35 Diverse & Inclusive Books for ‘Back to School’

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Hello Literally Cultured Readers!

Wow! I can’t believe a new school year is upon us, and whether a teacher, parent, or a caregiver — will be one that will surely be different than we have ever experienced before. I myself am gearing up for returning to school as full-time online teacher. Among the myriad of concerns I have, probably the biggest one is how to effectively build an online classroom community.

While building community was at the forefront of my mind in curating this list, as you know, representation and diversity in my picture book selections has always been my top priority. I kept these two goals in mind when selecting the books on this list. Even as a 4th grade teacher, picture book read alouds are a MUST. I am always looking for new or new (to me) titles that will resonate with my students and my own children — and in this case, that touch upon important social situations, emotions, feelings, and interactions within the school setting. Additionally, because many teachers like myself will not be in a brick and mortar classroom, I have included online versions of the texts that are available to read for free (for educators) on Epic.com. Click on the Epic logo when you see it to be redirected to the book on the website.

Still want more? Check out my “Back to School” book list from 2019 here!

Thank you for continuing to explore my book recommendations and I hope you have a safe and fun start to the school year!

Happy Reading,

Shannon

All Welcome Here

Written by James Preller & Illustrated by Mary GrandPre

The bus door swishes
Open, an invitation.
Someone is not sure . . .

The first day of school and all its excitement, challenges, and yes, anxieties, are celebrated here in connected haiku poems. A diverse cast of characters all start―and finish―their first days of school, and have experiences that all children will relate to.

ABC Ready for School: An Alphabet of Social Skills

Written by Celeste Delaney & Illustrated by Stephanie Fizer Coleman

C is for cooperate. G is for grow. P is for play! This friendly and reassuring alphabet book helps young children (and those who care for them) consider, explore, and discuss a wide range of skills related to school readiness. Kids preparing for kindergarten or preK will learn social skills from A to Z, building or reinforcing their knowledge of the alphabet at the same time. Charming art brings the skills to life with encouraging scenes of fun and learning in the classroom, on the playground, and more. A special section for adults presents ideas for helping children get ready for this big change and have a successful start to school.

Grandmother School

Written by Rina Singh & Illustrated by Ellen Rooney

Every morning, a young girl walks her grandmother to the Aajibaichi Shala, the school that was built for the grandmothers in her village to have a place to learn to read and write. The narrator beams with pride as she drops her grandmother off with the other aajis to practice the alphabet and learn simple arithmetic. A moving story about family, women and the power of education―when Aaji learns to spell her name you’ll want to dance along with her. Based on a true story from the village of Phangane, India, this brilliantly illustrated book tells the story of the grandmothers who got to go to school for the first time in their lives.

When Charley Met Emma

Written by Amy Webb & Illustrated by Merrilee Liddiard

When Charley goes to the playground and sees Emma, a girl with limb differences who gets around in a wheelchair, he doesn’t know how to react at first. But after he and Emma start talking, he learns that different isn’t bad, sad, or strange–different is just different, and different is great!

This delightful book will help kids think about disability, kindness, and how to behave when they meet someone who is different from them.

Butterflies on the First Day of School

Written by Annie Silvestro & Illustrated by Dream Chen

Rosie can’t wait to start kindergarten—she’s had her pencils sharpened and her backpack ready for weeks. But suddenly, on the night before the big day, her tummy hurts. Rosie’s mom reassures her that it’s just butterflies in her belly, and she’ll feel better soon. Much to Rosie’s surprise, when she says hello to a new friend on the bus, a butterfly flies out of her mouth! As the day goes on, Rosie frees all her butterflies, and even helps another shy student let go of hers, too.

Danbi Leads the School Parade

Written & Illustrated by Anna Kim

Danbi is thrilled to start her new school in America. But a bit nervous too, for when she walks into the classroom, everything goes quiet. Everyone stares. Danbi wants to join in the dances and the games, but she doesn’t know the rules and just can’t get anything right. Luckily, she isn’t one to give up. With a spark of imagination, she makes up a new game and leads her classmates on a parade to remember! Danbi Leads the School Parade introduces readers to an irresistible new character. In this first story, she learns to navigate her two cultures and realizes that when you open your world to others, their world opens up to you.

I Am Because I Choose

Written by Patrice McLaurin & Illustrated by Dian Wang

I Am Because I Choose is an engaging picture book that encourages children to embrace their most amazing SUPERPOWER which is their power to CHOOSE! Each page demonstrates how children can become whatever it is that they choose to be while highlighting the positive consequences that can result from making good choices! The book is also a wonderful Social Emotional Learning tool that can be easily used to help facilitate the core competencies of SEL. It fosters an understanding of the important connection between behavior and personal choice, thus promoting self-awareness, which consequently results in better decision making. Furthermore, it emboldens children with the knowledge that they get to choose how they behave and empowers them by allowing for ownership of their choices. This will ultimately work to assist children in eliminating the urge to blame others for what it is that they choose to do. 

a kids book about bullying

Written by Elizabeth Tom

Sometimes kids can be mean. Really mean. While sticks and stones might break some bones, words will always hurt more.  This book explores how hard bullying can be and how complicated it can be to call it what it is when it’s happening.  

Our Class is a Family

Written by Shannon Olsen & Illustrated by Sandie Sonke

Teachers do so much more than just teach academics. They build a sense of community within their classrooms, creating a home away from home where they make their students feel safe, included, and loved.

With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, “Our Class is a Family” is a book that will help build and strengthen that class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family.

I Promise

Written by LeBron James & Illustrated by Nina Mata

Just a kid from Akron, Ohio, who is dedicated to uplifting youth everywhere, LeBron James knows the key to a better future is to excel in school, do your best, and keep your family close.

I Promise is a lively and inspiring picture book that reminds us that tomorrow’s success starts with the promises we make to ourselves and our community today.

Where’s Rodney?

Written by Carmen Bogan & Illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Rodney is that kid who just can’t sit still. He’s inside, but he wants to be outside. Outside is where Rodney always wants to be. Between school and home, there is a park. He knows all about that park. It’s that triangle-shaped place with the yellow grass and two benches where grown-ups sit around all day. Besides, his momma said to stay away from that park. When Rodney finally gets a chance to go to a real park, with plenty of room to run and climb and shout, and to just be himself, he will never be the same.

