Diversity and Inclusion are crucial topics, especially at a young age to learn not just tolerance but acceptance of others. I use children’s books about inclusion as a gateway for opening up discussions in the learning environment. Whether you are a teacher, counselor, or parent, using books to help illustrate a topic is a great way for kids to learn. As you are reading, ask questions and engage the reader. Keep reading below for books that teach Inclusion to kids.
I use this My Stripes are Unique activity that covers unique qualities and this Social Emotional Learning Curriculum that teaches appreciating diversity. For more ideas about inclusion, check out this blog post about Teaching Acceptance in the classroom. Here is a list of some of the awesome children’s books about inclusion out there that I use to help teach this topic to students.
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THE NAME JAR
Title of Book and Author: The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
A short summary of the book: Unhei, who recently moved from Korea to the United States, is experiencing first-day jitters going to an American school. After children make fun of her name on the bus, Unhei feels embarrassed about her Korean name and announces to her classmates that she will choose a new name. A gentle reminder from her mother (“You are different! That’s a good thing!”) doesn’t help alleviate Unhei’s unease.
When she arrives at school the next day, she finds a glass jar full of pieces of paper with potential names. Every day, her classmates put more name ideas into the name jar. As she thinks more about her name, she begins sharing more about her culture with her new classmates and meets a friendly Korean grocery store owner who teaches her a valuable lesson.
With a surprise, feel-good ending, this book celebrates the power of embracing your identity.
Why I like the book: Yangsook Choi explores cultural identity in this beautiful book that many students, especially those who have recently immigrated to the United States, can relate to. The Name Jar is the perfect back-to-school book to set the tone for inclusion and acceptance in your classroom.
The moral of the story: We all play an important role in welcoming people of different cultural backgrounds to our school community.
Topics covered: Diversity; Identity; Back to School
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Name Jar on Amazon
ALL MY STRIPES
Title of Book and Author: All My Stripes by Shaina Rudolph and Danielle Royer
A short summary of the book: “How come all that anyone sees is my autism stripe?” Zane the zebra asks his mom after a frustrating day at school. The fire drill was too loud. He had difficulty connecting with his classmates. The list goes on. His mom assures him that all of his “stripes,” or unique qualities, make up who he is. She loves his honesty stripe, caring stripe, and curiosity stripe. Autism, she explains, is just part of who he is; not all of who he is. Without his qualities, he wouldn’t be Zane.
Why I like the book: All My Stripes explores experiences that children with autism commonly face - like having trouble interacting with peers or being sensitive to loud noises - but with kid-friendly language. I love that this book could be read to younger students to begin discussing special needs in the classroom.
The moral of the story: We have many different qualities that define who we are and make us unique. One quality does not define us.
Topics covered: Autism; Special Needs; Inclusion; Self-love
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): All my Stripes on Amazon
THE BRAND NEW KID
Title of Book and Author: The Brand New Kid by Katie Couric
A short summary of the book: It’s the first day of school in Miss Kincaid’s class at Brookhaven Elementary School. Lazlo’s first day of school as the new kid is anything but ideal; his peers constantly tease him and make fun of him.
When his classmate Ellie sees Lazlo’s mother in tears over her son’s adjustment to school, Ellie decides to take action by inviting him to play after school. With a smile, Lazlo agrees. They play checkers and eat strudel at his house. The next day, when the students make fun of Ellie for hanging out with Lazlo, Ellie stands up for Lazlo, which changes everything for Lazlo.
Why I like the book: This book shares a hopeful message about kindness and acceptance that students will take to heart. With rhyming throughout the book, The Brand New Kid will captivate your students and teach them valuable lessons about being an upstander. Ellie, who breaks away from bullying to stand up for Lazlo, is a great role model for students.
The moral of the story: Bullying affects everyone, as we see with Lazlo and his mother. Kindness goes a long way and we all play important roles in standing up to bullying.
Topics covered: Back to School; Inclusion; Friendship; Bullying
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Brand New Kid on Amazon
THE BIG UMBRELLA
Title of Book and Author: The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates
A short summary of the book: “The umbrella loves to gather people in,” describes Amy June Bates. One by one, people gather under a smiling, red umbrella. The big umbrella has room for everyone. When more people join, the umbrella literally gets bigger and bigger to shelter people from the storm. This mighty umbrella has an important message to share: there is always room for kindness.
Why I like the book: As educators, we are always encouraging our students to make the circle of inclusion wider. The Big Umbrella shares this simple but powerful message through beautiful illustrations and kid-friendly language that is great for pre-readers.
The moral of the story: The book’s lesson underscores that there is always a reason to be inclusive and kind.
