Browse this selection of picture books about acceptance to create a more inclusive learning environment and teach your students about respect for others and themselves. They also focus on the importance of being yourself, self-esteem, and empathy for others.
Why Read Picture Books about Acceptance?
Teaching a culture of acceptance starts on the first day of the school year. Part of our role as educators is to foster an environment of acceptance.
This involves creating a culture of daily acceptance of ourselves and others, building self-esteem, and reducing bullying. No matter the makeup of your classroom, acceptance of appearance, culture and ideas is crucial for a welcoming environment.
By reading picture books about acceptance, students can understand the power of acceptance and how it shapes our relationships with others by taking on board book characters’ experiences and conversations.
For instance, characters from different backgrounds may appear together in the same picture book depicting scenes of friendship or collaboration; this helps drive home the idea that we are all equal regardless of physical or cultural differences.
Teaching acceptance helps shape your students into kinder, more tolerant individuals better equipped to navigate any situation with respect and appreciation.
Questions to Use When Reading Children’s Books about Acceptance
- How did [character] show acceptance for their situation?
- How did acceptance affect [character]? Why?
- Why was [character’s] reaction to [someone’s appearance, culture and choice] negative? How could they have reacted with more acceptance?
- How did [character] go about achieving self-acceptance?
- How did [character] show acceptance of others?
- Why did [character] treat someone differently because of their appearance or thoughts? What should they have done?
- How should we treat people differently from us?
- Why do you think [character] excluded [character]? What would you have done in the same situation?
- How can racism, bullying, teasing, picking on others, being mean, etc., affect others?
- Why is it important for us to show acceptance for others?
- How can we show acceptance for other people?
- How can we show self-acceptance?
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Recommended Picture Books about Acceptance
When teaching acceptance, these books are great choices, they illustrate:
- It’s okay to be different, and the importance of being yourself and focus on the self-esteem, confidence and courage to do this.
- Characters modelling empathy, compassion, and acceptance of themselves and others.
- Characters accepting situations out of their control and learning how to cope during such events.
AAAlligator! by Judith Henderson
boy overcomes his fears to get to know and make friends with a lonely alligator. The townsfolk are not so accepting, and the mayor insists it is driven out of town. Once the community sees the kind and helpful side of the alligator, they help it hide from the mayor.
I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes
I Am Every Good Thing celebrates and affirms young black boys. The young, black narrator confidently tells us he is creative, smart, funny, adventurous, and a good friend. We learn how he sometimes fails but always gets back up. He’s afraid when people misunderstand him and call him names.
Amma's Sari by Sandhya Parappukkaran
Shreya initially feels awkward about her mother's sari when they go outside their home. Amma explains to her the importance of the sari, and Shreya learns to appreciate her cultural identity as she navigates the world outside her immigrant family.
The Bad Seed by Jory John
The first of two picture books about acceptance by Jory John. When a “bad seed' overhears negative comments, he decides to change his ways. He doesn’t change his behaviour overnight but takes it one day at a time.
The Barnabus Project by Terry Fan
Strange animals kept in glass bell jars in a mysterious laboratory are failed attempts to make the perfect pets. Destined to be recycled, Barnabus, half mouse, half elephant, takes action to reach his goal of freedom. He does what it takes to reach the outside world through teamwork with his fellow captives.
The Boy Who Grew Flowers by Jen Wojtowicz
His teacher and classmates ignoreRrink Bowagon because he sprouts flowers from his body. He notices the new girl wears a flower in her hair and has one leg shorter than the other, so Rink makes her a special pair of shoes. Excited, she invited him to the school dance, where he discovered the flower behind her ear was his.
The Boy Who Tried to Shrink His Name by Sandhya Parappukkaran
When Zimdalamishkermishkada starts school, he feels self-conscious about his long name. He decides to go by Zim, but it doesn't feel right. His mother explains the significance of his name, and he recognises the importance of accepting it. He returns to school and lets everyone know he will be known as Zimdalamashkermishkada, not Zim.
The Boy with Flowers in His Hair by Jarvis
David's best friend tells us how David has flowers in his hair. Like the colourful flowers, he is sweet and gentle, and everyone likes him. One day David comes to school with a hat covering the flowers, which have turned bare and prickly. His best friend wants to help David and gathers his classmates to make flowers for David. His act of compassion and understanding helps David become himself again.
Bug in a Vacuum by Mélanie Watt
A bug is sucked into a vacuum bag as it flies around a house. It goes through the five stages of grief as it tries to come to terms with its situation. Helps children understand the different emotions involved in unexpected and disappointing events.
Cappy and the Whale by Kateryna Babkina
Surprised, a young boy finds a whale floating outside his window. Cappy has been hospitalised with leukaemia and is delighted to join the whale for a ride in the sky.
Dog on Stilts by James Thorp
Medium Dog wasn't interesting; he was average in every way. He devises a way to stand out from the other extraordinary dogs by walking on very tall stilts. When he falls back to earth with a bump, Medium Dog learns a lesson in self-acceptance.
