By Helen Joanne Adam, Edith Cowan University

Gifting children books can be about more than just giving them something to read.

Books are portals to adventure, imagination and new experiences. Importantly, books can help children understand and appreciate themselves, and those around them.

Sadly, books normalising racial, cultural, family or gender diversity and diverse abilities are few and far between.

When children see characters and stories reflecting their background, they can develop a stronger sense of identity. Research also shows reading books with diverse characters and story-lines helps children develop a greater understanding and appreciation of people different to themselves.

Here are some suggestions of diverse picture books you could buy for kids this Christmas.

1. Books with diverse characters

Hachette Australia

A student teacher I know was tutoring a nine-year-old Muslim girl and decided to share with her a book called The Rainbow Hijab. When the girl saw the book, her eyes lit up with excitement and she turned to her tutor and said, “I didn’t know they made books about Muslim girls like me.”

No child should feel invisible in books. All children should be able to see themselves and people different to them portrayed in positive and inclusive ways.

The best books for children are those containing enjoyable story lines and reflecting diversity without preaching about it.

The Patchwork Bike by Maxine Beneba Clarke, illustrated by Van T. Rudd, is about children of African and Muslim background and the bike they build together from things they find around them. All children can relate to the joyful story of playing outside and being creative.

Other books containing relatable childhood stories are:

2. Books portraying diverse abilities