I’m Gonna Push Through!

Written by Jasmyn Wright & Illustrated by Shannon Wright

Hold your head high. No matter what stands in the way of your dreams, remember this: YOU can push through anything!
If someone tells you it’s too hard, don’t you 
ever listen. You tell them, “I’m gonna push through!”

Inspired by a mantra written for her third-grade students, Jasmyn Wright’s uplifting call to “push through” is an invitation to young readers to announce their own power and to recognize and reaffirm that of others, regardless of setbacks. Her empowering words not only lift children up, but show them how to lift themselves up and seize their potential.

Your Name is a Song

Written by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow & Illustrated by Luisa Uribe

Frustrated by a day full of teachers and classmates mispronouncing her beautiful name, a little girl tells her mother she never wants to come back to school. In response, the girl’s mother teaches her about the musicality of African, Asian, Black-American, Latinx, and Middle Eastern names on their lyrical walk home through the city. Empowered by this newfound understanding, the young girl is ready to return the next day to share her knowledge with her class. Your Name is a Song is a celebration to remind all of us about the beauty, history, and magic behind names.

My Name is Bilal

Written by  Asma Mobin-Uddin MD M.D. & Illustrated by Barbara Kiwak

When Bilal and his sister Ayesha move with their family, they have to attend a new school. They soon find out that they may be the only Muslim students there. When Bilal sees his sister bullied on their first day, he worries about being teased himself, and thinks it might be best if his classmates didn’t know that he is Muslim. Maybe if he tells kids his name is Bill, rather than Bilal, then they would leave him alone. Mr. Ali, one of Bilal’s teachers and also Muslim, sees how Bilal is struggling. He gives Bilal a book about the first person to give the call to prayer during the time of the Prophet Muhammad. That person was another Bilal: Bilal Ibn Rabah. What Bilal learns from the book forms the compelling story of a young boy grappling with his identity.

S is for School

by Greg Paprocki

An ABC primer that introduces your brilliant baby to what to expect when they’re ready to go to school.

Lots of kids look forward to going back to school each fall. This collection of 26 illustrations featuring words from A to Z will introduce toddlers to what all the fuss is about in a unique and engaging way. Included are artist Greg Paprocki’s colorful and wonderfully detailed illustrations that bring to life concepts from the school bus to the classroom, including activities, school subjects, friends, classmates, and teachers.

Oopsie-Do!

Written by Tim Kubart & Illustrated by Lori Richmond

From Grammy Award–winning musician and TV host Tim Kubart and illustrator Lori Richmond comes a lively picture book debut that reassures children that it’s okay to make mistakes!

When a girl drops her snack or scrapes her knee, does she get upset? No! She says, “Oopsie-do!” Readers will delight as they follow along and call out the OOPSIE-DO! refrain throughout the story.

Goodbye Brings Hello

Written by Dianne White & Illustrated by Daniel Wiseman

There are many ways of letting go. 
With each goodbye, a new hello.

From being pushed on a swing to learning how to pump your legs yourself, from riding a beloved trike to mastering your first bike ride, from leaving the comforts of home behind to venturing forth on that first day of school, milestones are exciting but hard. They mean having to say goodbye to one moment in order to welcome the next.   
  

The Unicorn Came to Dinner

Written by Lauren DeStefano & Illustrated by Gaia Cornwall

The unicorn smells nice, but she is very rude. She never waits for an invitation to come over―she walks right in and tracks heart-shaped hoof-prints across the carpet. She sits in Elizabeth’s chair and makes a complete mess of the house. She even sleeps in Elizabeth’s bed.

But the unicorn is no ordinary unicorn . . .

In The Unicorn Came to Dinner, author Lauren DeStefano and illustrator Gaia Cornwall invite parents and their kids to talk about feelings―especially worries and anxiety―and ultimately about how to be yourself.

All Are Welcome

Written by Alexandra Penfold & Illustrated by Suzanne Kaufman

Discover a school where—no matter what—young children have a place, have a space, and are loved and appreciated.

Follow a group of children through a day in their school, where everyone is welcomed with open arms. A school where students from all backgrounds learn from and celebrate each other’s traditions. A school that shows the world as we will make it to be.

a kids book about belonging

Written by Kevin Carroll

This is a book about belonging. It tackles what it’s like when you feel like you belong to a group or family or team and what it’s like when you don’t. It addresses what it feels like when you don’t fit in, or when others don’t want you around. This book teaches kids how to belong to themselves and how that helps them belong anywhere.

Fun and Games: Everyday Play

Written by Celeste Cortwright & Illustrated by Sophie Fatus

Follow a diverse group of children as they enjoy their favorite games! Readers can delight in familiar play like hide-and-seek to more unusual activities like tangrams, all while learning about the importance of taking turns and participating. Includes educational endnotes about the cultural origins of the featured games and toys.

From Far Away

Written by Robert Munsch & Saoussan Askar, Illustrated by Rebecca Green

When Saoussan immigrated with her family from war-torn Lebanon, she was only seven years old. This picture book tells the story of how she had to adjust to her new home in Canada. She describes the frustration of not understanding the teacher when she started school, not knowing how to ask to go to the bathroom, and being terrified of a Halloween skeleton. This is the perfect book to help kids empathize with immigrant children whose experiences are very similar to Saoussan’s.

The Honest-to-Goodness Truth

Written by Patricia C. McKissack & Illustrated by Giselle Potter

If telling the truth is the right thing to do, why is the whole world mad at Libby?

“Tell the truth and shame the devil,” Libby’s mama has told her. So whatever is Libby doing wrong? Ever since she started telling only the truth, the whole world seems to be mad at her. First it’s her best friend, Ruthie Mae, who gets upset when Libby tells all their friends that Ruthie Mae has a hole in her sock. Then Willie gives her an ugly look when she tells the teacher he hasn’t done his homework. It seems that telling the truth isn’t always so simple.

Be Kind

Written by Pat Zietlow Miller & Illustrated by Jen Hill

When Tanisha spills grape juice all over her new dress, her classmate wants to make her feel better, wondering: What does it mean to be kind?

