Summer is the perfect time for a dip in the pool or a visit to the beach. But far too many children don’t know how to swim, an issue that disproportionately affects kids of color. Access remains a barrier, too; in many cities, there are fewer pools in neighborhoods of color. This is a potentially deadly disparity—Black children drown at far higher rates than white children. However, things are starting to change. In New York, where I live, proposed legislation may increase the number of pools, particularly in low-income and majority-minority neighborhoods, and make swimming lessons freely available to kids 13 and under. I’m hoping that other communities follow suit. When it comes to learning to swim, there’s no replacement for time in the water, but picture books can help make a potentially overwhelming experience feel warm and welcoming. Centering on children of color, these new and upcoming titles emphasize that swimming is for everyone.

Growing up, author/illustrator Jack Wong was never comfortable in the water. As one of few kids of color at the local pool, he felt out of place, and his mother’s anxieties around swimming heightened his own. Aware that the right attitude can make all the difference, he wrote When You Can Swim (Orchard/Scholastic, May 2) to encourage kids to embrace the water. Beautifully crafted verse from the perspective of a loving caregiver pairs with shimmering depictions of lakes, rivers, and beaches. Images of characters diverse in race and ability leaping with wild abandon into the water will have readers heeding his exhortation: “Swim, little one!”

A large extended South Asian family goes to the lake each year in Rajani LaRocca’s Summer Is for Cousins (Abrams, May 16). Second-youngest cousin Ravi has always had a special bond with oldest cousin Dhruv, but is Dhruv now too old—and too cool—for Ravi? Turns out Ravi has nothing to worry about—Dhruv cheers Ravi on as the little one swings from a rope into the lake. Abhi Alwar’s art has a smudgy, childlike charm as it brings to exuberant life a setting where aquatic activities are a source of joy and where family supports one another through uncertainty.

“Bigger bodies, smaller bodies, taller bodies, and the smallest-of-all bodies”—everyone is welcome in Lucy Ruth Cummins’ Our Pool (Atheneum, June 13). Sensory language and richly saturated visuals convey the everyday pleasures of a trip to the city pool. It’s unclear which of the many racially diverse children depicted is narrating—an inspired choice that allows all readers to picture themselves as the hero of this tale.

Readers won’t want to miss Emily Joof and Matilda Ruta’s I Will Swim Next Time (Floris, Aug. 1), which centers on a small brown-skinned child whose fear of the water is transformed into love thanks to the support of a reassuring and patient mother. Joof and Ruta are keenly aware that swimming can be an overwhelming, even frightening experience for little ones, but their sensitive, gracefully illustrated tale makes clear that with a little time and a lot of understanding, any child can learn to love the water.

Together We Swim (Chronicle Books, Aug. 15) follows a Black family whose youngest member is learning to love the water. Valerie Bolling’s spare yet emphatic text and Kaylani Juanita’s elegant artwork portray a family eager for the child to swim with confidence (the older sibling’s deft underwater handstand and Dad’s mermaid tattoo are testaments to their passion for the water) but willing to give him the space he needs.

The brown-skinned protagonist of Ame Dyckman’s Tiny Barbarian Conquers the Kraken! (Harper/HarperCollins, Aug. 22) is determined to be like his onscreen hero, Bob the Barbarian. Since the latest movie finds Bob subduing kraken, that means Tiny Barbarian must brave the water, too, and though the community pool may not be as big as the ocean, it sure feels that way. In Ashley Spires’ cartoon illustrations, Tiny Barbarian cuts an endearing figure; his ultimate triumph will have young readers convinced that they, too, will master swimming lessons.

Mahnaz Dar is a young readers’ editor.