Teach tolerance with these children’s books about diversity and acceptance
Exploring picture books and chapter books that recognize, celebrate and inform us about human diversity including learning disabilities, physical disabilities, allergies, single parent families, interracial families, same sex parents, aging, death and more.
You will also be interested in these related pages:
Quotes about Diversity and Tolerance for Kids
Children’s Books About Autism
Children’s Books About Family Diversity
Children’s Books About Individuality
Discovering Diversity: Looking at Princesses in Picture Books
Celebrating Grandparents and Family Diversity
When presenting our Celebrating Diversity with Picture Books workshop at conferences throughout British Columbia, we always include a selection of picture books that honor cultural, linguistic, family, gender and individual diversity. These are some of our favourites…
All Kinds of Friends, Even Green written and photographed by Ellen B. Senisi
Picture book about friendship and a child who uses a wheelchair published by Woodbine House
Here we accompany Moses on a school day. When he is given an assignment to write about friends, he carefully considers all of his friends and all the fun things he does with them. Ultimately, he decides to write about an iguana named Zaki whose toes were poisoned by mites. Moses likes Zaki because ‘she figures out how to get where she wants to be in different ways.’ All Kinds of Friends, Even Green! helps young readers to understand that friends may appear different on the outside and they may need to use a wheelchair to move about but, in all likelihood, they are very much alike on the inside.
And Tango Makes Three written by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole
Picture book about a family with same sex parents published by Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing
Roy and Silo are male chinstrap penguins at New York’s Central Park Zoo. They love each other very much and make a nest together. Sadly, Roy and Silo do not have an egg to keep warm. One day their keeper decides to give them an egg that needs protection. Many days pass, Roy and Silo attend conscientiously to the precious egg. At long last the shell cracks and baby Tango arrives. Together, Roy and Silo become fathers. Based on true events, And Tango Makes Three is charming and thoughtful.
Highly recommended and best suited for children aged 4-8
Argyle written by Barbara Brooks Wallace and illustrated by John Sandford
Picture book about self acceptance published by Boyds Mills Press
Argyle’s life was exactly the way he wanted it. He was the same as all the other sheep and that was just fine with him. While roaming the highlands, Argyle discovered some especially tasty grass and some very colorful flowers. Day after day he ate the flowers until… “One day MacDougal’s wife, Katharine, said, “Why dinna ye tell me about the many-colored sheep, MacDougal?” The ensuing fuss is not at all to Argyle’s liking. Placed in a pen by himself, he can’t roam and he can’t eat the delicious, colorful flowers. Thankfully, it does not take long in the “special” pen for him to lose his many colors. He returns to looking and feeling like a sheep and that is just fine with him.
Argyle is a lovely, gentle folk tale that reminds us being different may not be all that it seems. Sometimes being the same as everyone else is just fine.
Catherine’s story is based upon the experiences of a young girl who, as an infant, suffered from West’s Syndrome, also known as infantile spasms (a form of epilepsy). Catherine wears braces when she walks and she claps her hands very, very quietly. She is not able to talk but she does listen very intently. Catherine’s dad explains to her cousin that many people talk far too much; Catherine is special because she listens so well. Catherine, who needs help throughout the day, is supported by her dad together with her grandmother. Catherine’s Story is beautilully illustrated with vivid hues. It is a valuable resource for classrooms and families seeking to understand children with disabilities.
Epilepsy Ontario’s Resource “Perfection” – a play and program for classroom use
David and the Worry Beast written by Anne Marie Guanci and illustrated by Caroline Attia
Picture book about anxiety and worry published by New Horizon Press
David and the Worry Beast was written especially to help children cope with anxiety. David’s worry beast causes him to worry when he plays basketball, when he’s at home and when he is at school. His anxiety grows and grows until he learns specific steps to cope with his worries. In addition to providing tips for children, David and the Worry Beast also provides suggestions for parents.
