Primary schools | Reading Comprehension | Literacy | Vocabulary

12 books that promote diversity and inclusion for KS1 & KS2 learners

By Cat Stallard

08 Jun 2023


Books can encourage empathy, positive self-esteem and healthy relationships.

They can play a significant role in promoting diversity, tolerance, and inclusion among Key Stage One (KS1) and Key Stage Two (KS2) learners, providing a valuable window into different cultures, experiences, and perspectives, fostering thought-provoking discussions and creating an exciting learning environment. In this article, we have curated a list of 12 books that will engage and inspire learners, encouraging them to embrace diversity and celebrate differences.

Diversity in the classroom is about accepting and promoting differences. It promotes inclusivity of everyone regardless of religion, age, disability, race, gender or sexual orientation. It is essential to cultivate an inclusive environment where all individuals are treated fairly. By encouraging open discussions and exploring various opinions and questions, learners gain confidence, comfort, and respect while understanding the value of diversity.

Promoting diversity and inclusion in the classroom encourages learners to empathise with others as they go through life. By exposing them to and teaching them about the experiences and emotions of others, they are more aware of what others may be going through.

Learning with peers from diverse backgrounds enriches classroom discussions and promotes a comprehensive understanding of various subjects. It encourages learners to contribute their own experiences and viewpoints, adding value to the learning process.

Exposure to diversity helps learners develop an open-minded and accepting attitude, equipping them to interact and collaborate with people from diverse backgrounds throughout their lives.

Learning about unfamiliar cultures and ways of life instils comfort and confidence in students, reducing fear of the unknown. It prepares them to interact, work, and learn from individuals equally and without bias.

Julian is a Mermaid - Jessica Love

This stunning picture book is brimming with beauty, love and acceptance. When Julian rides the subway with his grandmother, he notices three women dressed up as mermaids. Arriving home, all Julian can think about are the mermaids. He decides to dress up as a mermaid by making his own fabulous costume. But what will his grandmother make of it all? This story deals with gender and being seen for who you are.

Recommended for ages 4 to 8

The Proudest Blue - Ibtihaj Muhammad

This picture book deals with religion, identity and sibling relationships. As Faizah has her first day of school, her older sister, Asiya, also has an important milestone: her first day of hijab. A beautiful hijab made of blue like the ocean and the sky, young Faizah thinks. In the face of unkind words about Asiya’s hijab, will the sisters find the courage to stay strong?

Recommended for ages 6 to 8

Lunar New Year Around the World - Amanda Li

This is a great introduction for young children to Lunar New Year celebrations across the globe. Through the eyes of children who live there, see how this vibrant time of year is celebrated in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, San Francisco, London and Sydney. Packed with fascinating facts and beautiful illustrations, children can learn all about a different culture.

Recommended for ages 5 to 8

Betsey Biggalow is here - Malorie Blackman

The Betsy Biggalow series is a collection of books telling of the adventures of a young girl living on a Caribbean Island. We meet her family and friends as this story presents day-to-day problems that crop up in family life, as well as their solutions. This series gives young readers a window into life in Caribbean culture.

Recommended for ages 4 to 7

Wanda - Sihle Nontshokweni & Mathabo Tlali

In this delightful picture book, we meet Wanda. Even though her mother tells her she's a queen and her hair is her crown, Wanda is unhappy with it. The story tackles the issues of identity, self-confidence and heritage with sensitivity. It is empowering and serves as a reminder that we all have the right to feel confident and celebrate our culture.

Recommended for ages 4 to 8

Fantastically Great Women Who Changed The World - Kate Pankhurst

In this book, children can read all about women who changed the world. Packed with interesting facts and wonderful illustrations, this book by Kate Pankhurst, descendant of Emmeline Pankhurst, allows your readers to fly high with Amelia Earhart, discover the adventures of Mary Seacole and learn about fighting for rights with Rosa Parks. It deals with the triumphs and struggles of these women, often compounded by racial and gender inequality.

Recommended for ages 7 to 10

Me, My Dad And The End Of The Rainbow - Benjamin Dean

Archie Albright is 12 years old and knows his parents are keeping a secret from him. Accompanied by his two best friends, he sets out on an adventure to find out- his only clue being a crumpled, rainbow coloured flyer that fell from his dad's pocket. This is a heart-warming story with love and acceptance at its core. It deals with sexuality, identity, racism and acceptance.

Recommended for ages 9 to 11

The Colour of Home - Mary Hoffman

In this story, we learn about Hassan, a Somalian refugee who is struggling to settle into his new life in America. He misses the colours of his village in Somalia and his cat Musa, who he had to leave behind. In this story, your learners will gain insight to the struggles faced by refugees, both in fleeing their homeland and the hardships of having to start over. Ultimately, the story focuses on hope for the future and helps children to foster empathy and compassion.

Recommended for ages 5 to 9

Uncle Bobby's Wedding - Sarah S. Brannen & Lucia Soto

Chloe adores her uncle Bobby, so when she finds out he is getting married to his boyfriend Jamie, she feels upset. What if he doesn't have time to have fun with Chloe anymore? This is an uplifting story about love in all its forms. It deals with family diversity, change and acceptance. While it doesn't labour the theme of gay marriage, it does provide a great opportunity to talk about this with your class.

Recommended for ages 4 to 7

This Is How We Do It - Matt Lamothe

This book allows your readers to gain an insight into one day in the lives of seven children from around the world. It teaches your learners traditions that may be different to their own but also looks at common experiences. While what they do may differ, the shared rhythm of their days and this one world we all inhabit unites them. It's a great way to educate learners on the importance of differences and similarities.

Recommended for ages 6 to 13

The Boy at the Back of the Class - Onjali Q. Raúf

When a new boy joins their class, a group of children try to befriend him. They learn that Ahmet is a refugee and has become separated from his family. This story will restore faith in humanity as the friends set off on an adventure to try to help Ahmet. It looks at the refugee crisis through the eyes of a child and helps learners develop empathy and compassion.

Recommended for ages 10 to 11

Wonder - R.J. Palacio

Wonder tells the story of August (Auggie) Pullman, a 10-year-old boy, with ‘a rare facial birth disfigurement’. Up until now, Auggie has been home-educated. We meet him as he starts Beecher Prep School where he is faced with both cruelty and kindness. This is a heart-warming story that explores acceptance, empathy and accepting differences.

Recommended for ages 10 and up (For younger audiences, try the picture book adaption, We’re All Wonders)

Our original fiction and non-fiction texts cover a wide range of topics that include different cultures, important historical events and challenging concepts, increasing cultural capital and exposing learners to a diverse range of viewpoints. A conscious effort is made throughout our texts to challenge gender stereotypes, represent a diverse range of characters, use inclusive language and promote inclusivity and it’s something we’re always working to improve.

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To celebrate Pride, we decided to highlight just some of the brilliant LGBTQ+ icons of literacy - this includes writers, poets, activists, public speakers, actors and directors.

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We have a series of of Black History Month resources to educate and engage your class:

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Deepen your learners' knowledge of the rich history behind the month of Ramadan and the holiday of Eid al-Fitr, all while improving their literacy!

Lunar New Year literacy activity pack

Immerse your students in celebrations from around the world with our Lunar New Year, or Chinese New Year, activity pack for students.

Bespoke fiction and non-fiction texts that support literacy improvement