Must-Read Diverse Board Books

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Jaime Herndon


Jaime Herndon finished her MFA in nonfiction writing at Columbia, after leaving a life of psychosocial oncology and maternal-child health work. She is a writer, editor, and book reviewer who drinks way too much coffee. She is a new-ish mom, so the coffee comes in extra handy. Twitter: @IvyTarHeelJaime

I am a huge fan of board books — and so is my 5-year-old. While this may surprise you, don’t let the board book format throw you off: they’re not just for newborns and babies. Many board books are surprisingly detailed and advanced, perfect for older toddlers, preschoolers, and even kindergartners.

I like that they’re sturdier, easy to throw in a bag or wipe off, and less expensive than picture books. Picture books are wonderful, but much harder to bring with you if you’re going out and need some distractions for your child — and if your child is like mine and loves to wear their backpack places, they’re unwieldy for your kid to handle. But not so with board books!

On our weekly library trips, our bags are often filled with a mix of picture books and board books that my son has chosen. Now that he’s starting to read independently, even the simpler board books are great because he can read them by himself, gaining confidence and reinforcing a love of reading.

A diverse library is important to us, and not just in regards to race and ethnicity. Having disability representation is important to me, as well as different kinds of families, LGBTQIA+ rep, and religious diversity. Here’s a list of wonderfully diverse board books to add to your collection. This list contains diverse board books to kickstart your reading. It’s not a comprehensive list, but many of these are beloved titles of ours.

Cool Cuts cover

Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe

This beautiful board book of Black boys with all different hairstyles is a celebration of hair and happiness. It’s a fun book to read that also has positive, affirming words with each picture, making it a perfect book for starting the day off.

My Heart Fills With Happiness by Monique Gray Smith and Julie Flett

Written to support the health and wellness of Indigenous families, this board book written in English and Anishinaabemowin, or Ojibwe, encourages readers to look at the small things in life that make them happy. It’s such a great book that’s just the thing for starting the day off right.

Pink is for Boys cover

Pink Is For Boys by Robb Pearlman and Eda Kaban

This is the board book version of the picture book, which is great because kids are never too young to learn that colors are for everyone. The story breaks down the ideas of the gender binary with colors, showing that kids can wear what they want and play what they want, no matter what gender they are.

Curls by Ruth Forman and Geneva Bowers

This lyrical board book is perfect for celebrating hair. While the text itself is a bit light, the illustrations are vibrant and beautiful, and children (and adults!) will love looking at the pictures.

Baby Young, Gifted, and Black by Jamia Wilson and Andrea Pippins

The board book version of Young, Gifted, and Black, this is a gorgeous introduction to various Black leaders and history-makers, including Stevie Wonder, the Obamas, and Nina Simone. Paired with affirmations, this is a good book for starting conversations with kids — and at the end, they can see themselves in the mirror on the last page.

Pride Colors cover

Pride Colors by Robin Stevenson

In this board book, rhymes are paired with pictures that illustrate relationships between children and caregivers, while also explaining what each color in the pride flag means. Not only does it teach the colors, but the underlying messages of the book are beautiful and necessary things for children to know.

Dim Sum for Everyone! by Grace Lin

When a Chinese American family goes for dim sum, readers learn all about their experience. We read about what they order, how the dishes are brought out, and it’s illustrated by Lin’s simple but vibrant drawings. To further teach about dim sum, there’s an author’s note at the end with more information about it.

Little Feminists on-the-go cover

We Are Little Feminists: On-The-Go by Brook Sitgraves Turner and Archaa Shrivastav

Board books with good disability rep can be far and few between, but this book gets it right. The book is filled with pictures of disabled children using their mobility aids like service dogs, prosthetics, walkers, and more, to move and go places. The text is fun and lyrical with simple words to complement the pictures. This is a wonderfully inclusive addition to any child’s library.

Counting on Community by Innosanto Nagara

If you’ve read his other board book, A is for Activist, this is a great follow-up that focuses on numbers from one to ten. With illustrations capturing vibrant diversity, the book is a love letter to communities and the power to effect change.

Pride 123 by Michael Joosten and Wednesday Holmes

This is a fun board book that also focuses on counting and numbers. A variety of families are portrayed in these bright illustrations while the text talks about love, Pride parades, and community. Perfect to kick off your June (or any time!).

Baby Loves Five Senses: Hearing cover

Baby Loves the Five Senses: Hearing by Ruth Spiro and Irene Chan

This is a fun and informative book about sound and hearing, but it also has pictures of babies with hearing aids and cochlear implants. This is really important because this representation is hard to find, especially in board books. There’s also sign language in the book, and all of these are defined. It’s an inclusive, diverse book about hearing that kids will read again and again.

Follow Your Dreams, Little One by Vashti Harrison

Vashti Harrison’s art is always a treat, and her board books are great. This one looks at Black men throughout history, including Arthur Ashe, James Baldwin, and John Lewis. It’s a great way to introduce even the littlest ones to notable figures and they’ll love the illustrations.

Buen Shabat, Shabbat Shalom book cover

Buen Shabat, Shabbat Shalom by Sarah Aroeste & Ayesha L. Rubio

When Jewish families are represented in books, it’s usually Ashkenazi (Central European). Which is why it’s so great to see a Sephardic family preparing for the Sabbath, complete with Ladino terms on each page.

Our Skin: A First Conversation About Race by Megan Madison, Jessica Ralli, & Isabel Roxas

This is a great board book about race told in an age-appropriate, easy-to-understand way for little kids. Clear, straightforward language, colorful illustrations, and a perfect way to get the conversation started. If you like this one, there’s also a book in the series about gender called Being You: A First Conversation About Gender.

Besos for Baby by Jen Arena and Blanca Gomez

Kids will love this board book that uses basic Spanish words to tell the story of how much everyone loves Baby. With fun pictures and a cute storyline, this is a book that will have everyone giving kisses (besos).

An ABC of Equality cover

An ABC of Equality by Chana Ginelle Ewing and Paulina Morgan

This amazing board book not only has a wealth of diversity in its illustrations, but also in its text. It touches on xenophobia, LGBTQIA+ rights, inclusion, gender, and much more. The illustrations have multiple forms of representation, and the book is a good resource to start discussions.

Holi Colors by Rina Singh

Holi is a festival of love, celebrating the end of winter and good over evil, and this board book captures all of this. The photographs will capture your child’s attention, and the rhyming text teaches about the colors and the experience of the holiday.

Maya Angelou: My First Maya Angelou by Lisbeth Kaiser & Leire Salaberria

The Little People, Big Dreams picture books are great and this is a board book version of the Maya Angelou biography. It’s a small board book, perfect for taking on-the-go and the story is perfect to read to young children and toddlers. It packs a lot of information in a tiny format, and the illustrations are detailed and colorful to draw children in.

Sweetest Kulu cover

Sweetest Kulu by Celina Kalluk & Alexandria Neonakis

Kalluk, an Inuit throat singer, has penned this board book of a calming bedtime poem perfect for ending the day. It describes all of the blessings animals bring to a new baby. The calming colors and the lyrical text are a great combination.

Little Heroes of Color: 50 Who Made a BIG Difference by David Heredia

This board book is jam-packed full of important heroes of color, like Sonia Sotomayor, Bessie Coleman, Oscar de la Renta, and Sitting Bull. This is a great way to introduce kids to various notable historical figures: the vibrant colors and illustrations will pique their interest and the short bio is just the thing for their age. It even works for older kids to spark their interest to google about the people later.

Which one will you read first?

If you’re looking for more and wondering what makes a good board book, check out this post, and if you want even more great board book suggestions, this list is great.