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Tell Us: What Children’s Books Reflect Your Family?

A young boy in a black baseball cap holds up a red book with an image of instruments on one page and a description in English and Spanish on the opposing page.
A child looks at a Lil’ Libros book at Mis Renas, a stand on Olvera Street (La Placita Olvera) in Downtown Los Angeles on July 21, 2021.
(Brian Feinzimer
For LAist)
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We’d love to hear from you about your family’s favorite books for kids 5 and younger.

We especially love learning about authors and illustrators who live right here in Southern California.

We know L.A.’s kids and their families come from all different backgrounds — just over 85% of Los Angeles County kindergarteners are Black, Latino, Native American, Asian, Filipino, Pacific Islander, or multiracial. They also have a range of abilities, socioeconomic backgrounds and identities.

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But that diversity isn’t always reflected in the children’s books they’ll find on the shelves.

This was the topic of a recent LAist story that featured L.A. bilingual book publisher Lil’ Libros and a related segment on 89.3 KPCC’s AirTalk.

Listen: The Importance Of Diversity In Children’s Books, What Publishers And Bookstores Can Do To Help And More

The good news is that the number of books that embrace diversity is on the rise!

One of the books I personally still treasure is Calor: A Story Of Warmth For All Ages by Amado M. Peña Jr. and Juanita Alba. It’s a bilingual book that captures all the warmth and beauty of the Southwest (where I’m from).

I can’t wait to hear about your favorites! Share your suggestions.

To get you started, here are a few recommendations from our AirTalk guests and from you, our readers and listeners:

My Colors, My World/ Mis Colores, Mi Mundo by San Francisco author Maya Christina Gonzalez: a recommendation from multicultural children’s book publisher Lee & Low's Marketing and Publicity Director Hannah Ehrlich.

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My Papi Has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero (who’s from the Inland Empire): recommended by Rowland Unified School District 4th grade teacher, Ashley McGrath, who shared a whole list of books with us. You can find it here.

I Dream of Popo by Los Angeles author Livia Blackburne: suggested by local children’s book store Once Upon A Time manager and book buyer Jessica Palacios.

Books by author Gary Soto: The Central Valley-raised poet and novelist's numerous titles often explore Mexican American and Latino identity. Inglewood teacher Sandra called in to say she first saw herself represented in Soto’s books in middle school. (Too Many Tamales is a holiday classic in my house).

Hannah Is My Name by Carmel author and artist Belle Yang: a listener in Gardena, Audrey, shared the book, which is about about a young Taiwanese girl who moves to San Francisco, “helped me see myself in children's books at a really young age and reading it with my mom was one of the first times I learned about immigration and the American dream.”

We Could Be Heroes by South Pasadena’s Margaret Finnegan: Steve, from our audience, emailed in to say this middle-grade book is a great read, with neurodiverse characters.

From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry by Los Angeles author Paula Yoo: DaVette, a listener in Inglewood, told us that this young adult book, about the racially motivated 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, a young Chinese American man who grew up in Detroit, is “a sensitive treatment of a difficult subject.”

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: Greg, from our audience, emailed in to recommend the 1962 classic, which broke color barriers at the time featuring a young Black protagonist named Peter exploring his Brooklyn neighborhood after a snowfall.

The non-profit Multiracial Americans of Southern California got in touch with its own book list:

And we heard from some people who’ve published their own books:

Oh Happy Day!/ ¡Oh Día Feliz! by Jose and Elizabeth Escobar: The Brea couple let us know about their bilingual Easter devotional book for kids.

¡Luchadormice! by Sneaky Varmint, aka Libby Ward: Ben in Burbank shared that his girlfriend created this story about a family of dormice turned wrestlers.

If you have a favorite book that you see yourself or your children reflected in, please let us know!

Share your favorite children's books.

What questions do you have about early childhood education and development? What do you want to know about kids ages 0-5 and those who care for them in Southern California?
Decades of research indicates early childhood education significantly boosts children’s readiness to learn. Mariana Dale wants families, caregivers and educators to have the information they need to help children 0-5 grow and thrive by identifying what’s working and what’s not in California’s early childhood system.

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