From asking the new girl to play to standing up for someone being bullied, this moving story explores what kindness is, and how any act, big or small, can make a difference―or at least help a friend.

With a gentle text from the award-winning author of Sophie’s Squash, Pat Zietlow Miller, and irresistible art from Jen Hill, Be Kind is an unforgettable story about how two simple words can change the world.

The Day You Begin

Written by Jacqueline Woodson & Illustrated by Rafael Lopez

There will be times when you walk into a room
and no one there is quite like you.

There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.

Book or Bell?: The Story of a boy, a great book, and a loud bell

Written by Chris Barton & Illustrated by Ashley Spires

The first page has Henry hooked. The second page has him captivated. The third page . . .

BBBBRRRRIIIIINNNNNGGGGG! . . . will have to wait. That is, unless Henry ignores the bell, stays put, and keeps on reading the most awesome book.

By not springing up with the ringing of the bell, Henry sets off a chain reaction unlike anything his school or town has ever seen. Luckily, Mayor Wise, Governor Bright, and Senator Brilliant know exactly what the situation calls for: A louder bell. MUCH louder.

My Panda Sweater

Written by Gilles Baum & Illustrated by Barroux

A quirky kid doesn’t mind too much when classmates tease her for dancing in her beloved sweater with panda ears. When she outgrows the sweater and donates it, she starts to think about the stories behind the clothing she sees. When she sees her panda sweater again, this time being worn by a new classmate who recently moved to town looking for a safer place to live, she knows she’s found a new dance partner. Brought to life by sweet, quirky artwork by beloved French illustrator Barroux, this timely story addresses difficult topics, such as immigration, with a light, engaging and child-friendly approach. It also offers the perfect opportunity to start conversations about a wide range of important subjects for social-emotional growth: bullying, friendship, sharing, new experiences and self-confidence.

Our Favorite Day of the Year

Written by A.E. Ali & Illustrated by Rahele Jomepour Bell

Musa’s feeling nervous about his first day of school. He’s not used to being away from home and he doesn’t know any of the other kids in his class. And when he meets classmates Moisés, Mo, and Kevin, Musa isn’t sure they’ll have much in common. But over the course of the year, the four boys learn more about each other, the holidays they celebrate, their favorite foods, and what they like about school. The more they share with each other, the closer they become, until Musa can’t imagine any better friends.

Greetings, Leroy

Written by Itah Sadu & Illustrated by Alix Delinois

The first day at a new school is nerve-wracking enough, never mind when it’s in a new country! In this lively picture book from award-winning storyteller Itah Sadu, Roy realizes he may come to love his new home as much as he loves his old home.

Rulers of the Playground

Written & Illustrated by Joseph Kuefler

One morning, Jonah decided to become ruler of the playground.

Everyone agreed to obey his rules to play in King Jonah’s kingdom . . .

Everyone except for Lennox . . . because she wanted to rule the playground, too.

I Got the School Spirit

Written by Connie Schofield-Morrison & Illustrated by Frank Morrison

Summer is over, and this little girl has got the school spirit! She hears the school spirit in the bus driving up the street–VROOM, VROOM!–and in the bell sounding in the halls–RING-A-DING! She sings the school spirit in class with her friends–ABC, 123!

The school spirit helps us all strive and grow. What will you learn today?

A New School Year: Stories in Six Voices

Written by Sally Derby & Illustrated by Mika Song

In a unique narrative, readers meet a diverse group of six children ranging in age from Kindergarten through fifth grade. With nerves and excitement each child gears up for a new school year by hustling in the morning, meeting new teachers and new classmates during the day, and heading home with homework and relief by day’s end.

Simple, bright illustrations focus on each child and his/her worries, hopes, and successes on the first day of school.

David Jumps In

Written by Alan Woo & Illustrated by Katty Maurey

This lyrical tale, written in simple free verse, tells how a game with roots in ancient China — called elastic skip in this story — helps a boy find his footing on his first day at a new school.

It is David’s first day at his brand-new school. He doesn’t know anyone. At recess, he stands alone and watches the other children enjoying their activities on the playground, from practicing soccer moves and climbing monkey bars to playing hopscotch and daydreaming in the grass. Bundled deep inside David’s pocket is a string of rubber bands, knotted and ready for a game of elastic skip. But will anyone want to try that game? he wonders. Will anyone want to play with him?

Ruby’s Walk to School

Written by Kathryn White & Illustrated by Miriam Latimer

It’s Ruby’s first day at school, and it feels like there are beasts lurking around every corner! How will Mom help her find her courage? Ruby and Mom’s adventures open the door for caregivers to ask children about their anxieties about new experiences.

Lola Goes to School

Written by Anna McQuinn & Illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw

Lola and her family prepare for the first day of school the night before, then get up early, take pictures, and head to class. Lola puts her things in her cubby, chooses her activities, reads, plays, and has a snack. Before she knows it, it’s time to sing the good-bye song and rush into Mommy’s arms for a warm reunion. A comforting, cheerful read that demystifies the school day for preschoolers and kindergarteners.

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20 Children’s Books Celebrating Blackness

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As a mother of three biracial boys, it has always been of the utmost importance to have a wide selection of books that not only represent themselves and the people they love and know in a positive light, but to also celebrate all of the beautiful and wonderful things about their Black identity.

While it is crucial that my boys grow up surrounded by positive images reflecting who they are, it is just as crucial, if not more so, that other children (specifically white children) are exposed to the same images and stories.

As parents and educators we have a duty and responsibility to introduce and surround ALL children with these stories at a time in their life when ideas of right and wrong are more simple; a time free of all of the grown-up created “gray areas”. The time before their minds and hearts are convoluted with the opinions and beliefs of others who may only share a singular story about a certain group of people. More importantly, before they are exposed to the negatively biased, often violent, and sometimes horrific images of Blackness that we see in the media today.

With books like the ones I am sharing below, my hope is that the children reading them will have enough positive narratives of Blackness in their ally arsenal that they are strong enough to call out the hate and racism they are sure to see as they grow older.

Together let’s take control of the narrative now, before it’s too late.

My People by Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes’s spare yet eloquent tribute to his people has been cherished for generations. Now, acclaimed photographer Charles R. Smith Jr. interprets this beloved poem in vivid sepia photographs that capture the glory, the beauty, and the soul of being a black American today.