Topics covered: Inclusion; Kindness
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): The Big Umbrella on Amazon
THIS IS HOW WE DO IT
Title of Book and Author: This Is How We Do It by Matt Lamothe
A short summary of the book: In This Is How We Do It, we meet seven children from countries around the world like Uganda, Japan, and Peru. Throughout the book, we see the houses that these children live in, what they wear to school, and what they eat for breakfast. Along the way, we learn about different cities, customs, and traditions.
Why I like the book: If you’re looking for a way to pique your students’ interest in different cultures, This Is How We Do It is a must-have for your classroom library. The seven children’s stories open the door to great discussions about different cultures. This book would also be perfect for introducing cultural research projects for upper elementary students. Some of your students may have similar experiences or backgrounds as the children in the story, allowing them to see themselves in the story.
The moral of the story: Our world is full of fascinating and beautiful cultures. Learning about different cultures is both fun and interesting. We may be different, but we have more in common than we think.
Topics covered: Cultures Around the World; Diversity
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): This is how we do it on Amazon
STRICTLY NO ELEPHANTS
Title of Book and Author: Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev
A short summary of the book: A young boy adores his pet elephant - but he knows that elephants never really fit in. When he brings his elephant to the Pet Club meeting, he sees a sign on the door reading “Strictly No Elephants!” Disheartened, he runs into a girl and her pet skunk who also weren’t allowed in the meeting. They decide to start their own club where everyone (including any pet!) is welcome.
Why I like the book: With a sweet message about friendship and inclusion, Strictly No Elephants will make you and your students smile. The young boy’s love for his pet elephant demonstrates the power of true friendship.
The moral of the story: We are all different and unique. We all deserve to feel included and accepted.
Topics covered: Inclusion; Friendship
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Strictly No Elephants on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Meeting Mimi by Francie Dolan
A short summary of the book:
Meet Mimi, the school’s new student. She has many different interests and qualities. She also uses a walker to move. In Meeting Mimi, Mimi’s new classmates ask her questions about her different abilities. Students will learn more about children with different abilities and how we can welcome them to the school community.
Why I like the book: I absolutely love that students ask Mimi thoughtful questions in this book. Your students will understand more about what it’s like for students who need walking assistance while also learning how to respectfully ask questions to people with different abilities.
The moral of the story: It’s important to understand the daily experiences of people living with different abilities.
Topics covered: Inclusion; Disabilities; Classroom Community
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Meeting Mimi on Amazon
Title of Book and Author: Be Kind by Pat Zietlow Miller
A short summary of the book: A thoughtful girl explores the meaning of kindness after her classmate spills purple grape juice on her outfit. She wonders what being kind really means. Is it baking cookies for an elderly neighbor? Is it paying attention? Is it complimenting classmates? The young girl recognizes that being kind can also be difficult and scary, like when you stand up for a classmate who is being bullied. Her exploration of kindness leads to a heartwarming lesson about how we can all be kind.
Why I like the book: One of the best parts of this book is how sweet, thoughtful, and inquisitive the main character is! She has a heart of gold that will make you and your students smile. This book has all of the elements of a great read-aloud: diverse characters, beautiful illustrations, and a heartwarming message about small acts of kindness.
The moral of the story: Our small acts of kindness can collectively become something wonderful.
Topics covered: Kindness; School Community
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): Be Kind on Amazon
ALL ARE WELCOME
Title of Book and Author: All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
A short summary of the book: In All Are Welcome, we visit a wonderful classroom community. We see children sharing their cultures, stories, and special talents. Children love spending time together. Best of all, students are excited to return the next day because school is a place where everyone can learn, play, and have fun. School is a place where everyone is accepted.
Why I like the book: This book is perfect for the first day of school to discuss building a strong classroom community. The repetition throughout the book of “All are welcome here” is easy for your students to remember and internalize. I especially love that students are guaranteed to see themselves in the story because of how diverse the characters are.
The moral of the story: School is a place where we can grow, learn, and dream, together. When we welcome everyone, we can create a beautiful classroom community.
Topics covered: Diversity; Classroom Community; Back to School
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): All are Welcome on Amazon
ONE BIG HEART
Title of Book and Author: One Big Heart by Linsey Davis
A short summary of the book: The book’s bustling classroom is full of students with different backgrounds and cultures. The narrator takes readers through the many different qualities that make the students unique - from their hair to their eyes to their amazing talents. There is so much to appreciate about people’s unique characteristics. Important to note is that God is mentioned more than once, which may not work for Public Schools (or you can just skip over those parts and just focus on the overall message of acceptance).
Why I like the book: Similar to All Are Welcome, One Big Heart shares a message about the joys of a diverse, welcoming classroom community. The colorful illustrations and heartfelt writing will bring this story to life for your students. This book would be perfect for educators at Private or Parochial Schools.
The moral of the story: We are more alike than we are different. We each have unique talents, abilities, and characteristics.
Topics covered: Diversity; Classroom Community; Celebrating Differences
Where can I purchase this book (affiliate link): One Big Heart on Amazon