Diversity in Storytime

By Tina Schmidt / Douglas County Libraries, CLEL Steering Subcommittee Co-Chair 

Every other month, CLEL members are invited to come together for Member Meetups. Held virtually, these hour-long sessions are a way for members to connect with colleagues across the state in a casual, conversational atmosphere with topics driven by member survey results. Our first member meetup for 2023 was March 21, and we discussed Diversity in Storytime.

The library is a great place for children to see and interact with people from many different cultures in a positive environment.  Storytimes can be a safe place for everyone in the community to learn about people and cultures that are different from their own. Being exposed to diverse picture books gives caregivers and librarians the perfect opportunity to talk about race with children.

Every child needs to see themselves mirrored in storytime.  This can be accomplished by reading books with characters of all different races and cultures and abilities.  Unfortunately, it is not always easy to find materials that represent ethnicities other than white.   Children need to see the food they eat, the holidays they celebrate, and the skin color of their family members represented in picture books.  All children need to see themselves reflected in storytime adventures and see others who are different from them represented with equal importance.  This will go a long way in creating meaningful relationships and confidence in their future lives. 

Here is a list of the materials we discussed at the meet up that would help to make any storytime more diverse.  This list does not include all great diverse storytime books but just the books we discussed during our meetup.


  • This Beach is Loud and It Was Supposed To Be Sunny by Samantha Cotterill author of little senses books
  • My City Speaks by Darren Lebeuf
  • B is for Baby by Atinuke
  • I Just Want To Say Goodnight by Rachel Isadora
  • What Happened to You? By James Catchpole
  • Off to See the Sea by Nikki Grimes
  • Abuela by Arthur Dorros
  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall It is a subtle nod to the transgender community
  • Everywhere the Cow Says “Moo!” By Ellen Slusky Weinstein
  • I Got the Rhythm, by Connie Schofield
  • Papa and Me, by Arthur Dorros
  • Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
  • How to Babysit a Grandma by by Jean Reagan
  • Mama and Mommy and Me in the Middle by Nina LaCour
  • Old MacDonald Had A Baby by Emily Snape
  • Little Feminist Board Book Series by Mudpuppy
  • Love Makes A Family by Sophie Beer
  • The Best Bed For Me by Gaia Cornwall
  • All Different Now: Juneteenth, the First Day of Freedom by Angela Johnson 
  • Bus Stop by Angela Dale



Know Better Do Better Project – The Know Better Do Better Project seeks to encourage conversation and awareness of songs that have played a role in sustaining systemic racism, and the writing of new alternative songs. We believe that by facing our music history, creating new songs, and making informed decisions about the songs we choose to sing, we amplify the positive power of music to shape a more just and inclusive world.

Selecting Picture Books – (from CLEL website) Inspiring a love of reading begins at birth. Reading together and enjoying storytime at the library are great ways to start children on their reading journey. Some books work better for one-on-one sharing and others work well to read aloud to a group (and a lot of books work well for both!). As always, choose a variety of books based on the child’s interests and developmental stage and be intentional in your choice to support Equity, Diversity, Inclusion (EDI) and Social Justice.

Diverse BookFinder  – The Diverse BookFinder is a comprehensive collection of children’s picture books featuring Black and Indigenous people and People of Color (BIPOC). We’ve cataloged and analyzed trade picture books fitting this criteria, published since 2002, to surface and create a unique circulating collection, a search tool, and a source of critical data.

Diversify Your Storytime Music – Book Cart Queens – Are you using music from a diverse group of artists in storytime? I’ll ask another way: are the artists of all the songs you use in storytime white? There is a ton of conversation in the library world about the need to make sure your collections, displays, reader’s advisory, and programming books include underrepresented populations. 

Book resource

  • Multicultural Storytime Magic by Kathy Macmillan and Christine M. Kirker

Tips and Tricks:

  • When you are reading books in storytime be sure to highlight the diversity of Authors. 
  • If you pass out baby dolls at storytime make sure the baby dolls have different skin colors.
  • Make sure you are including people who have sight impairment.  When using powerpoint slides in storytime – make sure they are high contrast and font is 24 point and above so everyone can read them even if they have difficulty seeing.
  • Providing a sensory tool kit for neurodivergent families to use during storytime helps families to feel welcomed.  Include noise restricting headphones, sunglasses for light sensitivity, stretchy bands, weighted blankets, fidgets, and shaker bottles.
  • Attend school board meetings as a citizen not necessarily as a librarian to find others in your community that support EDI.
  • Remember that caregivers in the room are diverse.  Are you always saying mom and dad in storytime?  Try using the words caregivers, adults, or your grown up.
  • Change pronouns in the book you are reading.  For example if you are reading a book about tools and building and all of the pronouns are masculine try throwing in some feminine pronouns as well.

Children can see differences between people and can recognize their own race at an incredibly young age.  As librarians we have the opportunity to begin their journey of becoming culturally competent people with diverse books and experiences during storytime.  We can give them confidence and pride in who they are when they see themselves in the books we choose to share with them.

Our next Meetup will be Wednesday, May 24, 2023 from 1:00 pm to 2:00pm.  We will be discussing Summer Readers Advisory for Emergent Readers.