Diversity, Tolerance

Storytime Standouts's resources for teaching tolerance including children's books about diversity and acceptance

Encourage children to be tolerant with these children’s books about diversity and acceptance

We especially like sharing picture books that recognize, celebrate and inform us about human diversity including children with learning disabilities, physical disabilities, allergies, aging and death.

Quotes About Diversity Asperger Syndrome and Autism Children's BooksPicture Books About Family DiversityPrincesses in Picture Books Examining StereotypesPicture books about 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 is a picture book about friendship and using a wheelchairAll 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.

All Kinds of Friends, Even Green! at Amazon.com

All Kinds of Friends, Even Green! at Amazon.ca

Childrens books about diversity and self acceptance including ArgyleArgyle 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.

Argyle at Amazon.com

Argyle at Amazon.ca

Children's book about epilepsy, Catherine's StoryCatherine’s Story written by Genevieve Moore and illustrated by Karin Littlewood
Picture book about epilepsy published by Frances Lincoln

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

Catherine’s Story at Amazon.com

Catherine’s Story at Amazon.ca

Children's book about anxiety and worrying, David and the Worry BeastDavid and the Worry Beast written by Anne Marie Guanci and illustrated by Caroline Attia
Picture book about anxiety and worrying 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.

David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope with Anxiety at Amazon.com

David and the Worry Beast: Helping Children Cope With Anxiety at Amazon.ca

Childrens books about diversity and acceptance including Disappearing DesmondDisappearing 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.

Disappearing Desmond at Amazon.com

Disappearing Desmond at Amazon.ca

Childrens books about diversity and acceptance including I'm NotI’m Not.written by Pam Smallcomb
Picture book about individuality and acceptance published by Schwartz and Wade | Random House

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.

I’m Not. at Amazon.com

I’m Not. at Amazon.ca

My Princess Boy written by Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne De SimoneMy Princess Boy written by Cheryl Kilodavis and illustrated by Suzanne De Simone
Picture book about social acceptance and unconditional love published by Simon and Schuster

What happens if a young boy loves to dress up in pink and sparkles? In a dress and a tiara? In a pretty ballet costume? In this boy’s family, his preferences are celebrated and respected. Mom, Dad and his older brother are all accustomed to having him choose to wear jewelry and to wear clothing that most will think of as feminine. Outside of home and close friendships, the world may not be as accepting for example, he has been stared at when shopping and trick-or-treating.

Young readers are encouraged to think about what might happen at school and how they might react if a classmate or friend wanted to make unconventional choices.

My Princess Boy has faced some criticism because all of the faces lack features and, although we are told that he likes pretty things,” he does not smile, nor do his family or friends.

The concept of acceptance and unconditional love in an excellent one but I do wonder if having the central character older than four years might have been a better choice. I can well-imagine four-year-olds being puzzled by why a Halloween costume is an issue. The Dress-Up Centre at my sons’ preschool was not particularly focuessed on gender stereotypes and Halloween costumes for four-year-olds are pretty much “anything goes.”

My Princess Boy website

My Princess Boy at Amazon.com

My Princess Boy at Amazon.ca

Childrens books about diversity and acceptance including My Sister GracieMy 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

My Sister Gracie at Amazon.com

My Sister Gracie at Amazon.ca

Children's books about aging, Old BirdOld 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

Old Bird at Amazon.com

Old Bird at Amazon.ca

Childrens books about diversity and acceptance including Ruby's WishRuby’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.

Ruby’s Wish at Amazon.com

Ruby’s Wish at Amazon.ca

Childrens books about diversity and acceptance including A Creaming Kind of DayA Screaming Kind of Day – written by Rachna Gilmore and illustrated by Gordon Sauve
Picture book about hearing impairment and frustration published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside Limited

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.
No rain.
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

A Screaming Kind Of Day at Amazon.com

A Screaming Kind of Day at Amazon.ca

Childrens books about diversity and friendship So CloseSo 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.

So Close at Amazon.com

So Close at Amazon.ca

Childrens books about friendship and individuality, Up and DownUp 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.

Up and Down at Amazon.com

Up and Down at Amazon.ca

William's Doll written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by William Pene Du BoisWilliam’s Doll written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by William Pène Du Bois
Classic picture book that explores gender stereotypes published by Harper & Row

Although William’s Doll has faced some criticism due to illustrations that appear “dated,” the message in Ms. Zolotow’s story remains timely. When William explains that he would like to have a doll to cherish, his dad, his older brother and his brother’s friend each respond negatively. His father gives him traditionally “masculine” toys, including a train set and a basketball. William’s brother thinks playing with a doll is “creepy” and his brother’s friend calls him a “sissy.”

When William’s grandmother comes to visit, he shows her that he can play basketball well and he can play with trains but neither will replace the doll that he hopes for. William’s grandmother understands how important this is to him and buys him one at a store. Her unconditional love and acceptance is exactly what William needs.

A lovely message to share with young children, my only concern is that William will still have to deal with older children who name-call and a father who is determined to have his son play with “boy” toys. These would both be important issues to explore after reading this thought-provoking classic picture book.

William’s Doll at Amazon.com

William’s Doll at Amazon.ca

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

Our Pinterest Board of Picture Books that Celebrate Diversity

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