Disappearing Desmond -written and illustrated by Anna Alter
Picture book about friendship and respecting differences published by Random House, Inc. | Knopf Books for Young Readers
Desmond is the sort who likes to remain inconspicuous. Rather than stand out, he likes to blend in and he takes care to hide his true personality. “Then one day someone new came to school. Her name was Gloria and she liked to be noticed. ” Gloria is not at all like her classmates, she notices Desmond even when he is doing his very best to disappear. When Gloria notices that Desmond shares her taste in books, she asks if she can read with him. Gloria and Desmond companionably share the book and Desmond is transformed. The following day Desmond and Gloria play together, each respecting the other. Before long Desmond feels and looks different – he wonders why he ever wanted to disappear.
Disappearing Desmond has a lovely message about finding new friends and respecting differences. Cheerful, acrylic illustrations will have strong appeal for young readers as they search for Desmond. Very observant readers will notice and appreciate the two posters on the library wall.
I’m Not is a happy celebration of individuality. When we first meet Evelyn, we hear about all the ways she is special and how different she is from her good friend. Evelyn is fashionable, bold and exciting. Fortunately, Evelyn is also a wonderful friend and she knows that she is not a good speller, great at karate or a talented cookie baker. With exuberance and abandon, Evelyn and her very best friend celebrate each other: “A friend who is always by her side. Through thick and thin. A true-blue friend. Evelyn sighs. “Is there anyone in the whole wide world like that?” Everlyn’s friend replies, I am exactly like that!”
Well-suited to reading aloud, this book could be used to elicit a discussion about individuality and what it means to be a great friend. Suitable for children four and up.
Miss Little’s Gift written by Douglas Wood and illustrated by Jim Burke
Picture book about coping with learning disabilities published by Candlewick Press
Douglas is in grade two and he doesn’t like to sit still. He interrupts his teacher; he has problems with reading and on the playground. He is very resistant to staying after school in order to get extra help but Miss Little is firm and determined. She finds a book to match his interests, she encourages him and she gives him just enough help. Miss Little’s Gift is a celebration of the difference a wonderful, caring teacher can make.
Monday through Sunday,
the whole week through,
each day I count the ways
I love to be with you!
Monday is One Day shows young readers that it is not easy to go to work especially when earning a living means spending time away from those we love. Illustrations depict family diversity including one parent, two parent, young parents and old, living in rural, city and suburban homes. The message of unconditional love flows beautifully throughout Monday is One Day and it is lovely to see all the families enjoy leisure time together on Saturday and Sunday.
My Sister Gracie Written and illustrated by Gillian Johnson
Picture book about adoption and family life published by Tundra Books
Fabio, an “only” dog, longs for a brother. He dreams of exploring a park, sharing a bone and playing together with his new buddy. Imagine Fabio’s surprise when his new brother is a sister – and not at all like the playful puppy he envisioned. Thankfully, teasing neighbourhood dogs help Fabio appreciate and love his newly adopted sister, Gracie.
32 pages, recommended for children aged 3 to 5
Old Bird written by Irene Morck and illustrated by Muriel Wood
Picture book about aging published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside Limited
When Papa buys Bird, a gentle mare who will transport Archie and Arnfeld to and from school, he has no idea the impact the horse will have on his farm. Bird follows the children as they do their chores and insists on being allowed into the barn. Bird opens latches and asserts herself until Papa decides she must be sold. Just before the auction, Bird again has her way. This time she shows the family just how she can contribute to the farm. Old Bird is a truly lovely story, beautifully illustrated, that reminds us old does not mean incompetent or worthless.
32 pages, ages 5 and up
Ruby’s Wish written by Shirin Yim Bridges and illustrated by Sockie Blackall
Picture book about an assertive young girl who lived in China published by Chronicle Books, LLG
Many years ago, Ruby lived with her grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in a huge house in a city in China. At that time, girls did not typically have a chance to go to school but Ruby was fortunate. In her household, because there were many children, a teacher came and taught all the boys. Unlike her girl cousins, Ruby did not want to be married; she wanted to go to university. Each day, Ruby worked hard to study with the boys in addition to learning all of the household skills expected of girls. Ruby’s Wish is beautifully illustrated and lovingly told. Based on a true story, it will be enjoyed by children five years and up.
