Multicultural Starting School Books for Kids

by myskylist
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It’s almost time to go back to school and starting a new school can be fraught with anxiety. I thought I would do a round up of starting Kindergarten and/or Preschool books with a multicultural slant. These are 10 Multicultural Starting School Books for Kids that I found. I choose them because either the story is multicultural, the author is a person of color, or the illustrations showed racial diversity. 

Do you have a favorite that I missed? Please help me build this list and add it as a comment. Thank you!

Top 10 Back to School Diversity Picture Books

10. This Is the Way We Go to School: A Book About Children Around the World by Edith Baer

All around the world, children go to school by different means including walking, skating, school bus, ferry, trolley car, and helicopter. This rhyming picture book explores both the United States and the world beyond including Italy, Egypt, Norway, China, Israel, Switzerland, Kenya, Australia, India, Mexico, and Siberia.

9. Mama Don’t Go by Rosemary Wells

The characters in Yoko and Friends are all animals and Rosemary Wells makes it clear that Yoko is both Japanese and a cat! Yoko has separation anxiety on her first day of school and doesn’t want her mother to leave. Luckily, Yoko’s new friend helps her understand that moms will always return!

8. First Day of School by Anne Rockwell, illustrated by Lizzy Rockwell

Rockwell’s Mrs. Madoff’s class series are beloved classics. In this book, the kids in her classroom gear up for the first day of school doing things like getting haircuts and learning to pack their own lunch. Mrs. Madoff’s class has racial diversity and friendships that are color blind.

7. Kindergarten Kids: Riddles, Rebuses, Wiggles, Giggles, and More! by Stephanie Calmenson and Melissa Sweet

Poems and riddles take kids through the routines of a typical Kindergarten day and Melissa Sweet’s lovely multicultural illustrations show kids of all races.

6. This School Year Will Be the Best by Kay Winters

On the first day of school, students are asked what their hopes are for the upcoming year and it’s quite a varied list. By the end of the year, the students hold up their pictures as they agree, the school year was the best! Perhaps your child will draw a picture on his (or her first )day of school to express his hopes and dreams for the coming year!

5. Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis

Annalina shares via her diary her experiences as she transitions into her first month of Kindergarten. She’s list most preschoolers; she likes preschool and is not sure about Kindergarten. I especially like the charming illustrations which include children of all races.

4. Mom, It’s My First Day of Kindergarten by Hyewon Yum

Is it true that parents can be more anxious than their kids about starting a new school? Yes! And the anxiety goes back and forth between mother and son on the first day of school as portrayed by Yum’s use of color and size. The anxious party is smaller with a bluish tinge. This picture book acknowledges the fears that both parents and children have about starting school in a charming and engaging way.

3.  I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien

This multicultural starting school book shows three children from different countries starting over in America where they have to learn a new language and make new friends. Add this diversity picture book to your pile to read to kids as they return to school. It will help them develop empathy for their peers.

2. The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

Unhei is Korean and is the new kid at school. On the school bus, she gets teased about her name so she decides to choose a new American name for herself by pulling suggestions from a glass jar. Her new friends help with the selection but when one of them discovers the meaning of her Korean name, Unhei decides to keep her original name. 

1. Sumi’s First Day of School Ever by Soyung Pak

Imagine starting Kindergarten without knowing a single word of English?! Sumi is Korean and she only knows a single phrase of English, “Hello, my name is Sumi.” Despite the language barrier, Sumi makes a friend on her very first day of school ever! Pair this with Danbi Leads the School Parade!

Danbi Leads the School Parade by Anna Kim

This is a heartwarming story of a little girl who has immigrated from Korea and starts her first day of school. She feels out of place until lunchtime when she breaks out her beautiful stacked lunch box. Her favorite Korean dishes are well received by her classmates. Danbi, in attempting to share her food, inadvertently starts a parade. Her first day of school is a big success!


Reader Recommendations for Diversity Back to School Books for Kids

Thank you to @DianaBarefoot on Twitter for great recommendation: Check out Ruby’s School Walk.  It’s my favorite K back to school book.

Ruby’s School Walk by Kathryn White

Thank you to Natalie Dias Lorenzi, a children’s book author and librarian for her great book suggestions. She says, “Two others you could add are Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein, and The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery. If you look inside at the cast of characters in these classrooms, they’re happily multicultural, and the stories are both adorable.

Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? by Audrey Vernick, illustrated by Daniel Jennewein

Your buffalo is growing up. He plays with friends. He shares his toys. He’s smart! But is he ready for kindergarten? (And is kindergarten ready for him?)

Is Your Buffalo Ready for Kindergarten? is a hilarious look at first-day-of-school jitters from author Audrey Vernick and illustrator Daniel Jennewein.

The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery

When a class leaves for recess, their just-baked Gingerbread Man is left behind. But he’s a smart cookie and heads out to find them. He’ll run, slide, skip, and (after a mishap with a soccer ball) limp as fast as he can because: “I can catch them! I’m their Gingerbread Man!”

With help from the gym teacher, the nurse, the art teacher, and even the principal, a deliciously sweet ending is served up for both the Gingerbread Man and the children who made him.

 Teachers often use the Gingerbread Man story to introduce new students to the geography and staff of schools, and this fresh, funny twist on the original can be used all year long. Includes a poster with fun activities!

p.s. Here’s one more funny Starting School picture book!

First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg, illustrated by Judy Love

A back-to-school picture book with a hilarious twist. Teachers too, have first day of school anxiety. This is a fun book to read to children starting school for the first time, whether it’s preschool, kindergarten, or a new school. I appreciate how her classroom has a sea of diverse faces!

p.s. Related posts:

Top 10: Starting School Books

New Back to School Picture Books GIVEAWAY!

Getting Kids Ready for Kindergarten

Starting Kindergarten Picture Book of the Day

Kindergarten Readiness FREE Printable Book: My Book About Me

Top 10: Best Quirky Schools in Children’s Books

Connecting Reading with Writing in Kindergarten

Invented Spelling Necessary for Learning to Read: Froshus Dobrmn Pensr

Head Back to School with These Three Fun Fundraising Ideas

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My books:

BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.

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