Guidance: Diverse Books for Upper Ks2
We may live in a golden age of children’s books, but many young readers are still woefully under-represented in the stories they read. Making available a range of diverse children’s books is vitally important to every child, and youngsters should be able to see themselves, and their current and future friends, in the books that they read. Authentically told stories featuring a diverse range of characters help children to develop empathy and inclusion, as well as exposing children to a more realistic understanding of the world around them.
We’ve put together a selection of diverse and inclusive books suitable for Year 5 and 6 (ages 9-11), featuring characters that are traditionally underrepresented in children’s books. Research shows that only 9% of children’s books published in 2021 featured minority ethnic main characters. We’ve included on this list recommended books with minority ethnic main characters like Sharna Jackson’s urban whodunnit High Rise Mystery or Annabelle Sami’s laugh-a-minute adventure, Llama Out Loud. We’ve also included books that give insights into underrepresented cultures, like the joyful adventure inspired by Hindu legends in Kiki Kallira Breaks a Kingdom or the larger-than-life escapades of Lexie’s London-based Greek-Cypriot family in What Lexie Did. For more recommendations still, we also have separate booklists for BAME Main Characters and Cultural Diversity.
It’s important to stress that diversity in children’s books is about more than ethnic and cultural representation alone. For books with Neurodivergent characters, we recommend Show Us Who You Are or Can You See Me?, both of which represent main characters with autism, Victoria Williamson’s The Boy With the Butterfly Mind portraying life for a teen diagnosed with ADHD, or Stewart Foster’s heart-wrenchingly honest narrative about living with OCD in All the Things that Could Go Wrong. For characters with learning disabilities or speech disorders, try The Boy Who Made Everyone Laugh, featuring a main character with a stutter, or Jo Cotterill’s A Storm of Strawberries, about a 12-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome.
Physical disabilities and medical conditions are also largely underrepresented in middle-grade fiction. Try Gracie Fairshaw and the Mysterious Guest for a story featuring a heroine with limb-loss (we also have a separate booklist about limb difference here), or A Dangerous Game by Malorie Blackman, which features a main character with sickle-cell anemia. For characters with visual impairment, try The Distance Between Me and the Cherry Tree (loss of sight) or The Extraordinary Colours of Auden Dare (colour-blindness). For characters with hearing loss, we recommend Stewart Foster’s Can You Feel the Noise? or Cece Bell’s graphic novel El Deafo.
Finally, we have included in our collection books that portray different types of family life, from adoption and fostering in The Star Outside My Window and Just Call Me Spaghetti Hoop Boy to parent health concerns and same-sex parenting in Patina and The Secrets of Sam and Sam respectively.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but is hopefully a helpful starting point in diversifying your book collections for Year 5 and Year 6 and helping you to consider where under-representation could be remedied. Similar lists for other Year Groups can be found in our Diversity Hub and full packs of these books can be purchased by schools via Peters.
If you are looking for more Year 5 and Year 6 recommendations, be sure to check out our Reading for Pleasure booklists.