My Brown Skin by Dr. Thomishia Booker

Diversity in children’s books matters. Stories are a child’s first steps into their imagination. Hey Carter! Children’s Book Series allows your child to READ IN COLOR. Each book in the Hey Carter! Children’s Book Series references a King. This hidden meaning is a reinforcement that our children deserve respect. We must remind our children that they are powerful and amazing. “My Brown Skin” is a heartwarming story about embracing who you are. A child’s first words of confidence and pride. 

Young Gifted and Black: Meet 52 Black Heroes from Past and Present by Jamia Wilson

All children deserve to see themselves represented positively in the books they read. Highlighting the talent and contributions of black leaders and changemakers from around the world, readers of all backgrounds will be empowered to discover what they too can achieve. Strong, courageous, talented, and diverse, these extraordinary men and women’s achievements will inspire a new generation to chase their dream…whatever it may be.

Skin Like Mine by Latashia M. Perry

From the Creators of Hair Like Mine, Skin Like Mine is a fun, easy-to- read for beginners as well as advanced readers. An entertaining yet creative way to address and celebrate diversity among young children. Guaranteed to make you smile and a bit hungry.

Soul Looks Back in Wonder by Tom Feelings

In this compelling collection of words and pictures, the voices of thirteen major poets, including Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, and Walter Dean Myers, rise in response to the dazzling vistas and emotionally vivid portraits of award-winning artist Tom Feelings. A unique and moving collaboration that celebrates the sustaining spirit of African creativity. 

Mommy, Am I Brown? by Deandra Abuto

“Mommy, Am I Brown?” begins as a normal day in the park with Eli and his mother. His curiosity is sparked when they grab his favorite treat. As they experience the day, he soon realizes that he is connected to the world in more ways than he realized.

*Sidenote: As you can tell, my own Eli was more than elated to share this book with you all!

Our Children Can Soar by Michelle Cook

This is the seed of a unique and inspirational picture book text, that is part historical, part poetry, and entirely inspirational. It symbolically takes the reader through the cumulative story of the US Civil Rights Movement, showing how select pioneers’ achievements led up to this landmark moment, when we have elected our first black President. Each historical figure is rendered by a different award-winning illustrator, highlighting the singular and vibrant contribution that each figure made.

Black is a Rainbow Color by Angela Joy

From the wheels of a bicycle to the robe on Thurgood Marshall’s back, Black surrounds our lives. It is a color to simply describe some of our favorite things, but it also evokes a deeper sentiment about the incredible people who helped change the world and a community that continues to grow and thrive.

Chocolate Me! by Taye Diggs

A timely book about how it feels to be teased and taunted, and how each of us is sweet and lovely and delicious on the inside, no matter how we look.

The boy is teased for looking different than the other kids. His skin is darker, his hair curlier. He tells his mother he wishes he could be more like everyone else. And she helps him to see how beautiful he really, truly is.

Magnificent Homespun Brown: A Celebration by Samara Cole Doyon

Told by a succession of exuberant young narrators, Magnificent Homespun Brown is a story — a song, a poem, a celebration — about feeling at home in one’s own beloved skin.With vivid illustrations by Kaylani Juanita, Samara Cole Doyon sings a carol for the plenitude that surrounds us and the self each of us is meant to inhabit.

Black Magic by Dinah Johnson

Black is a look, a taste, a speed, an emotion. It’s the surprising stripes on a zebra, the taste of dark chocolate, the scary, exciting feeling of going inside a tunnel, and a mother’s voice as her daughter falls asleep.

In this celebration of the African American spirit, Dinah Johnson and R. Gregory Christie paint a picture of “black” that is vivid, varied, and proud.

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

Originally performed for ESPN’s The Undefeated, this poem is a love letter to black life in the United States. It highlights the unspeakable trauma of slavery, the faith and fire of the civil rights movement, and the grit, passion, and perseverance of some of the world’s greatest heroes. The text is also peppered with references to the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and others, offering deeper insights into the accomplishments of the past, while bringing stark attention to the endurance and spirit of those surviving and thriving in the present.

M is for Melanin by Tiffany Rose

M is for Melanin
shining in every inch of your skin.
Every shade, every hue.
All beautiful and unique.

Each letter of the alphabet contains affirming, Black-positive messages, from A is for Afro, to F is for Fresh, to W is for Worthy. This book teaches children their ABCs while encouraging them to love the skin that they’re in.

Be bold. Be fearless. BE YOU.

Look What Brown Can Do! by T. Marie Harris

A must have for every Brown child who’s still dreaming about what to be when s/he grows up!”Foster your little one’s imagination and encourage them to dream big with this modern Black History book created to inspire brown children everywhere.

This book is a perfect conversational tool for parents, teachers, caretakers, and anyone looking to help lovely Brown children understand the greatness that can be achieved in every shade of Brown. No matter the child’s interests, be it painting, dancing, science, music, writing, athletics … “Look What Brown Can Do!” captures an array of accomplishments from yesterday’s and today’s Black heroes.

Beautiful Shades of Brown: The Art of Laura Wheeler Waring by Nancy Churnin

Growing up in the late 19th century, Laura Wheeler Waring didn’t see any artists who looked like her. She didn’t see any paintings of people who looked like her, either. As a young woman studying art in Paris, she found inspiration in the works of Matisse and Gaugin to paint the people she knew best. Back in Philadelphia, the Harmon Foundation commissioned her to paint portraits of accomplished African-Americans. Her portraits still hang in Washington DC’s National Portrait Gallery, where children of all races can admire the beautiful shades of brown she captured.

*Check out our Youtube read aloud here!

Brown Honey in Broomwheat Tea by Joyce Carol Thomas

National Book Award winner Thomas celebrates the beauty and heritage of African Americans in a lyrical collection of poems. Couched in language that is learned yet emotional, the verses focus on family life, love, freedom and dreams.

Brown Angels: An Album of Pictures and Verse by Walter Dean Myers

Join acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers in a heartwarming celebration of African-American childhood in words and pictures. Sharing favorites from his collection of long-forgotten turn-of-the-century photographs, and punctuating them with his own moving poetry, Mr. Myers has created a beautiful album that reminds us that “the child in each of us is our most precious part.”

