Did you know that five Texas cities are among the most diverse cities in the country? Fort Worth, Dallas, Houston, Austin and Arlington place in the top 50 diverse cities out of a 313-city study that looked at economic, social class, ethno-racial, and household diversity. Additionally, Houston, Dallas and Arlington are numbers 32, 50 and 53 in that same study of most ethno-racial diverse cities. With such rich diversity in the state of Texas, it would be easy to assume that children are consistently exposed to this diversity and are, therefore, less likely to show prejudices.

Public school children are exposed to a wider range of individuals than children in most home school classrooms. But with some effort, we can bring diversity to the home school. Cultural appreciation and the understanding of differences can be a difficult subject to breach and teach—especially when current events prompt the lessons. One of the easiest ways to answer the tough questions while broadening students’ understanding of other cultures is through literature. In addition to the classics in middle and high school, English and language arts should include a slew of writings by diverse authors. Literature has always been an influential channel through which we understand our world and each other. Why not add great writers to your teaching support team?

Studies have shown that the books we read are linked to developing empathy for and personal connections with fictional characters. Consider your favorite book. Why is it your favorite? Who is your favorite character and why? Our esteem for a book is based largely on our emotional connection with the characters.

In “The Psychology of Fandom: Why We Get Attached to Fictional Characters,” journalist Abby Norman writes, “One thing that helps us empathize with family and friends, no matter what our baseline capabilities to do so are, is trying to fill in the details of what we don’t know about their situation.” Through reading we learn intimate details about characters, including their background, life struggles, hopes and dreams, and failures and successes, that we may never learn about a person in real life. It is this intimate knowledge that broadens our perspective and allows us to reconsider our notions of others’ lives. Literature helps us become intimately acquainted and thus deeply empathetic of diverse characters. In real life, this may translate to a willingness to better understand diverse peoples.

As with any literature, discussing the reading cements learning. Asking a child why he or she felt connected to the writing, even at an early age, leads to better critical thinking and comprehension.

The following are examples of books that can be used to expose learners through literature to the diverse cultures that make up the United States.

Early Readers (Preschool – Kindergarten)

Native American Literature

Dreamcatcher by Audrey Osofsky – A simple story told through poetry and beautiful illustrations of the Ojibway Indians who wove dreamcatchers that capture nightmares so only good dreams get to the sleeper.

African American Literature

Chocolate Me by Taye Diggs – A young boy learns to accept and love his differences despite the teasing of other children.

Asian American Literature

Bee-Bim Bop by Linda Sue Park – A child helps her mother shop for and prepare ingredients for a traditional Korean dish.

Hispanic American Literature

Abuelo by Arthur Dorros – A young girl imagines she and her grandmother can fly.

First – Second Grade

Native American Literature

Crazy Horse’s Vision by Joseph Bruchac – This Parents’ Choice Gold Award winning book tells the story of a young Native American man who seeks a vision that will help him save his people.

African American Literature

One Word from Sophia by Jim Averbeck – The story of a young negotiator who really, really wants her one birthday wish to come true.

Asian American Literature

Hot, Hot Roti for Dada-ji by F. Zia – A little boy’s grandfather is visiting from India and the boy wants to entice his grandfather, whose stories of strength have entertained him, to show off how strong he is by tasting the boy’s Hot, Hot Roti dish made with mango pickle.

Hispanic American Literature

What Can You Do with a Paleta by Carmen Tafolla – A charming story about the wonders of the paleta, a Mexican popsicle.

Third  – Fifth Grade

Native American Literature

Death of the Iron Horse by Paul Goble – A tale of the only derailing of a train by Native American people. The Cheyenne saw the train as a threat to their way of life that they bravely sought to protect.

African American Literature

Maritcha: A Nineteenth-Century American Girl by Tonya Bolden – Based on the memoirs of Maritcha Rimond Lyons, the story follows a young African American girl who was born free during the time of slavery and her fight to attend an all-white school.

Asian American Literature

Blackbird Fly by Erin Entrada Kelly – Twelve-year-old Apple and her mother emigrate from the Philippines to Louisiana and Apple struggles with being different from her classmates and staying connected with her heritage.

Hispanic American Literature

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan – The story of an affluent Mexican girl who immigrates to America and must work as a migrant worker.

Sixth – Eighth Grade

Native American Literature

Sees Behind Trees by Michael Dorris – This book doubles as Native American literature and a lesson in acceptance of others’ differences, as a young near-sighted boy struggles to achieve in archery, the same as the other children. He earns a new name when he is able to use his other senses in a way no one else can.

African American Literature

Crossover by Kwame Alexander – This 2015 Newbery Medal Winner is the story of 12-year-old African American twins who learn a lot about growing up both on and off the court. The story is told in sensational verse that captures the young reader’s attention.

Asian American Literature

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo by Greg Leitich Smith – This comedic look at middle school life involves three diverse friends who get caught up in the drama of seventh grade.

Hispanic American Literature

Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez – Two lives intersect as Mari’s illegal migrant worker family finds work among desperate dairy farmers in Vermont.

High School

Native American Literature

Waterlily by Ella Cara Deloria – A young adult novel about the intricacies of kinship and unity among the Native American people. After tragedy befalls a main character, a different kind of family is established through adoption into a new tribe.

African American Literature

The First Part Last by Angela Johnson – A teen boy’s carefree life comes to a screeching halt when he learns he is going to be a father and must care for his baby.

Asian American Literature

Girl in Translation by Jean Kwok – A teenage Chinese immigrant leads a double life as a brilliant student and a sweatshop worker, straddling the line between extreme poverty, the weight of her family, and what to do with her ambition and talent.

Hispanic American Literature

Drown by Junot Diaz – This collection of 10 tales follows people from the Dominican Republic to the urban areas of New Jersey, and chronicles the attempts of the Dominican immigrants in recreating and redefining their place in society.