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Top books for kids: 10 diverse picks for each age

Top 10 books for kids, curated picks to inspire a love of reading, broaden perspectives, and build empathy. 

We know you’re always on the hunt for great books for your kids to read (or books that will get them interested in reading!). So we thought it’d be fun to put together a recommended book list. 

Here are our top 10 book picks for kids across each major age group, chosen with an eye for equity and diversity. 

We chose this focus because it’s crucial for the books we read to include diverse characters representing different cultures, ethnicities, abilities, and experiences. This approach helps our kids see the world from different perspectives and develop empathy for others. 

Top books for kids ages 2-5

Here are some of our favorite titles for this group of little ones that you can read aloud.

Bodies Are Cool by Tyler Feder 

Top books for kids || Bodies are cool

Teach your young readers about body acceptance through this happy picture book that celebrates all the different kinds of human bodies. It’s a great one to read aloud with your preschool kiddos, and they’ll adore the lovely illustrations.

Plenty of Hugs by Fran Manushkin

Top books for kids | Plenty of hugs

Enjoy this lovely picture book celebrating families’ joy and diversity. Read the beautiful story of two mommies who spend a sunny day with their toddler.

All Are Neighbors by Alexandra Penfold

Top books for kids | All are neighbors

Light up as your family reads this colorful picture book about the positive qualities of a diverse community, and what it means to create a place where everybody belongs. 

Kindness is my Superpower: A Children’s Book about Empathy, Kindness, and Compassion by Alicia Ortego

Kindness is my Superpower: A Children’s Book about Empathy, Kindness, and Compassion

Teach your children kindness through this lovely story that reminds them it’s okay to make mistakes and apologize.  

All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon

Top books for kids | All the World

This lovely picture book follows a circle of friends and family, affirming the beauty of all things in this world, big and small. 

Berry Song by Michaela Goade

Top books for kids | Berry Song

Learn about Alaska’s Tlingit culture and beautiful connections with nature in this captivating picture book. 

Julián Is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

Top books for kids | Julian is a mermaid

Embrace Julián’s desire to be a mermaid as he challenges gender norms. And share in the beautiful love between him and his grandmother. 

I Sang You Down from the Stars by Tasha Spillett-Sumner 

Top books for kids | I Sang You Down from the Stars

Discover some of the beautiful Native American cultural practices around celebrating a new baby in the family.

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

Top books for kids | Strictly no elephants

Smile as you read this story about inclusion, the magic of friendship, and the fun of having a pet. 

Big Red Lollipop by Rukhsana Khan

Top books for kids | Big red lollipop

Explore sibling relationships in this lovely book about Pakistani culture and the unique experience of being a newcomer in America. 

Top books for kids ages 5-8

Here are some of our recommendations for this early reading group of learners.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

Last Stop on Market Street

Join a young boy named CJ as he takes a bus ride with his grandmother and learns about the importance of gratitude and perspective.

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

The Name Jar

Read this heartwarming story about a young girl named Unhei who moves to the United States from Korea and faces the challenge of fitting in with her new classmates.

A Different Pond by Bao Phi

A Different Pond

Devour this stunning picture book about a Vietnamese-American boy and his father. As they go fishing, the son reflects on his father’s experiences in war-torn Vietnam, and the sacrifices he made for his family.

Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life by Ashley Bryan

Freedom over me

Encounter a powerful picture book that captures the lives of 11 former slaves. It’s a story about suffering and the dreams that can’t be taken away, based on real documents from the 1800s.

The Number on My Grandfather’s Arm by David A. Adler

The number on my granfather's arm

Be changed alongside a young girl who learns about her grandfather’s experiences during the Holocaust surviving a concentration camp.

The Cat Man of Aleppo by Karim Shamsi-Basha 

The Cat Man of Allepo

Feel the struggle of living in a war-torn country, and the love and dedication to the animals left behind.

Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes

Crown- An Ode to the Fresh Cut

Sway to this read-aloud rhythmic book which celebrates the brilliance of Black boys and the traditions and meaning around the barber shops in their lives. 

Double Bass Blues by Andrea J. Loney

Double Bass Blues

Enjoy this picture book about how a love for music and family can help you overcome life’s challenges. 

Sulwe by Lupita Nyongo


Celebrate the affirmation of Black beauty found in this picture book about self-esteem, and understanding that true beauty comes from inside.

