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 Diverse Back-to-School 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. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
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. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
5. Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis
Annalina shares via her diary her experiences as she transitions into her first month of Kindergarten. She, like most preschoolers, is not sure about Kindergarten. I especially like the charming illustrations which include children of all races. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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. [picture book, ages 5 and up]
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. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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 in 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! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
More Great Starting School Picture Books
Gibberish by Young Vo
Dat is starting school for the first time in a new country and he doesn’t understand the language spoken here. Everything he hears sounds like gibberish. Luckily, he makes a new friend, and the little girl helps him unravel the sounds into words. As he learns English, she morphs from a cartoon figure to his friend Julie. Pair this with Sumi’s First Day of School Ever! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
Mina Belongs Here by Sandra Niebuhr, illustrated by Lars Baus
When Mina peeks into her new Kindergarten class in a new country with a new language, everything is in black and white. She only understands her own name, but to her mom in her own language, she talks and talks about her first day of school including making a new friend. As the days go on, Mina understands more and more words, and her world turns to color… and she feels like she belongs. This is a gentle story of immigration and the kindness Mina finds in her classroom. [picture book, ages 4 and up]
My First Day by Phung Nguyen Quang and Huynh Kim Lien
Children get to school in a myriad of ways. This is the story of An, a young Vietnamese boy whose first day of school requires him to traverse a great distance through the Mekong River. It’s a scary adventure but it’s worth it! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
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! [picture book, ages 4 and up]
We’re Going to School by Tammi Salzano, illustrated by Morena Forza
This picture book has an inclusive “Richard Scarry” kind of vibe. An entire classroom of children gets ready for their first day of school. The teacher keeps them all busy and happy throughout the school day. Use this book to model what school will be like. [picture book, ages 3 and up]
Reader Recommendations for Diversity Back-to-School Books for Kids
Thank you to @DianaBarefoot on Twitter for a 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 hilarious 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 their 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:
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- Junior Library Guild Gold selection
- Selected as one of 100 Outstanding Picture Books of 2023 by dPICTUS and featured at the Bologna Children’s Book Fair
- Starred review from School Library Journal
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.