Booklist: Diverse children's books for Years 5 and 6 - Ages 9-11
Reading Recommendations for
We have selected a list of recommended diverse and inclusive books for children in Year 5 and Year 6 (ages 9-11), which feature characters that are traditionally under-represented in middle-grade children's books.
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About our selection of Diverse & Inclusive books for Year 5 and 6
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 10% of children's books published in 2019 featured ethnic minority characters, so we've included on this list books with BAME main characters like Sharna Jackson's urban whodunnit High Rise Mystery or Zanib Mian's humorous tale with cartoon-style illustraions, Planet Omar. We've also included books that give insights into underrepresented cultures, like the joyful British-Bengali wedding planning in Burhana Islam's Mayhem Mission or the larger-than-life escapades of Lexie's London-based Greek-Cypriot family in What Lexie Did. For more recommendations, 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, try Lightning Chase Me Home, with a dyslexic main character, or Jo Cotterill's A Storm of Strawberries, featuring a 12-year-old girl with Down's syndrome.
Physical disabilities 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 Joe's New World from Maria Farrer's Me and Mister P series - this particular story features a wheelchair user as the main character, but the whole series is highly recommendable for different types of representation. 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-blindess). For characters with hearing loss, we recommend Samantha Baines' own-voices story Harriet Versus the Galaxy or Cece Bell's graphic novel El Deafo. We've also included on this list books featuring a range of medical conditions, from the troubling childhood eczema in Ella on the Outside to Malorie Blackman's portayal of sickle-cell anaemia in A Dangerous Game.
Finally, we have included in our collection books that portray different types of family life, from adoption and fostering in The Perfect Parent Project and Just Call Me Spaghetti Hoop Boy to parent mental health concerns and same-sex parenting in The Incredible Record Smashers 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.
If you are looking for more Year 5 and Year 6 recommendations, be sure to check out our Reading for Pleasure booklists.