Use picture books to teach empathy and cultural understanding.
Now more than ever we’re learning the importance of listening to others, hearing stories from our communities, and opening our minds, homes, and hearts to empathy and understanding. What better way to impart these lessons on kids than with a good book?
Picture books are a fun way to teach kids about diversity, to identify with and relate to others, be open to new experiences and listen to and respect all voices and points of view. So this week, we’re shining a spotlight on some of the best “own-voices” picture books available on Epic.
What’s an own-voices book?
Coined by writer Corinne Duyvis, the term “own voices” describes a book, such as a picture book, that features diverse characters and perspectives written by an author who shares those identities. What makes an own-voices book stand out, is that while there are lots of picture books about marginalized groups and individuals, fewer are created by writers and illustrators who share the heritage, country, culture or perspective presented in the books.
Own-voices picture books not only support creators from other communities and cultures, they handle nuanced topics with authenticity and the right level of cultural awareness. They come from a more honest place and give young children a more accurate picture of the subject matter without relying on tropes or stereotypes. This helps kids see themselves in those who are different, a vital skill when growing up in a diverse world. Read one of these own-voices picture books with your child to kick start conversations around empathy, diversity and the importance of listening and reflecting on the stories of others.
By F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell, and Rafael López
Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, “Maybe Something Beautiful” reveals how art can inspire transformation—and how even the smallest artists can accomplish something big.
2. Meet Yasmin!
By Saadia Faruqi
Yasmin is a spirited second-grader who’s always on the lookout for those “aha” moments to help her solve life’s little problems.
By Maya Christina Gonzalez
What does it mean to be like a tree? For one young child, it all begins as a tiny seed that is free to grow and reach out to others while standing strong and tall—just like a tree in the natural world. This book is significant for not using any gendered pronouns.
4. Sparkle Boy
By Lesléa Newman
Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles and dump truck, and he also loves non-traditional “boy” things that shimmer, glitter, and sparkle.
By Aram Kim
Determined to prove she’s not a baby, Yoomi tries to make kimchi taste better—but not even ice cream can help. Luckily, Grandma has a good idea for improving this traditional Korean treat.
6. El Deafo
By Cece Bell
Going to school and making new friends can be tough. But going to school while wearing a bulky hearing aid? Check out this semi-autobiographical story about growing up hearing impaired.
By Monique Gray Smith
This evocative picture book fosters reconciliation among young children and encourages them to show each other love and support.
By Vaunda Micheaux Nelson
In the 1930s, Lewis’s dad had an itch he needed to scratch: a book itch. How to scratch it? He started a bookstore in Harlem.
By Matt de la Peña
In this Caldecott Honor, Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor and Newbery Award winner, CJ rides around town with his grandmother wondering why he doesn’t have an iPod like the boys on the bus? How come they always have to get off in the dirty part of town? With each question, Grandma helps him see the beauty—and fun—in their routine and the world around them.
10. From Far Away
By Robert Munsch, Saoussan Askar
Saoussan tells the true story of her family’s flight from war-ridden Lebanon.
11. Sumo Joe
By Mia Wenjen
In this celebration of Japanese culture, Sumo Joe and his friends tie on makeshift mawashi belts, practice drills like teppo, and compete in their homemade dohyo ring. But when Sumo Joe’s little sister wants to join in the fun, he’s torn between the two things he’s best at—sumo, and being a big brother.
By Samara Cole Doyon
This unique picture book is a story, a song, a poem, a celebration … all about feeling at home in one’s own beloved skin.
13. Thank you, Omu!
By Oge Mora
In this heartwarming story of sharing and community, everyone in the neighborhood follows their nose to Omu’s delicious stew. Inspired by the author’s strong female role models.
14. Under My Hijab
By Hena Khan
A young girl observes the women in her life and how each covers her hair differently in her hijab, and dreams of the possibilities in expressing herself.
By Samantha R. Vamos
A young girl sets out on errands for the day, and while she’s gone, the farm maiden prepares a piñata from scratch.
By Yuyi Morales
The author brought her hopes, passion, strength and stories when she came to the United States in 1994 with her infant son. This picture book memoir looks at the gifts migrantes bring with them. Beautiful and powerful at any time, this story is both topical and timeless.
By Dorina K. Lazo Gilmore
Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs. One day, she finally gets the chance to help Mama make her favorite traditional Filipino dish.
By Juana Martinez-Neal
What’s in a name? For Alma in this Caldecott Honor winner, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.
By Natasha Yim
In this Chinese-American retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” a careless Goldy Luck wreaks havoc on the home of a family of panda bears.
By Traci Sorell
Follow the traditions and ways of Cherokee life through all the seasons of a year.
Let’s celebrate all voices together all year long. Enjoy these picks!