When I think back to when I was a kid, I really don't think I had any books that didn't have a white protagonist. Maybe even up until the Addy books came out for American Girl in 1993. It's possible I had some, but I can't recall any in my immediate memory. And it's certainly not for lack of trying, I'm a first generation Mexican-American, so it's not like my parents were trying to white-wash my existence or anything like that. I just don't think there were many options for books about people of color, especially in the 80s. It's no secret that even still diversity in kid's books is highly lacking.
Broadly and statistically speaking, children who are read to regularly by their parents do better in school and socially, and I am sure it will surprise no one to hear that it is white upper-middle class people who do so. There are obviously so many socio-economic factors that go into this, but it goes without saying that ethnic representation is just as important in kids' seeing themselves in these stories as it is to expose white children to them. It is astonishingly difficult to find books that are diverse, but I truly believe that it is important that all children, even small babies, be given a large sampling of what people and families look like around the world. It's never too early to start exposing children to different cultures and family units, and it's SO, SO important for children of color to see themselves represented in stories. So to that end, here are just a few of my favorite diverse children's books:
Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes by Mem Fox
I Am So Brave! by Stephen Krensky
Everywhere Babies by Susan Meyers
Fatuma's New Cloth by Leslie Bulion
Me, Frida by Amy Novesky
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winters
How My Parents Learned to Eat by Ina R. Friedman
I'd love to hear some of your favorites!