Shades of Black: A Celebration of Our Children by Sandra L. Pinkney

I am Black / I am Unique / I am the creamy white frost in vanilla ice cream / and the milky smooth brown in a chocolate bar…
Using simple poetic language and stunning photographs, Sandra and Myles Pinkney have created a remarkable book of affirmation for African-American children. Photographic portraits and striking descriptions of varied skin tones, hair texture, and eye color convey a strong sense of pride in a unique heritage. A joyous celebration of the rich diversity among African-Americans.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o

Sulwe has skin the color of midnight. She is darker than everyone in her family. She is darker than anyone in her school. Sulwe just wants to be beautiful and bright, like her mother and sister. Then a magical journey in the night sky opens her eyes and changes everything.

Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? by Patrice McLaurin

Have You Thanked an Inventor Today? is a journey into the often forgotten contributions of African-American inventors, that contributed to the American landscape. It chronicles the school day of a little boy, highlighting different inventions that he uses throughout the day, all of which were invented by African-Americans.  The book comes complete with brief biographies about each inventor as well as fun activities to promote and encourage reading comprehension. 

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30+ Asian American & Pacific Islander Picture Books to read online with Epic!

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The month of May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and what better way to celebrate than the stories and illustrations from beautiful picture books! While many of us are still social distancing and participating in distance learning, the website Epic! is a FREE RESOURCE for educators! If you haven’t heard of Epic!, I am more than elated to share it with you!

Epic! is an award-winning subscription service, which gives millions of families and classrooms instant, unlimited access to thousands of books, videos and quizzes from leading publishers to help kids everywhere read, learn and grow. Additionally, because of Covid-19, home accounts are FREE until June 30th. This is a great opportunity to check out Epic! and all of its amazing titles!

For AAPI Heritage Month, I have curated the following titles into a collection on Epic! that can be accessed here. If you don’t have an account yet, no worries! You can sign-up at this link.

Sumo Joe by Mia Wenjen

On Saturday mornings, Sumo Joe is a gentle big brother to his little sister. But on Saturday afternoons, he and his friends are sumo wrestlers! They tie on makeshift mawashi belts, practice drills like teppo, and compete in their homemade dohyo ring. They even observe sumo’s ultimate rule: no girls allowed! But when Sumo Joe’s little sister wants to join in the fun, Sumo Joe is torn between the two things he’s best at: sumo, and being a big brother. [Japanese American]

Grandmother’s Visit by Betty Quan

Grandmother lives with Grace’s family. She teaches her how to measure water for rice. She tells her stories about growing up in China and together they savor the flavors of her childhood. Grandmother says goodbye when she drops Grace off at school every morning and hello when she picks her up at the end of the day.

Then, Grandmother stops walking Grace to and from school, and the door to her room stays closed. Father comes home early to make dinner, but the rice bowls stay full. One day, Grandmother’s room is empty. And one day, Grandmother is buried. After the funeral, Grace’s mom turns on all the outside lights so that Grandmother’s spirit can find its way home for one final goodbye. [Chinese American]

A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina

It’s 1942. Sam’s class is knitting socks for soldiers and Sam is a terrible knitter. Keiko is a good knitter, but some kids at school don’t want anything to do with her because the Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor and her family is Japanese American. When Keiko’s family is forced to move to a camp for Japanese Americans, can Sam find a way to demonstrate his friendship? [Japanese American]

‘Ohana Means Family by Ilima Loomis

Join the family, or ohana, as they farm taro for poi to prepare for a traditional luau celebration with a poetic text in the style of The House That Jack Built.

“This is the land that’s never been sold, where work the hands, so wise and old, that reach through the water, clear and cold, into the mud to pick the taro to make the poi for our ohana’s luau.” [Hawaiian]

When I Found Grandma by Saumiya Balsasubramaniam

When Maya’s grandma makes a surprise visit from thousands of miles away, Maya is delighted. But her excitement doesn’t last long. When Grandma picks her up from school, she wears fancy clothes and talks too loudly. Grandma’s morning prayer bells wake Maya up, and she cooks with ingredients Maya doesn’t usually eat. Plus, Maya thinks cupcakes taste better than Grandma’s homemade sweets.

Maya and Grandma try to compromise, and on a special trip to the island Grandma even wears an “all-American” baseball cap. But when Maya rushes off to find the carousel, she loses sight of her mother, father and grandmother. She is alone in a sea of people — until she spots something bobbing above the crowd, and right away she knows how to find her way. [Indian American]

Cora Cooks Pancit by Dorina Lazo Gilmore

Cora loves being in the kitchen, but she always gets stuck doing the kid jobs like licking the spoon. One day, however, when her older sisters and brother head out, Cora finally gets the chance to be Mama’s assistant chef. And of all the delicious Filipino dishes that dance through Cora’s head, she and Mama decide to make pancit, her favorite noodle dish. With Mama’s help, Cora does the grown-up jobs like shredding the chicken and soaking the noodles (perhaps Mama won’t notice if she takes a nibble of chicken or sloshes a little water on the floor). Cora even gets to stir the noodles in the pot carefully– while Mama supervises. When dinner is finally served, her siblings find out that Cora did all their grown-up tasks, and Cora waits anxiously to see what everyone thinks of her cooking. [Filipino]

Mela and the Elephant by Dow Phumiruk

2019 Colorado Book Award Finalist Recognized in The 50 Best Multicultural Picture Books of 2018 Mela sets out to explore the river outside her village but quickly ends up in trouble when her little boat is swept downstream and into the dense jungle. She encounters a crocodile, a leopard, and some monkeys, offering each a prize return for helping her find her way home but the animals snatch up their rewards without helping Mela back to her village. Just when she’s about to give up, an elephant shows Mela that kindness is its own reward. This new fable is told with authentic Thai customs and includes an author’s note with more Thai traditions and language. [Taiwanese]

A Map into the World by Kao Kalia Yang

As the seasons change, so too does a young Hmong girl’s world. She moves into a new home with her family and encounters both birth and death. As this curious girl explores life inside her house and beyond, she collects bits of the natural world. But who are her treasures for? [Hmong]