Goliath: The Boy Who Was Different by Ximo Abadía
A boy always felt different. He was big, strong and brave but never felt a sense of belonging. Goliath set out to find a place where he felt more comfortable, only to realise he was just fine, just where he always was.
The Good Egg by John Jory
The second of two picture books about acceptance by Jory John. A virtuous egg spends its time helping people out, whether it’s needed or wanted! One day The Good Egg cracks (literally) from the pressure of perfection. It takes a much-needed break where it learns to live a more balanced life.
A Home Again by Colleen Rowan Kosinski
A house tells how it loves the family that lives within its walls. But one day, the family left, and the house didn't think it could be happy again. When strangers come to look around the house, it makes noises trying to scare them off. But when a couple moves in, the house becomes a home once again.
Lila and the Crow by Gabrielle Grimard
The Little Ghost Who Was a Quilt by Riel Nason
A little ghost is a quilt. It can’t whirl and whirl in the sky because it gets very hot each time it flies. It feels very left out when it can’t keep up with its friends. One Halloween, the lonely little quilt finds its place in the world and makes new friends.
The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh by Supriya Kelkar
Harpreet Singh expresses himself with colours, particularly through his patka, Sikh headwear. When he moves from California to a town with snow, Harpreet has trouble settling in. He only wears white so he can feel invisible. When he finds his first new friend, the colour returns.
My Name is Bilal by Asma Mobin-Uddin
When Bilal moves he worries about being teased for being Muslim. He thinks about telling his new classmates he is called Bill and not telling them about his religion. A Muslim teacher helps Bilal and his sister settle in by giving them a book about Bilal Ibn Rabah, another Bilal who struggled with his identity.
Naked Mole Rat Gets Dressed by Mo Willems
Wilbur, a naked mole rat, loves to wear clothes, but he worries the rest of the colony won’t accept him. The leader, Grand-pah, proclaims they should show him tolerance, and the naked mole rats experiment with clothing.
The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
When Unhei moves from Korea to America, her classmates can’t pronounce her name. She wants to choose a new name that is easier to pronounce but decides she likes her name just the way it is.
The New Girl by Nicola Davies
The first of three picture books about acceptance by Nicola Davies. After moving, a girl finds her new classmates hostile. She was different from them, spoke a different language and ate food that smelled different. Feeling lonely, she makes origami flowers, impressing her classmates. She teaches them to create the flowers, and they begin to see the new girl in a new, positive light.
Perfectly Norman by Tom Percival
Norman was a perfectly normal boy until he grew a pair of wings. He loves flying but thinks no one will understand his new wings, so hides them under a large, yellow coat. He gets a surprising reaction when he finds the courage to show off his wings.
The Pond by Nicola Davies
The third of three picture books about acceptance by Nicola Davies. A young boy describes the loss of his father and how family members experience grief differently. They try to cope by rebuilding the pond he created when he was alive.
Shelter by Céline Claire
All the animals are safe in their home as a storm approaches. When two strangers appear asking for shelter, the animals are suspicious and turn them away. As the storm worsens, a family of foxes find themselves in need of shelter. The two strangers show the kindness the other animals wouldn’t give.
The Story of You by Lisa Ann Scott
You are the authors of your own stories. No one can tell you who you are ―it's up to you! The Story of You illustrates how the actions we take and the words we say are essential to who we are.
Sugar in Milk by Thrity Umrigar
A young girl moves to a new country. Everything is unfamiliar, and she longs for the feeling of her home. Her aunt tells her story of Persian refugees who convince a reluctant Indian king they will sweeten the life of their adopted home. After hearing the story, the girl starts integrating, never forgetting who she is.
Sulwe by Lupita Nyong'o
Sulwe’s skin is darker than everyone in her family and at school. She wants to lighten her skin, the colour of midnight, so she is no longer teased. Her mama empowers Sulwe by telling her a story that helps her love and accepts who she is and dismisses the negative opinions of others.
Trying by Kobi Yamada
A boy begins to understand he can learn from his mistakes and that everyone doubts their abilities when trying something new.
The Wall by Jessie James
Tom loves to explore until he hears adults talking about the monsters living in the world. He becomes too scared to explore anymore, and the adults build a wall to keep out the monsters. Life soon becomes dreary. When a colourful message comes over the wall, Tom starts exploring again and persuades the adults there is nothing to be afraid of.
When I Draw a Panda by Amy June Bates
A girl draws a panda who helps her embrace her unique outlook. Her shapes aren't perfect, but she is not discouraged. She draws the world in her own way.
You Matter by Christian Robinson
Watch unique and diverse characters working and playing together but who experience the world from their own and different perspectives.
Classroom discussions of the books give students a platform to voice their stories and gain the courage to present their true selves. Teaching acceptance and establishing a culture of acceptance and understanding in the classroom can give our students a better foundation for life’s future challenges.
Reading picture books about acceptance can help build empathy and understanding, embrace diversity, and help build self-esteem and resilience.