Equity and inclusion News and updates

Anti-racism and anti-oppression in Canada: Promote equity through children’s books

Books help to shape our thinking and perspectives—this is true for children and adults.

It’s essential to be intentional about book choices if you want to harness the opportunity to promote inclusion, self-affirmation and equity through children’s literature. Choosing books featuring characters or by authors from equity-seeking groups is a realistic and crucial action you can take.

There are many excellent books available that explicitly teach kids about anti-racism, anti-oppression and inclusion. You can also choose books that feature Black, Indigenous or people of colour (BIPOC) and where the character’s race isn’t necessarily central to the plot. Look for books that promote positive images, not reinforce negative stereotypes.

If you read children’s books – to your students, children, grandkids, or other children in your life, you may have noticed that, most often, the lead characters are either white or animals.

Here are some stats to ponder: an analysis of children’s books published in 2020 shows that 12 per cent were about Black characters, and only 1.5 percent were about Indigenous characters. It’s shocking but perhaps not surprising sadly and underscores why you need to make deliberate choices.

Credit: Data on books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Why choose children’s books with diverse characters?

It’s no secret how important the early years and childhood are to learning and development. Introducing young readers to books with diverse characters promotes acceptance, respect and empathy for others. Reading can help children learn to appreciate the range of perspectives and identities in their classrooms and communities.

  • For children who are Black, Indigenous and people of colour, books with strong lead characters who look like them can help to affirm their identity. Not seeing themselves represented in literature can reinforce feelings of exclusion.
  • Books can help expose white children to racial and cultural diversity and help to shape their perspectives of the value and strength of all people.
  • Literature can showcase and celebrate the range of gender identities and types of couples and families in our communities and world. This, of course, can also help children feel supported and accepted as they explore their own sexualities and gender identities, and also support inclusion and acceptance among all children.

How to find children’s books with diverse characters

Many websites compile booklists with children’s books that showcase diversity and are written by diverse authors. Here are some options to check out:

Love of Literature – Canada’s only non-profit book club for Black youth (English only)

Love of Literature offers an online book club for Black youth. They publish their book recommendations on their website by age range so you can check out what their reading each session for book ideas. Full disclosure, Love of Literature was founded by RTOERO’s marketing and communications manager, Danielle Norris. We’re proud of her work!

14 inspiring children’s books from Indigenous writers – CBC

CBC compiled a list of children’s books by and about Indigenous people.

Librarians recommend 10 books that deal with gender identity or sexuality – CBC

CBC asked librarians across Canada to recommend books for children age 8 to 13 that touch on or explore gender identity and sexuality.

Ask at your local library

Your local librarian should be able to help you choose books with positive and diverse lead characters.

More books that celebrate diversity to check out


  • I Am Famous, Tara Luebbe
  • Please, Baby Please, Spike Lee
  • Please Clean Up Your Room!, Itah Siddu (*Cdn)


  • Hair Love, Matthew Cherry (*)
  • The Antiracist Baby, Ibram X Kendi
  • Malaika’s Winter Carnival, Nadia Hohn (*Cdn)
  • Say Something, Peter H. Reynolds (*)
  • The Proudest Blue, Ibtihaj Muhammad


  • Granddaddy’s Street Songs, Monalisa DeGross
  • Pop Pop and Me and a Recipe, Irene Smalls
  • Things I Like About Grandma, Francine Haskins

*available in French

When possible, try to purchase books from local bookstores and consider looking for bookstores with Black or Indigenous owners. This is another easy action that can help support equity-seeking people and groups.

Our diversity, equity and inclusion work is embedded in our strategic plan and tied to our advocacy work. Sharing learning and information with our members and others is part of our effort to help promote equity and inclusion across Canada. Explore more posts about equity and inclusion.