starting school diversity picture books for kids, starting kindergarten multicultural books

Multicultural Starting School Books for Kids

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 and 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 hope are for the upcoming year and it’s quite a varied list. By the end of 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 parent 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 show 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!


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!

To view any book more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.

starting school diversity picture books for kids, starting kindergarten multicultural books

I am an Amazon affiliate which means if you buy anything through my blog, I get a very small kickback at no cost to you. I use this money to pay for postage and handling for my giveaways.

Follow PragmaticMom’s board Multicultural Books for Kids on Pinterest.

By Mia Wenjen, PragmaticMom


  1. Thanks for sharing this great list with us. Too bad that most kindergarten classes have few or none of these books.
    Barbara Mojica recently posted…CARAMEL’S CAPERS CONTINUED!My Profile

  2. Jeanette Nyberg

    This is awesome- I have an empathy post coming out tomorrow, so diversity has been on my mind lately!
    Jeanette Nyberg recently posted…Duct Tape Bracelet, Summer Reading, and a Giveaway!My Profile

  3. Good list Mia! We read Name Jar and really liked it.
    Reshama recently posted…America’s Champion Swimmer : Gertrude EderleMy Profile

    • Thanks Reshama,
      I liked The Name Jar too but it’s interesting that the only Asian American diversity themed back to school books are Korean American. I think the Korean American culture is much stronger than Japanese American, Chinese American, Vietnamese American, South Asian American, etc. Two books are Korean American but none for any other Asian ethnicity and you know how much Asians are into education!!! Weird, huh?

      Not that I am saying that is bad — my kids are Korean 1/2, Japanese 1/4 and Chinese 1/4 — just an observation.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Multicultural Starting School Books for KidsMy Profile

  4. What a great roundup of books! We’ll be looking up several of these at our library!
    maryanne recently posted…Ready to Learn: Scholastic Success Begins at HomeMy Profile

  5. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    What a great idea, Mia! Love, love, love this post. 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.
    Natalie Dias Lorenzi recently posted…Comment on News & Reviews by » Blog Archive » MoAA Interview #29: Natalie Dias LorenziMy Profile

  6. This is a terrific list. We read many of the books on your list over years, but #1 and #2 are new to us and we might pick them up as we head back to school in August.
    Natalie recently posted…Month in Review and August GoalsMy Profile

  7. Great choices here. I love Mom, “It’s My First Day of Kindergarten.”
    Erica recently posted…12 Signs You’re Raising a ReaderMy Profile

  8. These books could definitely relieve fear and anxiety with kids starting school. Awesome list!
    Carol recently posted…Best Multi-Function Baby Gear ProductsMy Profile

  9. Love this list! The only one I would add although it isn’t really a kindergarten book is Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki- this is a favourite in my house and one I often read to my students. Orange Peel’s Pocket by Rose A. Lewis is also great – not about starting school but a school setting.Thank you for sharing these titles!
    Carrie Gelson recently posted…Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday: Healthy Kids all over the worldMy Profile

  10. Fabulous list. I am going to have to track some down for my kindergarten class.
    Sandi recently posted…button blanket sensory binMy Profile

  11. Thanks again for a great list. You’ve listed some wonderful books here. Visiting from the Kid Lit Blog Hop. Cheryl, Hop Hostess
    Cheryl Carpinello recently posted…Meet MG/YA Author Kristy BrownMy Profile

  12. Renee @ Mother Daughter Book Reviews

    This is a great idea for a list. I just love Rosemary Wells, and it’s so true that her characters actually do represent some diversity. I remember reading one of her books (of course I can’t remember which one now) about Yoko eating sushi. Her books are so great. Thanks for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop.
    Renee recently posted…Blog Tour Sign-Ups: The Princelings of the East by Jemima PettMy Profile

    • Thanks so much Renee. Yes, Yoko eating sushi while some kids make fun of her is Yoko by Rosemary Wells. It was the first Rosemary Wells book I ever read with my kids and we fell in love, particularly with the Yoko and Friends series though all her books are great! Thanks for hosting the Kid Lit Blog Hop.
      Pragmatic Mom recently posted…Writing Contest for Elementary StudentsMy Profile

  13. Another great list of books just in time for back to school! Thank you for linking up at Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop #7.
    Frances recently posted…$10 Back-to-School Challenge {Operation Christmas Child}My Profile

  14. This is a wonderful resource you have put together for parents-and teachers. I saw a few of them in my teaching days and will keep this list in mind to use with my own children. Thanks for linking up with the Kid Blogger Network Back to School link-up!
    Jaimi recently posted…Learning Games with Homemade Apple TreesMy Profile

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