Same and Different: Picture books that celebrate diversity and help children develop their concept of self

Posted on 09/29/18 by Amanda in Early Childhood


From a very young age, children know about themselves. For many kids, their name is one of the first words they recognize. Over time, that name turns into pronouns (me, mine). With that progress, children begin to understand that there are other people that exist in their world (mom, dad, brother…). The preschool years bring a new awakening as children begin to socialize with peers and see things that are similar and different from their own experiences. Things like -- My friend and I both like trains. Some girls have short hair, some boys have long hair. My skin is brown, hers is black. I live in a house, too. You are a boy, I am a girl.

Picture books are a great way of illustrating these similarities and differences, as well as promoting discussion about these topics.

  • All Kinds of Children - written by Norma Simon, illustrated by Diane Paterson

This book is busily illustrated to include kids and grown-ups of all cultures and races doing a similar thing differently, like going home, playing outside, and interacting with family members. It encompasses the parts of the life that are recognizable to kids and helps them to expand their worldview. The book also serves as a good group time read to help kids pick out similarities and differences in each other.

  • The Family Book – written and illustrated by Todd Parr

“The Family Book” is a good way of introducing preferences and many family types to young children. Parr focuses on what families can look like and the things they do. Highlights include the types of food they eat, who they live with, and the size of each family. The depicted families aren’t all different, though. They all like to hug and help each other be strong!

  • Say Hello! – written and illustrated by Rachel Isadora

A visually stunning book that showcases the many languages that can be spoken in one neighborhood! Kids are always excited to repeat the different greetings. It’s especially resonant for friends in the class to share their own home languages. Practicing other languages is challenging, and encourages kids to broaden their worldview a little bit every day.

  • Yoko – written and illustrated by Rosemary Wells

Yoko brings her favorite Japanese food to school and is sad that her friends laugh at her food. On an international food day, Yoko learns to be proud of her culture’s food and try new things too! This is a great story to encourage tolerance and open-mindedness, while also introducing some new foods. People all over the world eat different foods, let it be a topic of conversation at your mealtimes too.

  • I Love Saturdays y Domingos – written by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Elivia Savadier

A charming bilingual story that highlights the differences even within one family! The main character in the story visits two sets of grandparents each weekend, with different languages, activities, and customs throughout. Many families are from different heritages and ethnicities. Celebrate the differences; it’s what makes your family special!

Other amazing books that celebrate individuality, community, and diversity:

-Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut, written by Derrick Barnes, illustrated by Gordon C. James - A picture book for older children that showcases the pride that comes from choosing how to present yourself to the world, here in a fresh cut from the barbershop. The author and illustrator will be featured in a special event during 2018 Cleveland Book Week, presented by the Cleveland Foundation.

-It’s Okay to be Different, written and illustrated by Todd Parr - Another Todd Parr story that uses funny illustrations to highlight the big and little differences in all of us, and they’re all okay.

-Same, Same but Different, written and illustrated by Jenny Sue Kostecki-Shaw – Two boys become pen pals through a school project. One in India, the other in America, they learn that many aspects of their lives differ, but they value all the same things.

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