Winner of the 1999 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature, Text
A Screaming Kind Of Day introduces Scully, a young, hearing impaired girl. She awakens and opens her eyes to her brother’s face, teasing and taunting. A noisy chase begins and is only stopped when mom intervenes. She is studying for a test and has little patience for her children and their screams. The grey weather outside matches Scully’s mood and, when the rain eventually comes, she wants to go outside to experience the rhythm and intensity of the storm. Careful to avoid her mom, Scully sneaks outside to dance, touch, smell and feel the wild weather. Before long, Mom is at her side and is angry. Once inside the house again, Scully resists going to her room and shouts, “I hate you.” Before long, restorative sleep calls and Scully rests. When she awakens, the Screaming Kind of Day has been washed away and harmony has returned to the family.
“After dinner I sit by the open window.
The sky is silky pink with licks of lavender.
The green smells full and glad.
I sigh and look at Mom. “Can we go outside, Mom? You know, wait for the stars?”
Much more than a story about a deaf child, A Screaming Kind of Day explores family dynamics and provides reassurance at the end of a challenging day. As well, it encourages the reader to appreciate the sensory impact of a rainstorm and to consider conflict from several perspectives. A lovely story to enjoy with children aged four and up.
Rachna Gilmore’s Teacher’s Guide for A Screaming Kind of Day
So Close written by Natalia Colombo
Picture book about friendship published by Tundra Books
With a message that will resonate with adults as well as children, So Close reminds us that the possibility of meeting a new friend is often not far away. Beautifully illustrated, So Close offers a gentle message that a smile and a friendly, “Hello” can make a world of difference.
I use this title at the beginning of my Celebrating Diversity workshops. I think we have all had the experience of missing an opportunity for a friendship or discovering a friendship under surprising circumstances. So Close is well-suited to classroom use. It could be used to encourage discussion of friendship, loneliness, social situations, hurrying and over-scheduling. Well suited to children 4 years and up.
Spork written by Kyo Maclear and illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
Metaphorical picture book about an interracial family and tolerance published by Kids Can Press
“Spork was neither spoon nor fork…but a bit of both.” Offering a refreshing and original celebration of individuality,
Spork is a thoughtful yet fun look at a youngster who doesn’t look quite like mum or dad. In Spork’s kitchen abode, there are forks, knives and spoons – they each know their places and ‘mixing’ is quite rare. Sparkling illustrations and clever writing encourage the reader to feel empathy for a different sort of kitchen utensil who aspires to be spoonish or forkish but can’t quite manage either.
When The Messy One is plunked in a nearby highchair one day, needing something a little different, there is no better tool for the task at hand.
Very good fun, will be enjoyed by utensils of every colour, size and shape, aged four and up.
Up and Down by Oliver Jeffers
Picture book about friendship and individuality published by Philomel | Penguin Group
In Up and Down we meet two friends who do everything together. They enjoy making music and they love a good game of backgammon. All is well until Penguin decides that it is his destiny to fly. Without explanation to his best friend, Penguin embarks on a mission to discover the secret of flight. Boy is bereft – he can’t understand his friend’s sudden disappearance. It is indeed fortunate that Boy sees an advertisement for an upcoming circus performance involving a cannon and a very familiar face. Boy races to be there and to soften his friend’s landing.
With a lovely message about friendship and celebrating one’s unique abilities, Up and Down will be thoroughly enjoyed by children aged three and up.
Violet – written by Tania Duprey Stehlik, illustrated by Vanja Vuleta Jovanovic
Picture book about an interracial family and tolerance published by Second Story Press
When Violet attends her first day at a new school, she meets red, yellow and blue children but she doesn’t see any purple children. Upon returning home, her mother explains, “I am red and daddy is blue and you, my beauty, are a bit of us both.” Together, they play with paints and discover that many beautiful colours are created through mixing. Simply told, Violet is a lovely story about an interracial family. It reminds us of the richness and splendor of a diverse community.
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