Thinking About Religious Diversity

Learning to respect and honor different families with different beliefs.

Most picture books that make religious beliefs visible to young children are focused upon holidays rather than the meanings behind holidays. Here are some books we have found that either specifically speak to spiritual beliefs or at least place holidays into the context of family life. They are Goal 1 if it’s your family depicted, Goal 2 if it is a family different from yours.

To find more books like these, use the book search page. Look under “Religious Identities” in Group Identities or “Holidays” under Special Topics”.


Bringing Asha Home - Cover
Uma Krishnaswami, Lee & Low 2006
Ages 3 - 8

Arun, who lives in the U.S.A., waits impatiently for the arrival of his soon-to-be-adopted sister from India. He hopes she will arrive in time for Rakhi, the Hindu holiday special to brothers and sisters.
Goal 1 & 2
A Child is Born - Cover
Margaret Wise Brown and Floyd Cooper, Hyperion 2003. Ages 2 – 8
Ages 2 - 8

A lyrical celebration of the miracle of Christmas in which Joseph, Mary and the baby are all depicted as African. Beautifully illustrated and designed to open children’s minds to new possibilities.
Goal 1 & 2
Children Just Like Me - Cover
Barnabas Kinkersley, Dorling Kinkersely Pub 1995
Ages 4 - 8

Extraordinary photographs bring to life the international world of children’s families and homes, their clothes and food, their friends, favorite games, religious ceremonies and other aspects of their daily lives. Wonderful, simple explanations, with photos to illustrate, compare and contrast the ways families are the same and oh so different all over our planet. A unique celebration of children around the world.
Goal 1 & 2
The Coconut Monk - Cover
Thich Nhat Hanh, Parallax Press 2006
Ages 4 - 8

A simple, lovely telling of the true story of the Vietnamese “Coconut Monk” who believed all human being should be able to live in peace. With his cat and mouse companions, he went to speak to the President of Vietnam, ended up in jail, and was released when people came to his defense. “If a cat and a mouse can learn to live together in peace, don’t you think people can too?
Goal 1, 2, 3 & 4
Desmond and the Very Mean Word - Cover
Desmond Tutu, Candlewick Press 2013
Ages 5 - 8

This biographical story from the childhood of the South African Nobel Prize winner, Desmond Tutu, reveals the power of words and of forgiveness. Called a “very mean word” by some boys while riding his bike, Desmond wants to retaliate to make them apologize, but he finds that fighting back doesn’t make him feel any better. With help from his priest, he comes to see the power of compassion and connection, a lesson that guides him the rest of his life.
Goal 1,2,3 & 4.
Friday Nights of Nana - Cover
Amy Hest, Candlewick 1987
Ages 2 - 5

A young Jewish American girl helps her Nana prepare for the Friday night Shabbat dinner. Beautifully written and illustrated, this book evokes the loving labor that brings a family together and a child’s joy in ritual.
Goal 1 & 2
Great Joy - Cover
Kate DiCamillo, Candlewick Press 2010
Ages 3 - 8

A young girl sees a homeless man on the streets and is deeply worried about him. Where does he sleep? Who takes care of him? Despite her mother’s worries, she invites him to her Christmas pageant where she will be narrating. What happens is a “great blessing” indeed. Beautiful illustrations bring everyone’s humanity and compassion to life.
Goal 1, 2, 3 & 4
Giving Thanks: A Native American Morning Message - Cover
Chief Jake Swamp, Lee & Low 1995
Ages 3 - 6

This beautifully illustrated book is a tribute to the earth with words based on the “Thanksgiving Address” – an ancient message of peace and appreciation of Mother Earth and all of her inhabitants. The words of thanks come from the Iroquois or Six Nations, one of which is the Mohawk tribe. The author, Chief Jake Swamp, is the founder of the Tree of Peace Society, an organization that promotes peace and dialogue.
Goal 1, 3, & 4
Greetings Sun - Cover
Phillis Gershator, DK Publishing 1998
Ages 2 - 5

