Imagine a closet filled with the same pressed denim shirt in a one-size fits all format. How uninteresting? How one dimensional? How predictably controlled? Now apply that thinking to your children's bookshelf. I'll admit, my children's bookshelf can be a whole lot better.
A book has the power to transport you into a different world, introduce you to unique characters and pick your brain with thought-provoking narratives. Adding to my kids’ book collection is exhilarating...and intentional. As we expand our conversations and experiences, it is important to have a diverse range of topics, characters and lessons on our bookshelf.
Diversity encompasses all things that make us unique. Whether it's gender, age, race, ethnicity, belief system, sexual orientation, family unit, ability etc...How do we diversify our bookshelves, and ultimately, our conversations with our kids?
In today's blog, I want to celebrate the diversity of story-telling with a few of my own childhood classics, some I've discussed in previous blogs, and a handful of new additions that are quickly becoming bedtime favourites.
Everyone has a story to tell...let's get to reading...
Adapted by Cedella Marley & illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
"One love, one heart, let's get together and feel all right!"
In the same way that Bob Marley's classic song inspires harmony, this picture book adaptation by his daughter, Cadella Marley, is a joyful reminder that love can unite all of us. This is a new addition to our bookshelf and my kids love playing the song while flipping through the vibrant pages.
"Pono The Garden Guardian"
Written by Dani Hickman & illustrated by Kristi Petosa-Sigel
"Pono's heart was full. He had chosen the
Pono (good) he wanted to be."
Set in a farm village in Hawai'i, this heartwarming story follows Pono as he navigates through 'right' and 'wrong' choices, while discovering the goodness in his heart. A great choice for discussing choices and actions with our kids.
"She Persisted Around the World"
Written by Chelsea Clinton & illustrated by Alexandra Boiger
"The more I did, the more I could do, the more I wanted to do, the more I saw (what) needed to be done." - Leymah Gbowee
"She Persisted Around the World" beautifully depicts female empowerment throughout history against all odds. Women like Malala Yousafzai, Viola Desmond and Leymah Gbowee are featured in a truly inspiring way.
"Pink is for Boys"
Written by Robb Pearlman & illustrated by Eda Kaban
"PINK is for boys. And girls. And bows on fancy clothes."
I'm guilty of toting around the title of "boy mom", but the reality is, our children are layered humans defined by so many things! "Pink is for Boys" helps open up conversations around acceptance and tolerance, as well as dismantle gender stereotypes. Written in a playful and simple-to-understand way, this is a great addition to your child's bookshelf.
"All Are Welcome"
Written by Alexandra Penfold & illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman
"We're part of a community. Our strength is our diversity.
A shelter from adversity. All are welcome here."
I featured this picture book in my back-to-school top picks as it focuses on diversity and inclusion in the classroom. The uniqueness of each child radiates through each page, and the message of inclusion and community is felt throughout the story. It even comes with a fold-out poster celebrating diversity!
"It's Okay to be Different"
By Todd Parr
"It's to have different moms.
It's okay to have different dads."
If you are familiar with the Todd Parr collection, you will appreciate his ability to inspire children to be who they are, while celebrating every child's individuality. "It's Okay to be Different" embraces what makes each of us special and reinforces the message of acceptance. My kids love the fun illustrations and personalized message at the end of each Todd Parr book.
"A Family is a Family is a Family"
Written by Sara O'Leary & illustrated by Qin Leng
"One of my dads is tall and one is short. They both give good hugs."
The way this book discusses different family structures is brilliant. With the turn of each page, you are introduced to different families that may look, sound and seem different, but they all share the same love. As the title suggests, a family is a family is a family.
"Fishing with Grandma"
"There are many people who are not able to come out to these lakes. We will deliver fish to them, she replied. It is always important to think of others."
My kids were immediately drawn to this cute story as they imagined going on their own ice fishing adventure. From wearing the right gear to making an Inuit jigging rod to cooking a traditional Arctic char meal, Grandma and her grandkids highlight the importance of community, sharing and Inuit family traditions.
By Peter Hamilton Reynolds
"You can say something in so many ways.
With words, with action, with creativity."
I was so excited to recently add this picture book to our collection. Teaching the importance of speaking up, using our voice for good and having a general sense of social conscience is so important as we raise the next generation of leaders. "Say Something" gets this message across in a simple and engaging way. It will have you asking your child (and yourself), what would you say to the world right now?
By Don Freeman
"Lisa sat down with Corduroy on her lap and began to sew a button on his overalls.
I like you the way you are, she said, but you'll be more comfortable with your shoulder strap fastened."
This is my all time favourite children's book since I was a little girl. Now, as an adult, I'm even more struck with the heartwarming tale of how a determined little girl and loveable teddy bear discovered the power of unconditional love, acceptance and friendship. We recently added "Corduroy Takes a Bow" written by Viola Davis to our bookshelf, and I'm excited to see what Lisa and Corduroy are up to now!
"Makanaka's World: Adventure in Morocco"
Written by Christine Mapondera-Talley & illustrated by Anil Tortop
"Makanaka was bubbling with excitement.
Fari, ready to transform?
Engine on...all set! replied the parrot.
To Casablanca, Morocco! shouted Makanaka."
We recently added this fun and adventurous picture book to our collection. The story follows Makanaka and her parrot as they journey to Morocco to help solve a mystery, while pointing out all the wonderful sights along the way. My kids were fascinated to learn new words in a different language, explore faraway landscapes and identify different countries on the map. The book includes a glossary of words, mini tour of Morocco with fun facts, and a teachable world map labeled for kids to discover. Can't wait for the next adventure!
"What Riley Wore"
Written by Elana K. Arnold & illustrated by Linda Davick
"Today I'm a firefighter. And a dancer. And a monster hunter. And a pilot. And a dinosaur."
Riley's cheerful personality shines through in this charming story about being yourself. The way you dress or present yourself is your choice, and discovering who you are is part of the fun. Riley is simply Riley...and that's pretty awesome!
"Ada Twist, Scientist"
Written by Andrea Beaty & illustrated by David Roberts
"She asks lots of questions. How could she resist?
It's all in the heart of a young scientist."
This book does a fantastic job of breaking down gender stereotypes, encouraging curiosity and dreams, and featuring diverse characters. If you have little ones at home in the "why" stage, or just generally curious about the world around them, this will be a wonderful addition to your child's bookshelf.
Any suggestions on what we should add to our bookshelf next? I would love to hear from you! Until then...happy reading!