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To say I’m obsessed with books, particularly children’s literature, would be the understatement of the century. As my 5-year-old says (because I’ve repeated the phrase so often to him that it’s basically drilled into his head), “Books can take you anywhere.” Books are truly the number one tool in my parenting arsenal – there is a book to help you start a conversation with your kids regarding almost every subject you can think of. And, with the recent push for more diverse children’s literature, newer books are touching on important and relevant topics in the gorgeous, accessible, and heart-warming way only books can.
Books have the potential to open our children’s eyes, minds, and hearts – they can dive into worlds unbeknownst to them and uncover wonders of life around them. They can begin to see and understand and empathize with lives and cultures and struggles different from their own. They can learn important lessons about inclusion, kindness, and what it means to be a good person. Books can broaden not only our children’s views but their ambition, too.
Of course, for kids, books are only as impactful as the conversation that surrounds it. As your children get older, be sure to guide their thoughts alongside the books you read by asking poignant questions, waiting for their answers, and encouraging them to grow their own thoughts. Open-ended questions like, “How do you think she is feeling?” and “What do you think he should do?” will allow your children to strengthen their critical thinking skills and build those empathy muscles. When reading non-fiction, ask things like, “What’s the most interesting thing you learned on this page?” and “What does ____ mean?” or “Can you explain ___ to me?”
This list includes 24 beautiful children’s books, many of which fly under the popular-books radar. Any of these would be a lovely and meaningful gift for the little ones in your life.
In the beginning, there were three colors – Red, Blue, and Yellow. There was harmony, until a Red decided that Reds are the best. How will the other colors respond and overcome this situation?
This lyrical picture book reminds us that the world we live in is full of wonder and delight, should we only look around.
Barack Obama pens this tender letter to his daughters highlighting the work of 13 groundbreaking Americans – it truly makes one proud to be from this country.
Matt de la Pena
It's Carmela's birthday, and all she wants is to tour her precious neighborhood with her older brother. Through her eyes, we see the value of home and family and are reminded that big dreams are possible with the love and support of those around us.
This sweet picture book is based on the simple concept of treehouses and all the worlds an open structure and a little imagination can make.
When the local pet club won't let a little boy's pet elephant in, he and some pals with "misfit" pets make their own club, first with their own rules – "no strangers, no spoilsports" – but then open to all.
Stephanie Roth Sisson
"We are made of starstuff" is one of the most beautiful quotes from scientist Carl Sagan, and now this picture books takes children through his journey from dreamer to doer, inspiring them to chase their own dreams.
As a self-proclaimed trivia nerd, this compendium is such a chic and fun way to introduce your children to some of the magnificent creatures with whom we share this planet.
A Caldecott winner, this moving story follows the story of a father and son fishing trip, where generational and cultural differences are explored with love and curiosity.
Ryan T. Higgins
In this adorable twist on a classic story, Bruce the bear accidentally becomes the "mother" to a group of goslings – will he learn to love them? Or make them head south?
Another book that celebrates the moving moments from our nation's history – an ode to America, now and then, inspiring dreams of a great future.
Elmore is just trying to make friends, but since he's a porcupine, he can be a bit hard to get close to. But for those who really want to be his friend, nothing will get in their way.
Matt de la Pena
A beautiful, poetic rendering of where we can find love in the world (hint: it's everywhere).
When Juno stumbles across a room full of magical shoes, she's swept away into the shoes of some of the most famous women in history! Follow her journey as she lives the lives of other women before ultimately deciding her shoes and her life are her favorite yet.
Life is rich and multi-faceted – something we know as parents and adults, but an abstract concept kids have yet to really understand. This gorgeous picture book introduces kids to all themes of life – the good, the bad, the hard, the joyful. It's a great reminder for us, too, that all of these moments make life the great and worthwhile adventure it is.
Man, don't we all know how scary it is to face your fears head-on! Jabari wants to jump off the diving board, but every time he gets up there, he remembers that he has to stretch first or do some practice breath-holding. It's comical and all too accurate.
Bunny and Dog really really really want to be friends, but spend this lovely picture book working up the courage to ask that big question: "Will you be my friend?"
This story starts oddly, when our hero, The Mouse, gets eaten by The Wolf! Never fear, it's actually quite nice in there, and Mouse makes friends – how will they all come together when a hunter shows up to harm the Wolf?
A newly-imagined epilogue to the beloved children's tale, this tale follows Humpty after the fall, now terrified of heights. He'll teach your kiddos how to overcome fears, even if they're well-earned.
A real-life story about Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, this book shows the power of putting hard work behind your dreams and breaking down obstacles to change the world.
Learn about the importance of ecosystems and how each creature – from the massive tree to the tiny insect – is imperative to making the beauty of the rainforest flourish.
Liam just wants the world to be green and beautiful, and so he revives a struggling garden he finds. Full of important environmental themes and sweet images.
A not-so-subtle tale about what constant deprivation of our planet for monetary gain will do to our lives and our souls – but in a fun, relatable, poignant way!
This book shows readers a window into the lives of children all around the world which, in turns, holds up a mirror the similarities we all have, even across the globe.