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Cultural Diversity

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Best Children’s Books about Cultural Diversity 

On this booklist we have picked some of the best books for primary schools to help promote cultural diversity. Books can act as both windows through which to see the world and mirrors for readers to see themselves reflected in the pages. The books on this list are selected to help children to see different cultures represented in the stories they read.

You can see our full range of Diverse and Inclusive booklists here.

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Picturebooks about cultural diversity

Sarah van Dongen
Picturebook
Koya and her friends, Hassan and Alex, love to visit their neighbour, Mrs Fig. When they find out Mrs Fig is moving to a retirement home, they want to help their parents plan her going away party! When cooking for the party, the children are aware of everyone's dietary needs and are excited to prepare yummy vegan and vegetarian food everyone will be able to eat! Everyone on Redbird Road gather to celebrate Mrs Fig and enjoy the food!
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
 & Joelle Avelino
Picturebook

‘Mama’s Sleeping Scarf’, a picture book, is a new departure for renowned author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (here writing as Nwa Grace-James, in tribute to her parents). In it she tells the story of a little girl called Chino, and the interactions and moments of fun that make up her day.

Chino has to stay at home with her Papa while her Mama goes out to work. When Chino is worried that Mama might not come back, Mama leaves her sleeping scarf for her– the one she wears ‘to keep her hair all soft and nice’ – to play with for the day. The scarf weaves its way through Chino’s day with her, helping her play games, and forming part of her conversations with both her grandparents and her Papa. The scarf is a reminder through the day of the love of her Mama and of the rest of her family too.

Through this charming and seemingly simple story, Adichie explores the reversal of traditional home roles, the value of multi-generational family bonds, and the simple anxiety of a child who wants to know their parent will return. It’s a valuable addition to a school library in need of diverse representations of children in the literature they read, and a bright and colourful text to read aloud.

Eva Wong Nava
 & Li Xin
Picturebook

This picture book provides a beautifully illustrated introduction to Chinese New Year.

The night before the celebrations, Mai-Anne explains that the Lunar New Year is about to arrive and that her family enjoys a special set of traditions. Mai-Anne helps to clean and decorate the house and is excited when her grandmother (Nai Nai) arrives in time for the most important dinner of the year – fish for good luck, noodles for a long life, dumplings for blessings and nian gao for success. After dinner, Mai-Anne and Nai Nai settle down together and Nai Nai recounts the important story of the Great Race. Along with Mai-Anne, the reader learns about the story of the twelve animals who race to cross the river. Then Mai-Anne enjoys a special family Dragon Dance, eats sweet tangerines and wears a special red outfit for luck.

This is a lovely picture book to read at Chinese New Year but also all year round too as a book that celebrates family moments, bonds with grandparents and the joy of special traditions. The illustrations and text are both warm and celebratory in tone. It also features a non-fiction section on the final pages with more information about Chinese New Year and the dragon dance.

Hena Khan
 & Julie Paschkis
Picturebook

This picture book about the month of Ramadan and the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr is a gentle, light and thought-provoking story of a special time of year. The story begins at bedtime with the rising of the crescent moon and the start of the holy month of Ramadan. Told through the eyes of a young girl, it embraces family and school life as well as – in her Grandma’s words – being ‘thankful for beautiful things’. This book will be of interest to primary school class teachers and leaders – it would work well as a class story, a shared book, an individual library book or for use in assemblies. It is a beautifully illustrated story to accompany the month of Ramadan and bring life to R.E. teaching. Perfect for primary school classes including those with many, few or no Muslim pupils – the story of Ramadan unfolds telling non-Muslim pupils about the delights and significance of Ramadan from a child’s perspective. At the back of the book is an Author’s Note explaining the origins of Ramadan with clarity and simplicity as well as a comprehensive Glossary of terms.

Radhiah Chowdhury
 & Lavanya Naidu
Picturebook
Six-year-old Asiya loves to go to Nanu's house. Best among all of Nanu's treasures is the big old chest filled with quilts that tell the stories of the women in Asyia's family. With gorgeous, fresh and beautifully colourful illustrations inspired by Bangladeshi katha quilts and traditional West Bengali pattachitra panel illustrations, The Katha Chest is a beautifully woven tale about the bonds of love, culture and memory.

Atinuke
 & Angela Brooksbank
Picturebook
Lami loves chickens. She's the best chicken catcher in the village. She's fast, she's brave and she always catches that chicken. Until the day she chases one up the baobab tree, slips ... and falls. How can she catch chickens with a sore ankle? Could there be another way to catch that chicken? Told with great humour by Nigerian storyteller, Atinuke, this story of the headstrong, impetuous Lami will strike a chord with all children. The gentle message - to use quick thinking not just quick running - gives an incredibly satisfying ending, while Angela Brooksbank's beautiful artwork captures the energy and the beauty of the West African setting perfectly.
Farhana Islam
 & Nabila Adani
Picturebook
Noor loves her mum, and all the other hijabi women in her family, but wonders why do they wear headscarves? Is it so they can hide snacks for later? Or because they're a super spy and hiding their secret identity?Full of curiousity, Noor sets out to find her answer, but her family are all busy and have no time to answer this important question. Just as Noor is ready to give up on her quest, her Ammu arrives home and knows just the thing to say.This heart-warming yet funny tale is a celebration of Muslim women, curious children, and family love.
Medeia Cohan-Petrolino
 & Sarah Walsh
Non-fiction
This book is a beautifully illustrated introduction to the shared custom of head covering. Using accurate terminology and brightly coloured imagery, Hats of Faith helps educate and prepare young children for our culturally diverse modern world. Encouraging an early and open dialogue between parents and children.
Sophia Payne
 & Sandhya Prabhat
Picturebook

