10 Diverse Children’s Books for Your Library Storytime

As storytime practitioners, we strive to constantly innovate our programs. When you have weekly or frequent storytimes, it can often feel like you’re stuck in a rut of the same old books and the same old themes. One of the most important ways we can keep library storytime engaging and relevant is to feature diverse books by diverse authors.

When you think of the We Need Diverse Books campaign, you might primarily think about collection development or how it relates to older kids. But storytime practitioners can also take diverse books and put them into action in our storytimes, promoting them to families and kids in a direct and engaging way.

Sharing diverse books at storytimes is a great way to integrate them in your daily work and make sure you’re not just thinking of them as the books you take out at certain times of the year, such as Black History Month. It’s also a way to make patrons feel more welcome and seen at the library, which is a goal all librarians should be striving for.

Here are 10 great diverse books I’ve shared with great success in my storytimes. (You’ll notice that I didn’t include any 2017 titles on the list, as I’m currently serving on the 2018 Newbery Committee.)

1. Mission to Space by John Herrington

(White Dog Press, 2016. ISBN: 1935684477)

This title, written by Chickasaw astronaut Herrington, is perfect for STEM storytimes. With short, engaging sentences and great photographs, it introduces readers to the basics of space travel. Herrington shares the ways he took his heritage with him into space and how his whole tribe celebrated his journey as he became the first enrolled member of a Native tribe to fly in space.

2. How Do You Say/¿Cómo se dice? by Angela Dominguez

(Holt Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN: 9781627794961)

Two giraffes meet over a delicious tree and engage in a fun bilingual conversation as they get to know each other. This is a great storytime book for having children interact with simple Spanish words as they watch two strangers who speak different languages become friends.

3. Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez

(Holiday House, 2016. ISBN: 0823435652)

A young boy loses Bongo, his beloved stuffed animal, and searches high and low for him, asking everyone in the house for help. Even after our African-Latinx lead has found Bongo, mysteries remain. Kids love following the hunt for Bongo and jump with delight when our main character solves the mystery.

4. Lullaby (For a Black Mother) by Langston Hughes, illustrated by Sean Qualls.

(HMH Books for Young Readers, 2013. ISBN: 9780547362656)

Qualls’s illustrations of the loving mother/child relationship bring Hughes’s short, evocative lullaby to life as readers follow the nighttime journey of a mother singing and kissing her beloved baby to sleep. This poem, a classic from Hughes, becomes perfect for cuddly, dreamy storytimes thanks to Qualls’s illustrations.

5. Cat on the Bus by Aram Kim

(Holiday House, 2016. ISBN: 9780823436477)

In this almost wordless picture book, a lonely cat wanders a city, trying to find some kindness. The cat finally finds a home with an Asian grandfather. This beautifully illustrated story is a great book for encouraging kids to narrate and predict the text along with you as they watch the cat search for someone to love.

6. Call Me Tree/ Llamame arbol by Maya Christina Gonzalez

(Children’s Book Press, 2014. ISBN: 9780892392940)

If you want a storytime full of action and movement, Gonzalez’s title about a young protagonist who imagines being a tree is a great choice. Short, descriptive sentences in English and Spanish guide children through the movements and the wonder of nature. Don’t miss Gonzalez’s note to readers about the main character.

7. City Shapes by Diana Murray, illustrated by Bryan Collier

(Little Brown Books for Young Readers, 2016. ISBN: 9780316370929)

Masterful illustrator Collier brings kids into the heart of a city for this shape book, which will have readers searching high and low for the shapes that make up city life. From manhole covers to pretzel carts, there are endless details for storytime crowds to savor as a little girl explores her city through shapes.

8. Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk, illustrated by Alexandria Neonakis

(Inhabit Media, 2014. ISBN: 9781927095775. Also available as a board book, ISBN: 9781772271119)

Throat singer Kalluk brings storytime children to the Arctic in this welcome song for a baby. Children join Arctic animals and even nature as they welcome Kulu (an Inuktitut term of endearment) into a loving family. This is a fun addition to the familiar staples of animal and baby storytimes.

9. The Flower Girl Wore Celery by Meryl G. Gordon, illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown

(Kar-Ben Publishing, 2016. ISBN: 9781467778442)

Emma can’t wait to be a flower girl in her cousin Hannah’s wedding. But she’s not too sure about walking down the aisle with the ring bearer in a celery dress. Due to the length of the text and wordplay, this book is best suited for older storytime audiences (ages 4–7) who are sure to be amused. The culmination of the story is a big, beautiful, Jewish, lesbian wedding sure to charm listeners.

10. The Wheels on the Tuk Tuk by Kabir Sehgal and Surishtha Sehgal, illustrated by Jess Golden

(Beach Lane Books, 2016. ISBN: 9781481448314)

Listeners may know a song about the wheels on a bus, but the familiar refrain is modified in this title to treat storytime crowds to the sights and sounds of a trip on an Indian tuk tuk, a three-wheeled taxi. From delicious food to a silly cow in the road, this new take on a well-known song is sure to have your crowds bouncing along.

Author

Angie Manfredi

Angie Manfredi

Head of Youth Services at Los Alamos County Library System
Angie Manfredi is the Head of Youth Services for the Los Alamos County Library System (NM). She is a passionate advocate for diversity, literacy and children’s right to read whatever they wish. She is currently serving on the 2018 Newbery Committee. You can follow her on Twitter @misskubelik or her blog.