Our Family's Diverse Book Shelf

When my husband and I decided that we were ready to become parents, I had one rule: Neither of us would bring any "kid stuff" or child-related things into our home until there was, physically, a child there.

My spouse, Jason, thrives on logistics. He works in a synagogue and likes to plan, process, and organize.  I really wanted to spend time learning, examining, and thinking about the types of books, toys, and other objects we'd bring into our home for our future child. When I put my educator hat on, I wanted my own kid to see him or herself reflected in what they found and played with -- in the same way that I want children in a classroom environment to feel that. 

Related: Jewish Books Featuring Diverse Families and Friendships

As we moved through the adoption process, it became clearer to me that my classroom bookshelf and wishlist for home weren't as diverse as they could be. Things progressed and Jason and I knew that our child would likely not be white like we are. So I turned to resources like EmbraceRace and Diverse BookFinder and spoke to experts at libraries focused on supporting BIPOC (Black and Brown, Indigenous and People of Color) families and took courses about "what makes something a good children's book" from these same experts.

an empty child's room

A few months later, we did indeed welcome our perfect newborn son, Isaac Ray. That first night home, my cousin ran to get bottles, blankets, and diapers. Jason focused on going through the hand-me-downs that had been left at our door. In the meantime, I did what I had been waiting to do: I started ordering books!

Isaac will be five in a few months and Jason and I continue to learn, research, and build our family library. For every book we bring home about Black history or the ongoing fight against racism, we also feature books that include a BIPOC child as the central character of the story or a heroic person to aspire to. Here are a few of our favorites:  

Related: Resources For Talking With Children About Race and Racism

Antlers With Candles by Chris Barash

Everything looks new when seen from a child’s perspective, including menorahs, dreidels, and latkes. But family togetherness is something everyone understands. **This is Isaac's favorite book right now.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut book cover

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

The author describes Crown as "a poem about self affirmation and how the world may not see your brilliance, or your beauty, but you do, and everyone around you that loves you can definitely see it, recognize it."

Dreamers Yuyi Morales book cover

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Yuyi Morales brought her hopes, her passion, her strength, and her stories with her, when she came to the United States in 1994 with her infant son. She left behind nearly everything she owned, but she didn’t come empty-handed.

Gary and the Great Inventors

Gary and the Great Inventors by Akura Marshall

Gary loves to learn about amazing inventions through history. Join him as he explores the story of Thomas Jennings.

Hey Black Child by Useni Eugene Perkins

Illustrator Bryan Collier revives this incredible classic poem from the Harlem Renaissance in an updated book for children.

Jabari Jumps book cover

Jabari Jumps by Gaia Cornwall

Working up the courage to take a big, important, leap is hard, but Jabari is almost absolutely ready to make a splash. 

Love Is book cover

Love Is by Diane Adams

In this tenderly funny book, girl and duckling grow in their understanding of what it is to care for each other, discovering that love is as much about letting go as it is about holding tight. Description from Goodreads.

Max and the Tag-Along Moon book cover

Max and the Tag-Along Moon  by Floyd Cooper

Max loves his grandfather. When they must say good-bye after a visit, Grandpa reminds Max that the moon above them at Grandpa's house is the same moon that will follow him all the way home. And on that swervy-curvy car ride back home Max smiles as the moon tags along, thinking of Grandpa.. Summary from Google Books.

Skin Again book cover

Skin Again by bell hooks

Celebrating all that makes us unique and different, Skin Again offers ways for parents and children to talk about race and identity.

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez

Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty

Every morning, Abuelo walks Sofia to school... until one day, when Abuelo hurts his ankle at a local landfill and he can no longer do so. Sofia misses her Abuelo and wonders what she can do about the dangerous Mount Trashmore. Then she gets an idea: the town can turn the slimy mess into a park! She brainstorms and plans and finally works up the courage to go to City Hall — only to be told by a clerk that she can't build a park because she's just a kid! Sofia is down but not out, and she sets out to prove what one kid can do..

Riley Can Be Anything book cover

Riley Can Be Anything by Davina Hamilton

With the help of his big cousin Joe, Riley is taken on a series of imaginative journeys that allow him to realise he can be anything he wants to be.

We March book cover

We March by Shane W. Evans

We March was one of Kirkus Reviews' Best Children's Books of 2012, and is an important story about the African American civil rights movement. 

At the end of the day, when Jason hops into Isaac’s bed to read him a story (or two!) as part of our nightly routine as a family, I know that through some bit of thought and guidance from true experts, Isaac is getting exposed to books that encourage him to reach for the stars.


7 Books for Babies and Toddlers That Celebrate Diversity
We're a Multiracial Jewish Family; We Don't Have the Answers, But Here's a Place to Start via URJ
Jewish Books Featuring Diverse Families and Friendships

About the Author

Aliza Plotkin is a Houston PJ Library parent committee members, national board member of the National Council of Jewish Women, and Passionate Jewish communal Early childhood educator. She lives in Houston Texas with her husband Jason and 4 year old son Isaac