There’s so much to like about this colourful picturebook: the lively illustrations, including endpapers; the different fonts which are almost as expressive as the text and conjure up beautifully the scents and sounds of Caribbean culture, the warmth conveyed by artful storytelling, warmth which derives from Faruq’s relationship with the characters who shape his culinary (and boyhood) journey; not to mention the addition of a recipe for lime cookies.

This is a story to make your mouth and your eyes water – as if witness to the work of cooking up a sumptuous family feast and then finding yourself invited too. It’s a book that lends itself to being read aloud in class or at home (and even more so if the dialect sounds authentic). It would also work well in a nurture group setting, allowing the children a hand at making some of the food and as a celebration of different cultures.

Richard O'Neill & Katharine Quarmby
 & Hannah Tolson
Picturebook
A Traveller girl creates her own musical instrument from a willow branch and lots of recycled objects. She plays it enthusiastically, but it sounds terrible! Ignoring warnings not to awaken the ogre in the hills, Ossiri goes there to practise playing her instrument. Will she wake the ogre, and will it appreciate her playing? Told by a Romani storyteller and a picture book author, this original tale offers a fascinating insight into Travelling lifestyles and cultures.

Michaela Dias-Hayes
Picturebook
The first in a two-book series that champions and empowers children of colour in beautifully simplistic ways. This book teached children how to mix colours, and how all three primary colours, mixed together, make beautiful brown.
Nansubuga Nagadya Isdahl
 & Sandra van Doorn
Picturebook

We are big fans of Sleep Well, Siba & Saba, an important book for celebrating diversity. This stunningly illustrated picture book offers a snapshot into life for two sisters growing up in Uganda, with a delightful story that rejoices in the precious details of the sisters’ day to day lives as well as with their hopes and dreams for the future. We love the beautiful and detailed illustrations and the uplifting story with its almost lullaby-like style and poetic sibilance, ready to captivate readers as they peep inside a fascinating window into everyday life in another culture.

Matt de la Pena
 & Christian Robinson
Picturebook
Winner of numerous awards, this picture book follows CJ and his grandmother as they make a bus journey across town. As they chat about what is important in life, the pair take in the truly diverse city scape, encountering a multitude of passengers and passers-by of all demographics. The story of the journey and the striking illustrations come together to positively depict a world wherein cultural divisions and segregation can find no place to land and difference is celebrated for its enriching cultural effect.
Rashmi Sirdeshpande
 & Ruchi Mhasane
Picturebook

Dadaji’s Paintbrush is a sumptuous story of a young boy’s special relationship with his grandfather, set in a small village in India.
This is a beautiful story that deals with the difficult subject of the loss of a grandparent in a gentle and understanding way.  The beautiful Indian setting that will be unfamiliar to many readers highlights the universal experiences of love and loss, showing that no matter where you are, some human experiences unite us all.
The illustrations are simple and beautiful and we particularly liked how the colours linked with the main character’s emotions. We also loved the evocative and sensory setting descriptions in the story – we could almost taste the mangoes!
As well as gently exploring the topic of grief, the story is ultimately filled with hope and draws out the values of art, community and legacy. There’s so much to unpack in this stunning story.

Chapter books about cultural diversity

Tolá Okogwu
Chapter book

An exciting, edge-of-your-seat adventure.

Onyeka and her best friend, Cheyenne, are both Nigerian living in London. Whilst Cheyenne is confident and not bothered what others think, Onyeka feels like she doesn’t fit in. Her hair in particular causes others to stare. It has a mind of its own and no matter what her hairdresser mum does to it, it’s out of control. Onyeka’s mum doesn’t talk about Nigeria or why they left and least of all, what happened to Onyeka’s dad.

One day, Onyeka’s hair literally has a mind of its own when it glows blue and crackles with electricity when Cheyenne is in trouble. Onyeka’s mum is forced to tell her that she is ‘Solari’ and has inherited this trait from her dad. When Onyeka struggles to control her power and it starts to make her sick, her mum decides it’s finally time to return to Nigeria and try and locate Onyeka’s dad and learn to control her powers. Despite being surrounded by other Solari, Onyeka still feels like she doesn’t belong. The other children have lived with their powers for years, but Onyeka has only just discovered hers. If only her mum could find her dad and maybe she could get some answers!

