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Toys and video games are among the most popular gifts for children — that doesn't diminish from one of the most traditional gifts: books. Children’s books, in particular, are impactful in that they can positively shape kids’ views on literacy and education — and, of course, entertain them. And if you’re looking for the best children’s books to gift this year, your options abound with ready curations of holiday-ready picture books, including age-specific lists, deals on children’s books and more. And if you’re looking to finish this unpredictable year on a positive note, consider incorporating lessons of diversity into your holiday celebration, sharing stories of various holiday customs and traditions from around the world. Again, you’ve got multiple avenues by which to achieve this, from Target’s children’s books about empathy and inclusion to Scholastic’s list of children’s books with a focus on culture, folktales, religion and myths.
You don’t even realize how narrow your reading focus is until you stop and examine the books on your shelf.
Jo Meserve Mach, Publisher, Finding My Way Books
And yet another option comes from a much more specific source: Finding My Way Books, which publishes and promotes the stories of children with disabilities. The bookstore collaborated with online bookseller Bookshop on a list of inclusive children’s holiday books. “The holidays seemed like a perfect opportunity to promote religious inclusion and understanding,” said the outfit’s publisher and author Jo Meserve Mach. She’s been working with Bookshop throughout 2020 on various books lists, including:
- Amazing Lives and the Americans with Disabilities Act
- Free to Be Me: Celebrating black children with disabilities for Juneteenth
- And Doggone Good Reading for National Guide Dog Month, among others.
“For this specific list, I did not want any white Santa Clauses because they are so universal and exclusive,” Mach told Shopping, noting she attempted to find a “balance” in the number of titles that represent any one religious group. “I intentionally include under-represented people so their voices are lifted up within our society.”
Best inclusive picture books
To help your gifting this year, we listed Mach's picks below in alphabetical order and along with average reader ratings from reading network Goodreads, which itself just released the winners of its annual Goodreads Choice Awards.
1. "Binny's Diwali"by Thrity Umrigar and Nidhi Chanani
- Goodreads: 4.29 star-average rating, more than 95 ratings
2. "Christmas Makes Me Think" by Tony Medina and Chandra Cox (available Dec. 19)
- Goodreads: 3.88 star-average rating, more than 30 ratings
3. "Grandma's Gift" by Eric Velásquez
- Goodreads: 3.98 star-average rating, over 300 ratings
4. "Holiday Love Around The World: Holiday Love" by Lashaun Jackson and Tyrus Goshay
5. "I Got the Christmas Spirit" by Connie Schofield-Morrison and Frank Morrison
- Goodreads: 3.76 star-average rating, more than 250 ratings
6. "I'm in Charge of Celebrations" (Reprint) by Byrd Baylor and Peter Parnall
- Goodreads: 4.50 star-average rating, over 450 ratings
7. "Let's Celebrate 5 Days of Diwali!" by Ajanta Chakraborty and Vivek Kumar
- Goodreads: 4.11 star average rating, over 15 ratings
8. "My Family! A Multi-Cultural Holiday Coloring Book for Children of Gay and Lesbian Parents" by Cheril N. Clarke
- Goodreads: 5.00 star-average rating
9. "My Family Celebrates Kwanzaa" by Lisa Bullard and Constanza Basaluzzo
- Goodreads: 3.17 star-average rating, over 10 ratings
10. "Nathan Blows Out the Hanukkah Candles" by Nicole Katzman and Tami Lehman-Wilzig
- Goodreads: 3.47 star-average rating, over 30 ratings
11."Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story" by Angela Shelf Medearis and Daniel Minter
- Goodreads: 4.18 star-average rating, more than 200 ratings
12. "Shubh Diwali!" by Chitra Soundar and Charlene Chua
- Goodreads: 3.49 star-average rating, over 120 ratings
13. "The Hanukkah Magic of Nate Gadol" by Arthur A. Levine and Kevin Hawkes
- Goodreads: 4.00 star-average rating, more than 20 ratings
14. "The Shortest Day" by Susan Cooper and Carson Ellis
- Goodreads: 3.87 star-average rating, over 700 ratings
15. "There Was a Young Rabbi: A Hanukkah Tale" by Suzanne Wolfe and Jeffrey Ebbeler
- Goodreads: 3.83 star-average rating
16. "Too Many Tamales" by Gary Soto and Ed Martinez
- Goodreads: 4.14 star-average rating, 4,400 ratings
17. "We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga" by Traci Sorell and Frane Lessac
- Goodreads: 4.30 star-average rating, more than 1,300 ratings
18. "What Do You Celebrate?: Holidays and Festivals Around the World" by Whitney Stewart Christiane Engel
- Goodreads: 4.43 star-average rating, more than 35 ratings
Why buy inclusive children’s books
Why opt for an inclusive picture book this holiday, whether for your kids or to gift others? For one thing, consider the same reason Mach said she found her calling in creating inclusive children’s books: The need for “books sharing positive stories about children with disabilities.”
“In the last century, stories tended to be about animals with a physical limitation or about children being cared for. Those books encouraged readers to see children with disabilities in a dependent way and exclusive way,” she explained. “Children with disabilities need to see the wonderful role models who are out there and children without disabilities need to see that children with disabilities are just like them.” With that in mind and so close to various gifting occasions, Mach urged parents and grandparents to consider diversity in the children’s books they shop for.
“It seems like a slight shift in thinking, but it could change the perspective of the children reading books throughout their lifetime,” she noted. “You don’t even realize how narrow your reading focus is until you stop and examine the books on your shelf.”
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