Freedom in Congo Square by Carole Boston Weatherford

Freedom in the Congo square

Increase your understanding of the pain and suffering of slaves in the 18th century, and the small slice of joy they experienced on Sundays in Congo Square, New Orleans. 

Top books for kids ages 9-12

Here are some great reads for middle school readers.

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell

We Are Grateful

Learn from this stunning picture book celebrating the traditions and values of the Cherokee Nation through the eyes of a young girl. 

When Aiden Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff

When Aidan Became a Brother

Cherish this groundbreaking book that celebrates the changes in a transgender boy’s life, as he comes out and welcomes a new brother.

Ain’t Burned All the Bright by Jason Reynolds

Ain't Burned All the Bright

Be moved by this emotional book that looks at the life of a Black family living through the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina

Merci Suárez Changes Gears

Enjoy this sweet book that perfectly captures the challenges of being a middle schooler. Kids will be reminded of the importance of family, especially when you feel different from everyone around you. 

Rose Blanche by Christophe Gallaz

Rose Blanche

Mourn for those who perished in the Holocaust as you read about a young German girl who discovers a concentration camp, and tries to help the children being held captive there.

Other Words for Home by Jasmine Warga

Other Words for Home

Run with children fleeing war-torn regions, as you read this beautiful story of a young girl leaving her family behind in Syria. 

New Kid by Jerry Craft

New Kid

Remember the challenges of being new and out-of-place, as you read your kids this story about what it’s like to start over at a new school, and how hard it is to fit in.

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead

When you reach me

Be absorbed in this mystery. Enjoy the fun twists and turns as you examine humanity, and even, life and death.

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller

When you trap a tiger

Enjoy this mesmerizing book based on Korean folklore that explores themes of family and culture.

Choosing Brave: How Mamie Till-Mobley and Emmett Till Sparked the Civil Rights Movement by Angela Joy

Choosing Brave

Be inspired by this biography of Emmett Till’s mother. Read the story of how she overcame her grief over her son’s death, by taking action and working in the civil rights movement.

Top books for kids ages 13-15

Here are a few suggestions for teen readers.

Victory. Stand!: Raising My Fist for Justice by Tommie Smith

Victory. Stand!- Raising My Fist for Justice

In this memoir, young readers meet Tommie Smith as he looks back on his childhood growing up in rural Texas. Journey through his stellar athletic career, culminating in his historic victory and Olympic podium protest. 

Serwa Boateng's Guide to Vampire Hunting: A Serwa Boateng Novel, Book 1 by Roseanne Brown 

Rick Riordan Presents - Serwa Boateng's Guide to Vampire Hunting

Immerse yourselves in this middle-grade debut about a pre-teen vampire slayer with a strong helping of Ghanaian folklore. 

They Went Left by Monica Hesse

They Went Left

Gain empathy as you read this heartbreaking story about the Holocaust, including survival, loss, and renewal.

Names in a Jar by Jennifer Gold

Names in a Jar

Learn about the Holocaust through this story of perseverance from two sisters living in Poland during World War II.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Brown Girl Dreaming

Embrace this book of poems describing what it was like to grow up as a Black child in the 1960s and 70s. 

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian

Laugh and cry as you read this book about a budding cartoonist. Join him as he grows up on a Native American reservation, and then switches to an all-White school.

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

Gabi, a Girl in Pieces

Empathize with Gabi, an overweight Mexican-American teenager who is exploring family relationships and her identity. 

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata 


Enjoy this beautiful book about a Japanese family who moves to the American South and discovers the challenges of being different. 

Monster by Walter Dean Myers


Learn how the “system” operates for many young Black men in this haunting book about the criminal justice system.

Outschool reading resources for kids

Outschool reading classes

This list is just a starting place, but we hope it will feed your family's enthusiasm for exciting and inclusive reading.

Outschool offers some terrific reading classes, book clubs, and more. Here are some great options to add to your resources list. 

What books celebrate the diversity of your cultures and communities? Please join our Outschool community and share your recommendations with us. 

Jennifer WolfeJennifer leads strategic & DEIB partnerships for Outschool. She's a former The Learning Accelerator partner and advisor to many ed tech companies on the development of high-quality K-12 curriculum.

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