‘Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun’ is an exciting edge-of-your-seat adventure with interesting and unique characters. I loved the development of the relationships between Onyeka and the other children as she got to know more about them. I became totally lost in Onyeka’s world and couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next.

This story would make a fantastic read for Upper Key Stage 2 children, particularly for those that are fans of superhero stories and films. Tola Okogwu says in the author’s note in the book that she hopes it will “act as both a mirror and a window” in terms of representation, and I think lots of people will agree that it does. What a wonderful book.

Zanib Mian
 & Kyan Cheng
Chapter book

Omar is a boy with a huge imagination that can land him in trouble. As well as being very funny, the stories tackle important issues like bullying and prejudice, with Omar’s diary-style entries covering the everyday ups and downs of life including Muslim traditions, school worries, friendships, family life and a big dose of toilet humour.

Read our Q&A with author Zanib Mian over on our blog.

Sue Cheung
A madcap new story from Sue Cheung, winner of the Diverse Book Award, filled with belly-laughs and packed with drawings! Perfect for fans of Tom Gates and Sam Wu.Maddy Yip is perfectly happy in life, until she realises that everyone she knows has a talent - except for her! Maddy is determined to change that, with the help of her brothers, bewildered grandad and her best friend Dev. There are disastrous attempts at breakdancing and playing the recorder, revolting cakes, and a magic disappearing trick that ends up with an escaped guinea pig. Will Maddy ever find her true calling?
Chitra Soundar
 & Amberin Huq
Sindhu and Jeet are the best detectives in town: they solve all their cases with a dollop of observation, a dash of imagination and a whole load of legwork. And when they travel from India to England for a holiday, the detective work doesn't stop! This page-turning story is accompanied by black-and-white illustrations by Amberin Huq.The Bloomsbury Readers series is packed with book-banded stories to get children reading independently in Key Stage 2 by award-winning authors like double Carnegie Medal winner Geraldine McCaughrean and Waterstones Prize winner Patrice Lawrence. With black-and-white illustrations and online guided reading notes written by the Centre for Literacy in Primary Education (CLPE), this series is ideal for home and school. For more information visit www.bloomsburyguidedreading.com.
Kelly Yang
 & Maike Plenzke
Chapter book

This is a deeply moving story that has left an impact long after reading it and is the first a highly recommended series. Inspired by the author’s own childhood, the story charts the experiences of a Chinese girl called Mia living in America with her parents, and explores the themes of immigration, prejudice, poverty, institutionalised racism and what it looks like to hold onto hope in turbulent times.

Having immigrated to California from China, Mia’s family run a motel. Life is hard work, money is short, the American people are unpredictable and the motel owner, Mr Yao, is not somebody to be crossed. Yet Mia observes life around her with heart and humour, seeing the best in people and following her parents’ lead to offer compassion and help in all circumstances. Full of concern for the plight of immigrants in America, Mia’s parents use the empty motel rooms as a place of refuge. The racial injustice and sheer cruelty that Mia witnesses in the treatment of fellow human beings is deeply unsettling. Throughout the story, Mia becomes a beacon of light for many, as she works to navigate the challenging circumstances around her with integrity and hope.

Mia’s account of the difficulties her family faces as immigrants in modern-day America is moving and powerful. Mia is a thoroughly likeable main character who shows courage, determination and kindness even in the most difficult of circumstances and – on top of all of life’s difficulties – never gives up on pursuing her own dreams and reaching for the stars.

This is a beautiful story that gently stirs the soul and is recommended for upper KS2.


Radiya Hafiza
 & Rhaida El Touny
Chapter book
Step into a Once Upon a Time where anything is possible . . . Radiya Hafiza's enchanting and funny debut weaves together three stories, spinning the classic fairytale to show that anyone can be a hero.'Rumaysa, Rumaysa, let down your hijab!'For as long as she can remember Rumaysa has been locked away in her tower, forced to spin straw into gold for the evil Witch, unable to leave. Until one day, after dropping a hijab out of her small tower-window, Rumaysa realizes how she might be able to escape . . .Join Rumaysa as she adventures through enchanted forests and into dragon's lairs, discovers her own incredible magical powers and teams up with Cinderayla and Sleeping Sara!Rumaysa: A Fairytale is a magically fresh, empowering and funny debut, which retells three classic fairytales - Rapunzel, Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty - with beautiful inside illustrations by Rhaida El Touny and cover illustration by Areeba Siddique.
Sangu Mandanna
Chapter book

To say I enjoyed this book would be an understatement. The story has a diverse cast of characters and pays tribute to the Hindu legends that inspired it. Full of fantasy, adventure and friendship, it is bound to be a winner in many classrooms.
Kiki has to be one of my favourite main characters that I have read recently. The descriptions of her anxieties and how it affects her life really will resonate with many children

Elizabeth Laird
Chapter book
This is the story of a young Ethiopian boy called Solomon, who has a passion for running. He dreams of becoming a medal-winning athlete. Little does he know that soon he will need to run with all his might in a race to save his grandfather's life. This inspiring story was shortlisted for the prestigious Carnegie Medal.

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