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The ABCs of Diversity: Helping Kids (and Ourselves!) Embrace Our Differences

SKU 9780827200937

by Carolyn B. Helsel and Y. Joy Harris-Smith

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Recommended by the New York Times, Library Journal, Foreword Reviews, and dozens of bestselling parenting authors

How do we help our children respect, embrace, and learn from those who look and think differently than they do? 

Written by two mothers and educators — one Black, one white — The ABCs of Diversity equips parents, teachers, and community leaders to talk to children of all ages about the topics of race, gender, class, religion, political affiliation, ability, nationality, and sexual orientation. The authors offer three sets of “ABCs” throughout the book to help guide the conversations: our automatic ABCs; the ABCs of intentional engagement; and the ABCs of a more just society.

The ABCs of Diversity includes specific resources and activities to use with both young and older children to encourage compassion and empathy.  The book also includes diversity reading lists for kids, curriculum activities for children and youth, scripts for parents, and more. An educational and practical resource for parents, teachers, community leaders, ministry personnel, human resources directors, and librarians, The ABCs of Diversity is a “must-read” for parents and teachers. Questions at the end of each chapter invite reflection and further discussion.

Download the ABCs Worksheets: Use these worksheets on your own or with a group to reflect on each set of the ABCs in the book.


Book Trailer


With compassion, clarity and a beautiful collaborative spirit, Drs. Helsel and Harris-Smith give parents and caregivers a powerful gift. Answering real questions we might be afraid to ask, providing concrete tools to help us know and do better—ourselves and with our kids, The ABCs of Diversity equips us to be co-conspirators in creating a justice- and love-infused, future of flourishing for all. Read this book.”—Jennifer Harvey, author, Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America

"Carolyn B. Helsel and Y. Joy Harris-Smith’s parenting guide is about navigating modern culture in an effective, loving way. A steady approach shows parents, both through direct instruction and its caring tone, how to be nonjudgmental—first with themselves, then with their children, acknowledging that everyone needs to change and let go of past patterns. From this place of healthy self-acceptance, people can engage with others and their differences." —Foreword Reviews

"Covering topics from “the talk,” gender, identify formation, and talking to children and adolescents about difference, The ABCs of Diversity provides readers strategies, practices, and accessible entry points into the life-affirming, and for some of us, life-saving conversations that are necessary in today’s world. Helsel and Harris-Smith provide a toolkit for any parent, small group leader, or individual looking to build deeper relationships across differences."Patrick Reyes, author, Nobody Cries When We Die

 "If every parent of every child reads this book, this next generation will truly create the kind of world we all want to live in — where radical difference is something to be celebrated, where every human being enjoys peace and safety, and where our own hearts are not ruled by fear and hatred."―Kerry Connelly, author, Good* White Racist: Confronting Your Role in Racial Injustice

"Building a beloved community of acceptance and belonging begins with our children.  The ABCs of Diversity provides us with building blocks to engage young (and not so young) hands and hearts in constructing a way of being a more just and equitable society.  A counter-cultural way to put flesh on the imago dei."Leah Gunning Francis, Vice President for Academic Affairs at Christian Theological Seminary and the author of Ferguson and Faith: Sparking Leadership and Awakening Community

“In eight chapters, authors Helsel and Harris-Smith offer a course of action to talk to children and teens about diversity and inclusion, and how to celebrate our differences. Topics include race, gender, sexuality, religion and politics, nationality, ethnicity, and culture. The authors explore how our assigned gender at birth influences our lives, and how we image ourselves. Later chapters examine contemporary American society and the varied responses, both affirmative and otherwise, to a changing cultural landscape. Two chapters focus on social media and its impact on diversity. The authors argue that adults should make an effort to continually learn and lead by example, including reaching out and building relationships with people from different backgrounds. Appendices include annotated bibliographies for additional readings and activities. VERDICT A well-structured and pragmatic approach to teaching young people how to embrace the differences among us and begin to participate in civic engagement. Best for parents, educators, and community and pastoral leaders.”Library Journal, May 18, 2020


This book is made possible in part due to a generous gift from Darryl and Shari Searuggs in honor of Emmitt Searuggs Jr. and in loving memory of Ed Holliness, their beloved fathers. Born and raised in the segregated south, Emmitt and Ed fully embraced everyone’s humanity regardless of race, ethnicity, or cultural background.