Beautifully simple paintings depict children of the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean. Inspired by African praise songs, the children are on a journey to greet the sun, the day, and the different living beings in nature.
Goal 1 & 2
Many Nations: An Alphabet of Native America - Cover
Joseph Bruchac, Bridgewater Books 1997
Ages 3 - 8

From “A” (Anishanabe artists making birch bark bowls) to “Z” (Zuni elders saying prayers of thanks at the end of the day), the beauty and diversity of Native American cultures are revealed in this stunningly illustrated alphabet book. The book explores 26 different Native American communities, taking the reader on a voyage through past and present cultures of the indigenous people of North America.
Goal 1 & 2
Many Ways: How families practice their beliefs and religions - Cover
, Shelly Rotner & Sheila Kelly Millbrook Press
Ages 4 - 9

Families across the globe have different beliefs about God. This lovely book of vivid photographs and texts examines many of the ways different religions are practiced by children and their families. Extremely informative and clear. The photos engage and enlarge children’s understanding. You can “tell” the book instead of reading it, and children as young as three find it interesting. Also available in Spanish.
Goal 1 & 2
The Matzah that Papa Brought Home - Cover
Fran Manuskin, Scholastic 1995
Ages 3 - 8

In exuberant verse brimming with the delights of the Passover holiday, the age-old traditions that have been handed down through the generations come vividly to life. From relatives gathering to reenact the story of the Exodus to enjoying the festive meal, this rhythmic tale conveys the warmth and richness of a cherished celebration. And in this family – it’s a girl that asks the four questions. The story is told with fresh, charming text and illustrations bathed in candlelight. There’s a section for adults at the back.
Goal 1, 2 & 3
My First Ramadan - Cover
Karen Katz, Henry Holt 2007
Ages 2 - 5

A tender, beautifully done, story about a boy who observes the Muslim holy month of Ramadan with his family. Factual and informative, it ends with a picture of Muslims from across the world celebrating together.
Goal 1 & 2
The Peace Bell - Cover
Margi Preus, Henry Hold 2008
Ages 5 - 8

Based on a true story, a young Japanese girl lives through WWII yearning for peace and for the beauty of a Buddhist temple bell that rang 108 times to chase away the “108 worries of the world”. The bell disappeared during the war, but even as a grown woman with a child of her own, the narrator dreams of the bell’s return and the end of all violence in the world. In 1954 the bell was returned from the city of Duluth Minnesota . Beautifully written.
Goal 1, 2 & 4
Ramadan - Cover
David Marx, Scholastic 2002
Ages 4 - 7

This is a lovely, small book with photos from across the planet of Muslim children and their families celebrating Ramadan, the holy month of fasting and prayer. The book is part of a beginning readers series – and the simplicity of the language is effective in respectfully presenting a glimpse of a complex spiritual tradition.
Goal 1 & 2
The Ring Bearer - Cover
Floyd Cooper, Philomel Books 2007
Ages 3 - 8

Jackson’s mama is getting married, and Jackson will have a new daddy and a new sister. And now, he is going to be the ring bearer at the wedding in the church. But what if he loses the ring right in front of the pastor and the guests? What if he trips? What if he walks too fast or too slow? A charming story about a two loving African American single parents and a young boy’s competence and kindness in a loving, blended “new” family.
Goal 1 & 2
Weddings - Cover
Ann Morris, Lothrop; Lee & Shepard 1995
Ages 3 - 8

Simple text and wonderful photos showing weddings around the world including Indonesia, Thailand, Japan, Sweden, The U.S.A and South Africa. A lovely and loving range of ceremony, ritual, and celebration including a Shinto rite in Japan, and Orthodox Jewish service in Russia, a Catholic mass in Slovakia and a short ceremony at city hall in Los Angeles.
Goal 1 & 2
What is Given From the Heart - Cover
Patricia McKissack, Schwartz & Wade Books 2019
Ages 5 - 8

This remarkable story switches the notion of “charity” into neighbors taking care of each other. Otis & his Mom are having hard, hard times. Their church announces people are going to make Love Boxes to help out families in need. Otis has nothing to give – until he decides to make a little book for a child who lost her home to fire. When Otis gets back from his delivery – there is a Love Box with food and clothing from his church.
Goal 1, 2, 3 & 4