The Tsunami Quilt by Anthony D. Fredericks

April 1, 1946 – an enormous tsunami wave strikes Hilo, Hawai’i, causing death and destruction. Even those islanders who are fortunate to have survived find their lives forever altered. Young Kimo loves his grandfather very much – they go everywhere together, sharing island stories and experiences. But there is one story his grandfather has yet to share and that is the reason behind their yearly pilgrimage to Laupahoehoe Point. Here, in silent remembrance, Grandfather places a flower lei atop a stone monument. It is only after his grandfather’s sudden death that Kimo learns the story behind their annual visit and the reason for the sadness that has haunted his grandfather throughout the years. [Hawaiian]

Mooncakes by Loretta Seto

Mooncakes is the lyrical story of a young girl who shares the special celebration of the Chinese Moon Festival with her parents. As they eat mooncakes, drink tea and watch the night sky together, Mama and Baba tell ancient tales of a magical tree that can never be cut down, the Jade Rabbit who came to live on the moon and one brave woman’s journey to eternal life. With a gentle focus on the importance of family, Mooncakes is both a perfect book for parent and child to read together and an ideal choice for schools and libraries. [Chinese]

Pele and Poli’ahu retold by Malia Collins

Long, long ago, on the Island of Hawaii, there lived two beautiful goddesses. Pele, the goddess of fire, lived on the slopes of Mauna Loa. Poliahu, the goddess of snow, lived on the snow capped peaks of Mauna Kea. So begins the retelling of the classic Hawaiian legend a tale of fire and ice when Pele ventured off her fiery mountaintop to make mischief and challenge Poliahu to a sled race down the snowy slopes of Mauna Kea. It is a story about the power of nature, the power of wills, the power of skill, and an explanation of why the Big Island, to this day, is and island of contrasts. [Hawaiian]

Yoga in the Jungle by Ramiro Calle

Yoga in the Jungle is a wonderful tale of friendship that unfolds in the vibrant jungle of India, introducing young readers to the practice of yoga. While mimicking the body language of the exotic animals in the story, the beautifully illustrated yoga poses will help children to improve their poise and concentration, nurturing a learning process that will fill them with peace, happiness and a sense of being connected to nature. [Asian Indian]

Sadako’s Cranes by Judith Loske

Based on the true story of Sadako Sasaki, who lived in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped on August 6, 1945, Sadako’s Cranes tells the story of her battle with leukemia. When Sadako hears of a Japanese legend which says that a person who folds 1,000 paper cranes is granted a wish, she begins folding cranes. Her wish was simply to live. [Japanese]

Maggie’s Chopsticks by Alan Woo

Maggie comes from a family of unique individuals, all with their own opinions and style, each one of them willing to give advice on how the child should hold her new chopsticks. Maggie listens to all of them in turn, weighing her options. Grandmother suggests using chopsticks in a rather forthright way, while Sister suggests a more graceful approach. As Maggie begins to worry that she may never find her own style, her father suggests that she be herself. Because of his encouragement, she is able to find just what works for her. Maggie comes from a traditional Chinese family, and she clearly wants to make them proud. [Chinese]

Mali Under the Night Sky: a Lao Story of Home by Youme Landowne

This book is a 2011 Skipping Stones honor book and the true story of Laotian American artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, whose family was forced by civil war to flee Laos when she was five. Before the war began, Mali lived an idyllic life in a community where she felt safe and was much loved. But the coming war caused her family to flee to another country and a life that was less than ideal. What did she carry with her? She carried her memories. And they in turn carried her across the world, sharing where she is from and all that she loves with the people she meets. [Laotian]

Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas by Natasha Yim

In this clever picture-book retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” Chinese New Year starts with Goldy Luck’s mother asking her to bring turnip cakes to their panda neighbors, the Chans. Goldy heads next door, promptly spilling her plate of turnip cakes as she walks in the front door; from there, things unfold as might be expected. She eats up Little Chan’s rice porridge, breaks his rocking chair, and falls asleep on his futon. Goldy Luck’s conscience gets the better of her, though, and she learns some valuable lessons about friendship and being a good neighbor. 

In Andal’s House by Gloria Whelan

As a young boy in Gujarat, India, Kumar sometimes feels like he lives in two worlds. First there is the old world where people and their choices are determined by prejudice and bigotry. But then there is the second, modern world: in this world Kumar can be friends with whomever he chooses and his future looks bright. As part of the annual Diwali celebration, Kumar is invited to the house of his classmate Andal to watch fireworks. Andal is from a high-caste Brahmin family so Kumar is especially pleased to be included. But there in Andal’s house, Kumar’s two worlds collide in a very unpleasant way. Instead of being welcomed as a guest, Kumar is sent away, forbidden to join the festivities. Angry and hurt, Kumar is left questioning his place in Indian society. Where does he fit in? To which world does he really belong? [Asian Indian]

Hiromi’s Hands by Lynne Barasch

Growing up in New York City, Hiromi Suzuki missed spending time with her father, a sushi chef who worked long hours in the family’s Japanese restaurant. So one day when she was eight years old, Hiromi begged her father to take her to the Fulton Fish Market, where he bought fresh fish. Hiromi was fascinated by what she saw and learned; by the time she was thirteen, she was ready to take the next step. She asked her father to teach her to make sushi. Little did Hiromi realize that her request would lead her to the forefront of a minor culinary revolution, as women claimed their place in the once all-male world of sushi chefs. [Japanese American]

Out of the Way! Out of the Way! by Uma Krishnaswami

A young boy spots a baby tree growing in the middle of a dusty path in his village. He carefully places rocks around it as the local mango seller rushes past shouting, “Out of the way! Out of the way!” As the tree grows bigger, people and animals traverse the path until it becomes a lane, flowing like a river around the tree — getting out of its way. Over time, the lane becomes a road, and a young man crossing the road with his children remembers the baby tree from long ago. By the time he is an old man, the tree has become a giant. The city traffic continues to rattle past, noisier and busier than ever, but sometimes the great tree works its magic, and people just stop, and listen. [Asian Indian]

Mountain Chef: How One Man Lost His Groceries, Changed His Plans, and Helped Cook Up the National Park Service by Annette Bay Pimental

Tie Sing was born in the mountains. The mountains were in his blood. But because he was of Chinese descent at a time in America when to be Chinese meant working in restaurants or laundries, Tie Sing’s prospects were limited. But he had bigger plans. He began cooking for mapmakers and soon built a reputation as the best trail cook in California.
 
