Baby's First Diverse & Inclusive Books -- It's Never Too Early!

A baby’s first year has so many different development stages. It’s arguably the most important year of anyone’s life. Getting the proper nutrition, helping a baby develop strong core muscles, as well as legs, arms, and grip, and your baby saying their first words. But what about teaching your baby about diversity and inclusion? I know--you're probably thinking, “This is insane. Why and how would I do that?” Well, here’s why.

Humans create bias at as young as 6 months old. This happens partially because there is a lack of diversity in babies’ lives in the first year. Babies are naturally more accepting of people of their same race. This is just the starting point, but think about how diverse your neighborhood is or your child’s school. Now, I’m not here to tell you to move out of your neighborhood or make random rainbow connections just so your child can have a rich multicultural experience. Instead, you can foster these ideals in your home while bonding with your baby through books!

When picking out your baby's first books people usually go for what they know, or the popular classics. But why not mix it up with fun, light-hearted stories of people that don’t look quite like you?

Babies start seeing color around 2 months old. A great classic book to have on your shelf is “The Snowy Day” by Ezra Jack Keats, written in 1962. This book comes in board book form and also as a picture book. Keats once stated “My book would have him there simply because he should have been there all along.”

A simple story of a boy playing in the snow--who just happens to have brown skin.

Another great board book that explores differences while teaching counting is “Two Long Ears”. If your little one has ever been bewildered when seeing someone with body art or piercing, this is a terrific introduction to normalizing the differences that we all have, inside and out. It’s simple, yet brilliant; its board book format helps normalize tattoos and body modifications for toddlers, in the way they might learn counting or shapes. Art educator and painter Jacob A. Boehne makes an impactful debut here. Each page highlights his versatile talents on both canvas and skin, with striking colors and bold text. It's a unique and original addition to any board book collection!

You can learn about playing in the backyard with mom and dad in one of my favorite board books, “Hello Garden”. It will stoke children’s imagination and curiosity, and encourage them to explore their own gardens. The calming, simple, yet poetic writing style fits beautifully with illustrator Rose Soini’s soft yet vibrant artwork. There are diverse and inclusive characters, subtly showing us an interracial family just enjoying a warm sunny day in a lush landscape. “Hello Garden” will surely become a favorite to read to your little green thumb.

Teaching your child kindness is so important, which is why I love this picture book called “I Am a Kindness Hero”. One of the most valuable lessons a child can learn from a children’s book is to be kind to others. When they read this book, kids can learn various ways to be kind to the world around them, and the personal reward in doing so. It talks about not only being kind to each other as human beings, but also to take care of animals, insects, and plants--all living things.

Language inclusiveness is just as important as cultural or physical diversity. A perfect book that’s simple (and very cute) is “One Black Cat” by Faiza Furqan Nguyun. This short bilingual (Urdu/English) board book is sure to capture your little one’s interest in books and expose them to the sounds of familiar as well as unfamiliar languages. It will also give loved ones an opportunity to discuss having a daily routine with the young reader. This book is written and illustrated to foster a mindset that is more accepting of a diverse society through exposure to various languages at an early age.

Your child’s bookshelf should reflect the world around you, both near and far away. That will give your baby a head start with all the goodness, happiness and joy that starts off in life and sharing these feelings with others as they mature.

Monique Dupree (Nanny Miss Monique) is a social media influencer in the childcare industry. She is a career nanny and an advocate for early literacy, as well as diversity and inclusion in everyday children's fiction. She reaches a large audience of parents and childcare professionals through her weekly story times and interviews with publishers, authors, and illustrators. She resides happily in Chicago with her husband and daughter.

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