Our 10 Favorite Multicultural Books for First Grade

Reading books with children at a young age not only helps them be better prepared for school, but it also opens their minds to new cultures and experiences. Exposing children in first grade to both “mirror” and “window” books – that is, books in which they can see themselves, and books in which they can learn about others- is the best way to create engaged readers and support social and emotional learning.

Lee & Low Books is a children’s book publisher specializing in diversity. We offers hundreds of great books for first graders, along with free teacher guides and lesson plans for each book! Our books include English, Spanish, and bilingual titles; books about many different cultures; books that span a wide range of subjects and themes; and both fiction and nonfiction. Browse all our books and collections for grades PreK – 2, and check out our other book lists by grade:

Our 10 Favorite Multicultural Books for Preschool

Our 8 Favorite Multicultural Books for Kindergarten

Favorite Multicultural Books for First Grade

1. Marisol McDonald and the Clash Bash/Marisol McDonald y la fiesta sin igual by Monica Brown, illus. by Sara Palacios: 

marisol mcdonald and the clash bash

Everyone’s favorite mismatched heroine is back! Marisol is turning eight, and it’s time to plan a birthday party that will be fabulous, marvelous, and divine. She also hopes that Abuelita, who lives far away in Peru, will be able to come to the celebration. See the Teacher’s Guide.

2. Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del arcoíris by Linda E. Marshall, illus. by Elisa Chavarri: 

rainbow weaver cover

Ixchel wants to follow in the long tradition of weaving on backstrap looms, just as her mother, grandmother, and most Mayan women have done for more than two thousand years. But Ixchel’s mother is too busy preparing her weavings for the market. Suddenly, she has an idea! She collects and washes the plastic bags floating around her neighborhood and uses them to create a colorful fabric that looks like a beautiful rainbow! See the Teacher’s Guide.

3. Sparkle Boy by Lesléa Newman, illus. by Maria Mola:

sparkle boy cover

Casey loves to play with his blocks, puzzles, and dump trucks, and he also loves things that shimmer, glitter, and sparkle. Casey’s older sister, Jessie, thinks this is weird. Shimmery, glittery, sparkly things are only for girls. Right? This sweet and refreshing story speaks to us all about acceptance, respect, and the simple freedom to be yourself.

4. Ghosts for Breakfast by Stanley Todd Terasaki, illus. by Shelly Shinjo: 

ghosts for breakfast cover

Three unexpected guests — Mr. Omi, Mr. Omaye, and Mr. Ono — arrive at the Tanaka home, complaining of having seen ghosts. They claim there are dozens of them — in Farmer Tanaka’s field! The ghosts were long and thin and white, very white, and they were dancing in the moonlight. Set in California in the 1920s, this delightful father-son story speaks to all young children who yearn to overcome their fears. See the Ghosts for Breakfast Word Scramble.

5. My Colors, My World/Mis colores, mi mundo by Maya Christina Gonzalez: 

my colors my world cover

Maya is searching for all the colors of the rainbow, inspiring little readers to look around and ask themselves, where can I find the colors in my world? See the Teacher’s Guide.

6. Music Time by Gwendolyn Hooks, illus. by Shirley Ng-Benitez:

music time cover

From our Dive Into Reading early reader series featuring the Confetti Kids, Music Time is about a young boy named Henry who finds a way to combine his love of music and playing with his friends. When his mother finishes work, they figure out how to enjoy music together. See the Confetti Kids Activity Guide.

7. Elizabeti’s Doll by Stephanie Stuve-Bodeen, illus. by Christy Hale: 

elizabeti's doll cover

Upon the arrival of her new baby brother, Elizabeti decides she needs a doll she can care for the way her mother cares for the new baby. After looking around her village, Elizabeti finds the perfect doll to love, and names her Eva. See the Teacher’s Guide.

8. Under the Lemon Moon by Edith Hope Fine, illus. by René Moreno: 

under the lemon moon cover

One night, Rosalinda is awakened by a noise in the garden. When she investigates, she sees a man leaving with a large sack-full of fruit from Rosalinda’s beloved lemon tree. After consulting with family and neighbors about how to save her sick tree, Rosalinda sets out in search of La Anciana, the Old One, the only person who might have a solution to Rosalinda’s predicament. See the Teacher’s Guide.

9. Drummer Boy of John John  by Mark Greenwood, illus. by Frané Lessac:

drummer boy of john john cover 

Carnival is coming, and the villagers of John John, Trinidad, are getting ready to jump up and celebrate with music, dancing, and a parade. Best of all, the Roti King has promised free rotis—tasty fried pancakes filled with chicken, herbs, and spices—for the best band in the parade. Young Winston dreams of feasting on those delicious rotis. But there’s a problem: he’s not in a band! Pondering his predicament as he wanders through the village junkyard, Winston makes a curious musical discovery that may be just the ticket to realizing his dream. See the Teacher’s Guide.

10. Young Cornrows Callin’ Out the Moon by Ruth Forman, illus. by Cbabi Bayoc:

young cornrows callin out the moon cover

Who needs a backyard when you’ve got brownstone steps, double dutch, and freeze tag beneath the sizzling summer sun? There’s nothing like summer time in the city when you’ve got your friends, family, and imagination to keep you company. See the Activity Guide.

Free Customized Orders

Want to create a book order based on reading level, theme, and/or student demographics? We can help! Our in-house Sales & Literacy Team can help you build a free custom book order for your school or district.

Contact Veronica Schneider at vschneider[at]leeandlow[dot]com to get started!

Further Reading

Bebop Books: Guided Reading Book Sets for the Classroom

Building Classroom Community in First Grade

What Does Close Reading Look Like in First Grade?

Also check out our amazing PreK-2 collections:

Diverse Background English Collection for PreK-2preschool classroom collections image

Asian American English Collection for PreK-2

English Fiction Collection for PreK-2

Poetry Collection for PreK-2

Diversity Starter Pack Collection for PreK-2

Building Classroom Community for Kindergarden Collection

Family Diversity Collection 

3 thoughts on “Our 10 Favorite Multicultural Books for First Grade”

  1. This is great! I was just looking for books for this age group. I will be adding an art project along with the book I choose. Can you point me in the direction of some ideas? A site, a page, a pinterest board? I find tons of art activities based on books, but not any that feature characters of color! Please help!
    Lisha and Big T of Tales with Big T

  2. Hi. I really like all these books. I am compiling a multicultural database library for my graduate school. I am currently compiling and I was instructed by my professor to place date of publication. Where can i possibly get it for the 10 multicultural books for first grade?

    Thanks alot.

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