When millionaire Stephen Mather began his quest to create a national park service in 1915, he invited a group of influential men—writers, tycoons, members of Congress, and even a movie star—to go camping in the Sierras. Tie Sing was hired to cook.
 
Tie Sing planned diligently. He understood the importance of this trip. But when disaster struck—twice!—and Tie Sing’s supplies were lost, it was his creative spirit and quick mind that saved the day. His sumptuous menus had to be struck and Tie Sing had to start over in order to feed the thirty people in the group for ten whole days. His skills were tested and Tie Sing rose to the challenge.
 
On the last night, he fed not just the campers’ bodies, but also their minds, reminding them to remember and protect the mountains. [Chinese American]

Passage to Freedom: The Sugihara Story by Ken Mochizuki

As a Japanese diplomat in Lithuania in the 1940s, Chiune Sugihara had a chance to help thousands of Jews escape the Holocaust through Japan, but it was against his government’s orders. When his five-year-old son Hiroki asked, “If we don’t help them, won’t they die?” Sugihara decided to assist the refugees. [Japanese]

Manjiro: The Boy Who Risked His Life for Two Countries by Emily Arnold McCully

In 1841, Japan had been closed to the outside world for 250 years, and anyone who tried to return to the country after leaving it could be executed. So when the small fishing boat on which fourteen-year-old Manjiro was working was shipwrecked, he despaired of ever returning to his village. The captain of the American whaling ship that rescued Manjiro took a special interest in him, inviting him to come live in Massachusetts. There, Manjiro was treated like Captain Whitfield’s son, and he began to feel as though Massachusetts was his second home. Still, he never gave up his dream of finding a way to return to Japan and see his mother again. [Japanese American]

Chef Roy Choi and the Street Food Remix by Jacqueline Briggs Martin & June Jo Lee

“Sohn maash” is the flavors in our fingertips. It is the love and cooking talent that Korean mothers and grandmothers mix into their handmade foods. For Chef Roy Choi, food means love. It also means culture, not only of Korea where he was born, but the many cultures that make up the streets of Los Angeles, where he was raised. So remixing food from the streets, just like good music—and serving it up from a truck—is true to L.A. food culture. People smiled and talked as they waited in line. Won’t you join him as he makes good food smiles? [Korean American]

Peach Girl by Raymond Nakamura

When the farmer and her husband find a giant peach at their door, they can’t imagine how it got there. But they are even more surprised when the skin bursts open and out leaps . . . a girl. Momoko is here to make the world a better place, and what better way to start than by investigating the rumours about a fearsome local ogre? Everyone says the ogre has teeth like knives, shoots flames from his eyes, and eats small children.

But Momoko wants to find out for herself, and her new friends Monkey, Dog, and Pheasant might just be able to help her – as long as she’s willing to share those tasty peach dumplings. [Japanese]

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn

It’s Chinese New Year in Chinatown, and young Sam has four dollars of New Year money burning a hole in his pocket. As he and his mother are milling through the crowded streets–alive with firecrackers, lion dances, and shoppers–Sam accidentally steps on the foot of a homeless man who is buried in a pile of red paper. Flustered, Sam hurries back to his mother, and is soon distracted by the char siu bao and other sweets he might buy with his gift money. When he sees fish-tail cookies that remind him of toes, he remembers the old man again, and Sam starts to think of his “lucky money” in a new light. [Chinese American]

Crane Boy by Diana Cohn

Every year, Kinga and his classmates wait for the black-necked cranes to return to the kingdom of Bhutan. The birds fly south over the highest mountains in the word to winter in the valley where Kinga lives, deep in the Himalayas. The cranes have been visiting the valley since ancient times, but every year, fewer cranes return. Kinga is concerned. “What can he do?,” he wonders. He and his classmates approach the monks for permission to create and perform a dance to honor the cranes and to remind the Bhutanese people of their duty to care for them. The monks caution them to first watch the cranes to see how they move and learn from them. The children watch and practice. And practice some more until the big day when they perform before the king of Bhutan. [Bhutanese]

Fish for Jimmy: Inspired by One Family’s Experience in a Japanese American Internment Camp by Katie Yamasaki

For two boys in a Japanese American family, everything changed when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States went to war.

With the family forced to leave their home and go to an internment camp, Jimmy loses his appetite. Older brother Taro takes matters into his own hands and, night after night, sneaks out of the camp and catches fresh fish for Jimmy to help make him strong again. [Japanese American]

Suki’s Kimono by Chieri Uegaki

Suki’s favorite possession is her blue cotton kimono. A gift from her obachan, it holds special memories of her grandmother’s visit last summer. And Suki is going to wear it on her first day back to school — no matter what anyone says.

When it’s Suki’s turn to share with her classmates what she did during the summer, she tells them about the street festival she attended with her obachan and the circle dance that they took part in. In fact, she gets so carried away reminiscing that she’s soon humming the music and dancing away, much to the delight of her entire class! [Japanese American]

King for a Day by Rukshana Khan

Basant is here, with feasts and parties to celebrate the arrival of spring. But what Malik is looking forward to most is doing battle from his rooftop with Falcon, the special kite he has built for speed. Today is Malik’s chance to be the best kite fighter, the king of Basant.

