes by Mary Chamberlin

This is one of my favorite gifts we have received from friends. It reminds me of growing up in Iran and how we always had a house full of guests. Great story of sharing, even if you have little to give.

We All Went on Safari by Laura Krebs

We were gifted this book by friends who travel to Tanzania every year. My daughter has loved learning to count in Swahili and sharing this knowledge with her friend who is learning Swahili.

Bringing the Rain to Kapiti by Verna Aardema

Sweet story about the late rain in the plains of Africa.

The Girl with a Brave Heart, A Tale from Tehran by Rita Jahanforuz & Vali Mintzi

I bought this book for my daughter because I was born in Iran and this is a sweet adaptation of the Grimm’s fairy tale, Mother Hulda, and is set in Tehran, Iran.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

I could really relate to this book. Like Unhei, I moved to America when I was young and was already anxious about kids liking me. Having a hard name to pronounce only made things harder. Unlike Unhei, I did not have the courage to keep my Persian name which is Golrang. I love this story line to teach kids to be proud of their differences.Diverse books for summer reading for kids

Classics

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (other works by Ezra Jack Keats include Peter’s Chair, Whistle for Willie and Peter’s Poem)

According to Horn Book magazine, The Snowy Day was “the very first full-color picture book to feature a small black hero.” We have been reading Snowy Day to our daughter since she was born and have given it as a gift to many of her friends. Over the years, we have collected many of Ezra Jack Keats’ works and they remain favorites in our house.

Historical Fiction/Difficult Discussions/Prejudice & Racism  

We love historical fiction books for kids as they have made it easy for us to have difficult conversations with our daughter. We have been intentional about not shielding her from the ugly history of slavery and racism in this country and these books create a space for these conversations.  

The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

Ruby Bridges was the first African-American child to integrate a New Orleans School and this is the story of her strength, courage, and hope.

This is the Dream by Diane Shore and Jessica Alexander

A great beginner book on the American civil rights movement. Great illustrations and very age-appropriate.

A Picture Book of Rosa Parks by David Adler (other works by David Adler include picture books on Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Jesse Owens)  

This series was also a gift that we treasure. These books are beautifully illustrated and tell the stories of so many historical African American civil rights activists. Perfect for introducing historical figures to younger children.

Henry’s Freedom Box by Ellen Levine

This is an age-appropriate, true story about a slave who mailed himself to freedom. Another great book to start deeper conversations about slavery and adversities faced by African Americans.

Now Let Me Fly The Story of a Slave Family by Dolores Johnson 

Although this is a difficult book to read, it is an important one about a young girl’s gut-wrenching journey from Africa to America to be sold at a slave auction.

This Is the Rope: A Story From the Great Migration, By Jacqueline Woodson

This is a sweet story about an African American family’s journey North during the great migration. A rope found by a little girl at the beginning of the journey in South Carolina beautifully ties together generations as they move North to find better opportunities.

LGBTQ families

Mommy, Mama and Me by Lesléa Newman and Carol Thompson

Daddy, Papa and Me by Lesléa Newman and Carol Thompson

Both these books give kids the opportunity to view other types of families and learn that all families are made differently.  

Chapter Books

Sugar Plum Ballerinas series by Whoopi Goldberg

The Sugar Plum Ballerina series are about the girls from the Nutcracker School of Ballet. The series features a black main character and her friends as they work through overcoming hardships. The books are great for reading aloud. 

Ruby and the Booker Boys series by Derrick Barnes

A great series about Ruby who is fun and sassy and is always trying to find out what kinds of mischief her brothers are getting into.

These books would be a great addition to your child’s reading list and will help you talk to your kids about diversity, social justice and human rights. What are some books you would add to this list?

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3 Responses to A Diverse Summer Reading List for Kids 4-8 Years Old

  1. alyssa July 6, 2017 at 12:29 pm #

    It is very important that we are promoting authors from diverse backgrounds as well as diverse characters. By my count only 6 of these 20 books were authors telling stories of their own culture. There are amazing children’s authors of all nationalities, races and abilities to choose from. It would be great to see a list that reflects that reality.

    • Rey
      Rey July 6, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

      Thanks for your comment Alyssa! You are absolutely right and I appreciate your feedback! Perhaps I will work on a list with books with authors that reflect their own culture for a future blog post!

  2. Jessica August 9, 2017 at 1:57 pm #

    Also check out books by Megan Dowd Lambert for children’s books with diversity. She has more stories in the works too.

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