Twenty books to diversify your school library stock

Written by: Sarah Wordlaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

It is crucial that the books we stock in our schools represent our pupils and the world they are growing up in. Sarah Wordlaw offers 20 titles to consider for your primary school library

Representation within literature is extremely important when engaging children in reading. If children can see themselves, they are more interested and invested in stories.

Look at your reading spaces – your school library, book corners and the books you have on display in offices and on windowsills. Which books are there? What further representation do you need?

  • Are there a range of books both by and about different races?
  • Are there books exploring stereotypes of masculinity and femininity?
  • Are there books portraying a wide range of family types including LGBT+ families?
  • Are there books about and by people with disabilities or people who are neuro and physically diverse?Are there books challenging the “helpless” stereotype of people with disabilities?
  • Are there books in the home languages of the children in your school?

To help you, here are some ideas of fabulous books to stock your reading spaces with. So get auditing and get ordering!

Hats of Faith by Medeia Cohan (illustrated by Sarah Walsh)
Age: 2 to 6 years. First Chronicle Books (2017)
A board book to introduce the idea of religious head covering in different religions. Wonderfully illustrated, with accurate terminology, phonetic pronunciations, and beautiful imagery. There’s an education toolkit too:

Daddy Do My Hair: Kechi’s hair goes every which way by Tola Okogwu (illustrated by Naomi Wright)
Age: 3 to 6 years. Florence Elizabeth Publishing (2018)
Within the black community, hair is deeply rooted in identity. This is a series of beautiful books written to challenge perceptions on gender roles and race while exploring family life, parenting and friendships. A staunch favourite in my classroom:

Emmanuel’s Dream: The true story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah by Laurie Ann Johnson (illustrated by Sean Qualls)
Age: 4 to 8 years. Penguin Random House (2015)
This is the wonderful story of Ghanaian athlete and disability rights activist Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah.

Sulwe by Lupita Nyong’o (illustrated by Vashti Harrison)
Age: 4 to 8 years. Puffin Books (2021)
This powerful picture book is written by actress Lupita Nyong’o about colourism, self-confidence, and finding true beauty within. Lupita celebrates her Kenyan culture within this book.

Hey you! An empowering celebration of growing up black by Dapo Adeola
Age: 5-plus. Puffin Books (2021)
A beautifully empowering book celebrating black heritage and family. Written in response to the killing of George Floyd, all the illustrations in the book are by black artists.
Gender Swapped Fairy Tales by Karrie Fransman & Jonathan Plackett
Age: 8 to 12 years. Faber & Faber (2020)
A truly girl power text, this book has classic fairy tales rewritten where females are the heroes and not the helpless girls in need of saving. A wonderful book and one of my favourite books as an adult too!

Eyes That Kiss in The Corners by Joanna Ho (illustrated by Dung Ho)
Age: 4 to 8 years. HarperCollins (2021)
Written to address the experience of Asians who have received eye taunts, ridicule and bullying, this book is a love song about expression of self, family and culture.

Representation: Recommended books to diversify your library stock include Sulwe, Young, Gifted & Black, Emmanuel's Dream, This Book is Anti-Racist, Hey You!, Just Ask!, and High Rise Mystery

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Age: 9 to 11 years. Corgi Children’s Books (2014)
Wonder is a story about friendship, buying and self-confidence. It is the story of how Auggie, who has a facial deformity, navigates his way to a new school. This is a wonderful transitional text for year 6s moving into secondary school.

Young, Gifted and Black by Jamia Wilson (illustrated by Andrea Pippins)
Age: 7 to 10 years. Wide Eyed Editions (2018)
This is a non-fiction book exploring 52 Black role models from past and present. In my school, we have one of these in every classroom and they are never on the shelf long enough to gather dust!

This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell (illustrated by Aurelia Durand)
Age: 10-plus. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books (2020)
This book explores what racism is, where it comes from, and self-identity. It teaches children to be ANTI-racist rather than non-racist. It is full of activities and challenges.

Amazing Muslims who Changed the World by Burhana Islam
Age: 9 to 12 years. Publisher: Puffin Books (2020)
This book explores well-known heroes such as Malala Yousafzai, Muhammad Ali, and Sir Mo Farah as well as some less famous ones like Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American to compete in the Olympic Games wearing a hijab.

Black and British: A short, essential history by David Olusoga
Age: 9 and upwards. Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books (2020)
The Black and British collection is a fascinating and detailed introduction to 1800 years of Black British history ranging from the Roman Africans to the Black Georgians to the present day.

High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson
Age: 10 to 11 years. Knights Of (2020)
This first in a series of crime novels tells the story of an art teacher murdered on a tower block estate and the black sisters who turn detective in order to solve the mystery.

Under My Hijab by MS Hena Khan (illustrated by Aaliya Jaleel)
Age: 4 to 7 years. Lee & Low Books (2019)
This book’s intention is for readers to appreciate and understand the hijab and the women who choose to wear it. Beautifully illustrated.

Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonial Sotomayor (illustrated by Rafael López)
Age: 4 to 8 years. Philomel Books (2019)
This fabulous book gives many different examples of disabilities. Each character shares their disabilities and asks questions that both able-bodied and non-able bodied children can relate to.

Rainbow Revolutionaries: 50 LGBT people who made history by Sarah Prager (illustrated by Sarah Papworth)
Age: 8 to 12 years. Publisher: HarperCollins (2022)
This non-fiction text, which is beautifully illustrated, explores LGBT+ people both past and present, and the impact they have had upon the world. One of the favourites in my classroom.

Lovely by Jess Hong
Age: 7 to 11 years. Creston Books
This beautiful picture book shows images of different people – some are tall, tattooed, hairy, some have prosthetic limbs, different skin, some are from different families, including LGBT+ families. An excellent provocation for discussion or PSHE.

Pansy Boy by Paul Harfleet
Age: 7 and upwards. Barbican Press (2020)
This is story of a boy who loves exploring plants and flowers but is bullied at school. He creates a plan to reclaim his school. This is an extension of The Pansy Project, which was designed to tackle homophobia and transphobia:

We Move Together by Kelly Fritsch & Anne McGuire (illustrated by Eduardo Trejos)
Age: 6 to 11 years. AK Press (2021)
This bold text follows a group of children of mixed-abilities who try to negotiate everyday barriers, finding joy and connection in disability culture and community. A great provocation for discussions around accessibility, disability and social justice.

Just Like Me: 40 neurologically and physically diverse people who broke stereotypes by Louise Gooding
Age: 8 years and upwards. Studio Press (2021)
A collection of 40 role models from around the world who are all neuro or physically diverse. Beautifully illustrated and expertly written. A must have for all libraries!

Sarah Wordlaw has been a senior leader for seven years and began her first headship this year at a primary school in London. Follow her on Twitter @smwordlaw

Headteacher Update Autumn Edition 2022

This article first appeared in Headteacher Update's Autumn Edition 2022. This edition was sent free of charge to every primary school in the country. A digital edition is also available via

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