We know that books (along with roleplay) are the best way to show (and sometimes explain) the world to children.
Mummy is pregnant? Let’s read a book about it! Potty training? Let’s read a book about a bear growing out of nappies! Starting school? Let’s read “My first day at school”.
Books are a way for foreshadowing and introducing children to new situations and divulging problems to them or situations in a safe environment.
And while we often make an effort to look at some aspects of the books such as wording, vocabulary and drawings (let’s remember some of the drawings from our generation that were truly terrifying), we oftentimes don’t make enough of an effort to seek out books that will – casually – introduce children to everything else they may (or may not) encounter in life.
Think back to the books you read and owned, or take a look your children’s library: How many have children of different backgrounds? And talk about different clothing or hair styles? How many represent different types of families? How many mention foster care or similar arrangements? How many have a deaf or blind character and have someone using signs? How many show an accessible playground or a child with a disability?
Likely, not many. Depending on the book and the age of the child, it can be the topic of the book or not, but most stories don’t even include this type of diversity – unless you make an effort to look out for it. Because they do exist! It’s just about looking at books from a different angle and adjusting the topics as the children gets older. This way, you can introduce a lot through books, including non-fiction content, such as child-appropriate historic information.
Here are some examples of children’s books which include differences of all sorts, whilst not being the main focus of the book, simply weaving diversity into what the child is exposed to.
Hamish: The Bear who Found His Child, by Moira Munro
There are also books which make inclusion the main topic of their story rather than being “incidental inclusion”. Here are some examples of stories:
Stories can also be real. Include some stories about real people or historic events, which are available from the age of very young readers (usually from the age of 4 or 5) and choose books you are interested in discussing with your child, such as Malala Yousafzai, the world’s youngest Nobel Prize laureate, by Lisa Williamson or maybe When Grandma Burnt Her Bra, by Samantha Tidy, which talks about feminism and women’s rights.