In two fierce battles, Malik takes down the kites flown by the bully next door. Then Malik moves on, guiding Falcon into leaps, swirls, and dives, slashing strings and plucking kites from the sky. By the end of the day, Malik has a big pile of captured kites. He is the king! But then the bully reappears, trying to take a kite from a girl in the alley below. With a sudden act of kingly generosity, Malik finds the perfect way to help the girl. [Pakistani]

Paper Son: Lee’s Journey to America by Helen Foster James & Virginia Shin-Mui Loh

In 1926, 12-year-old Fu Lee lives with his grandparents in a small village in China. He lives with his grandparents because his parents are dead. It is a difficult life but made easier by the love Lee shares with his grandparents. But now Lee must leave all that he knows. Before his parents died, they spent all of their money buying a “paper son slot” for Lee to go to America. Being a “paper son” means pretending to be the son of a family already in America. If he goes, he will have the chance for a better life. But first he must pass the test at Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco. Only then will he be allowed to live with his new family. If Lee makes even a single mistake, he could be sent back to China. Lee knows his grandparents want a better life for him. He can’t let them down. [Chinese American]

Ma Jiang and the Orange Ants by Barbara Ann Porte

Ma Jiang’s family earns their living by selling orange ants to farmers who use them to protect their orchards from other destructive insects. The child’s father and brothers climb high into the trees to cut down the nests of the fierce biting ants and her mother sells them at market in the rush-mat bags that she weaves. When war is declared, all the men must serve in the emperor’s army, leaving Ma Jiang, her mother, and baby brother to fend for themselves. The society discouraged women from learning to climb trees so the family’s orange-ant business seems doomed. Ma Jiang is a quick-witted heroine who invents a low-hanging trap after noticing hundreds of ants drawn to a drop of spilled honey. When her father and brothers return home, they applaud her survival skills and creative thinking. [Chinese]

Lin Yi’s Lantern by Brenda Williams

Meet Lin Yi — a little boy with a big heart and a talent for bargaining. He wants to buy himself a red rabbit lantern at the market for the moon festival tonight; but first, he must buy the things his mother needs. Will he be able to save enough money on his mother’s needs to buy the lantern? This heartwarming story shows the practical use of math in everyday life and the rewards of putting others first. Features educational notes at the end about the Chinese moon festival, life in rural China and the legend of the moon fairy. [Chinese]

Baseball Saved Us by Ken Mochizuki

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Shorty and his family, along with thousands of other Japanese Americans, have been forced to relocate from their home to Camp. One day Shorty’s dad looks out across the desert and decides they should build a baseball field. Fighting the heat, dust, and freezing cold nights, the prisoners need something to look forward to, even if only for nine innings. So in this unlikely place, surrounded by barbed-wire fences and guards in towers, a baseball league is born. And Shorty soon finds that he is playing not only to win, but to gain dignity and self-respect. [Japanese American]

Ghost Train by Paul Yee

Left behind in China by her father, who has gone to North America to find work, Choon-yi has made her living by selling her paintings in the market. When her father writes one day and asks her to join him, she joyously sets off, only to discover that he has been killed. Choon-yi sees the railway and the giant train engines that her father died for, and she is filled with an urge to paint them. But her work disappoints her until a ghostly presence beckons her to board the train where she meets the ghosts of the men who died building the railway. She is able to give them peace by returning their bones to China where they were born. [Chinese American]

Keala and the Hawaiian Bird by Patricia McLean

Every fine morning, when the sun starts to rise Over the mountains in the blue Maui sky, Keala is woken by birds in the trees, Greeting the day with their sweet symphony. Until…one morning Keala hears a new, strange sound. What kind of bird could it be? A delightful story told in rhyme will give kids an idea of what it’s like growing up in Hawaii where bird song is always in the air. Keala, a curious young girl, wakes up every morning to the sounds of chirping, squawking, and crowing. Then one day, Keala hears another sound….a screech. What kind of bird makes that sound? Keala searches around her home to find out. [Hawaiian]

Write to Me: Letters from Japanese American Children to the Librarian They Left Behind by Cynthia Grady

When Executive Order 9066 is enacted after the attack at Pearl Harbor, children’s librarian Clara Breed’s young Japanese American patrons are to be sent to prison camp. Before they are moved, Breed asks the children to write her letters and gives them books to take with them. Through the three years of their internment, the children correspond with Miss Breed, sharing their stories, providing feedback on books, and creating a record of their experiences. [Japanese American]

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Stay Connected During Covid-19 with Diverse Picture Book Read Alouds

As teachers (or even parents) we know that children thrive with structure and routine. Establishing expectations allows for a sense of familiarity and comfort, no matter what the setting may be. Many non-teachers may be finding this out now as we hunker down with our families to practice social distancing for a few weeks…I don’t know about you, but two days in and I’m already questioning my teaching AND parenting skills. So…

Here is the schedule I came up with (for a 3, 4, and 11 year old):

With that being said, in an attempt to bring some normalcy and routine to my 4th graders, I started recording daily picture book read alouds. My class will typically begin or end our Social Justice Morning Meeting with a picture book aligned to an idea that we discussed, or a significant person related to the topic. This month, we were working our way through HereWee Reed’s 31 Days of Women’s History printable. Even though I don’t have access to all of my books, I am trying to keep the theme alive by continuing to highlight important women and their achievements.

Here are some of the videos I’ve completed so far:

Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa
A brand new title for 2020!
Patricia’s Vision: The Doctor Who Saved Sight
Ida B. Wells: Let the Truth Be Told

Check out my YouTube channel and subscribe to be notified when new read aloud videos are posted!

Stay healthy & keep reading!

UNITED Vol 1, Issue 6 – March 2020

Each month I collect resources to support K-12 educators around topics of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

As Literally Cultured’s mission states: (as teachers) we should actively seek to cultivate your understanding and knowledge of diverse perspectives and people through the vessel of written words…and with this publication we can become one step closer.

UNITED Vol 1, Issue 6 – March 2020

Highlights from this issue:

  • Multicultural events/holidays calendar for the month of March, linked to websites for further information and reading
  • Updated information on Teaching Tolerance’s Let’s Talk!, a TT publication on facilitating critical conversations with students
  • Teaching resources for K-12 teachers focused on Women’s History Month
  • Carefully curated and diverse text selections to celebrate Women’s History Month from K to 12 (most are linked to teacher’s guides)
Literally Cultured’s Women’s History Book Selections

*This publication is meant to be an e-newsletter, therefore almost everything is clickable and linked, download below!

To receive future newsletters in your inbox, subscribe below!

Happy Reading,

Shannon

FREEBIE: Social Justice Standards Posters (9-12)

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As the K-12 Diversity Chair for a large central Ohio school district, I felt it was important for educators in the high school setting to have visual support when referencing Teaching Tolerance’s Social Justice Standards.

I initially intended for these posters to be used with student groups led by our diversity liaisons (we have one in each of our 24 buildings), but feel they are beneficial to anyone in the educational realm and an anti-bias practitioner.

Feel free to grab these posters using the FREE download below. If and when you use them, please shout us out on social media with #literallycultured!