Picture Books about Inclusion and Tolerance

Picture Books about Inclusion and Tolerance

These picture books about inclusion and tolerance support your students in responding to discrimination and standing up for what’s right. They show different types of discrimination and the consequences of words and actions.

Picture Books about Inclusion and Tolerance

Why Read Picture Books about Inclusion and Tolerance?

Picture books are a great way to teach your students about tolerance and inclusion. Unfortunately, discrimination is all around and children are exposed to it, whether it is aimed at them or not. These are some (but not limited to) of the discriminatory actions children and those around them may be exposed to:

  • Racism
  • Gender bias
  • Stereotyping
  • Discrimination
  • Disabilities
  • Economic inequality
  • White privilege
  • Social inequality

Through picture books, you can show these types of discrimination and the consequences of words and actions. The books will promote an attitude of appreciating differences and fostering an understanding of those differences.

Reading stories with characters who stand up against intolerance helps your students be open-minded and have integrity. This could involve standing up for people unfairly treated or not following the crowd in negative behaviour.

Questions to Use with Books about Inclusion and Tolerance

  • What does tolerance and inclusion mean to you?
  • What is prejudice?
  • How do you show tolerance?
  • Why do you think some people are prejudiced?
  • How do you feel when someone is prejudiced towards you? Why?
  • How did [character] show more tolerance as the story went on?
  • Describe how [character] showed tolerance or prejudice?
  • Why did [character] need to show tolerance towards [character]?
  • Why did [character] and [character] show tolerance in different ways?
  • How did [character’s] prejudice impact those around them?
  • How did [character’s] tolerance impact those around them?
  • How did [character’s] tolerance impact their community?
  • Why do you think [character] was more tolerant than [character]?

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Picture Books about Inclusion and Tolerance

These books present a powerful starting point for discussions about prejudice and intolerance. You will see characters and real-life people who:

  • Do not judge people on their physical appearance
  • Stand up for what is right
  • Get to know people for who they are
  • Work towards understanding the perspective of others
  • Listen without jumping to conclusions
  • Understand that it is okay to agree to disagree

You will, of course, see people acting in the exact opposite way, causing characters’ pain and suffering.

Alan Turing by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Alan Turing by Maria Isabel Sanchez Vegara

Alan Turing’s life as a mathematician and code breaker changed all of our lives for the better. Unfortunately, he was not treated with the respect and compassion he deserved. His wartime calculations, which were thought to have saved over 14 million lives, was kept secret for decades.

All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold

Send a message to your students that everyone is welcome, no matter their race, religion, gender, culture or background.

Use on the first day of school to discuss inclusion, kindness, empathyacceptance and community.

I Am Enough by Grace Byers

I am Enough follows a girl as she makes positive affirmations for those who lack self-esteem and self-acceptance.

This book celebrates children for who they are and reinforces themes of acceptance, self-esteem and poetry.

Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman

Grace’s love of reading and role-play motivates her to audition for the role of Peter Pan in the school play. The other children tell her she can’t play a boys part. Her mama and Nana tell her she can be anything she wants, helping her find the confidence to audition and win the role of Peter Pan.

Promotes determination, self-esteem, enthusiasm, tolerance, and gender roles.

The Big Umbrella by Amy June Bates

A big umbrella standing by the door is something special. It is so big that when it rains anyone can stand underneath it and there will always be room for more.

This book reinforces themes of acceptance, kindness, tolerance and sharing.

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

Chrysanthemum loves her name but on her first day of school, she gets teased for its uniqueness. When her music teacher reveals she is naming her baby Chrysanthemum, everyone wants to change their name to a flower.

Promotes identity, friendships and self-management.

I Could Do That!: Esther Morris Gets Women the Vote by Linda Arms White

Linda Arms White depicts Esther Morris as a strong and dynamic woman who, angry that only men can vote in her state of Wyoming, was instrumental in getting the vote for women.

Use to promote a growth mindset, inspiring women, independence and perseverance.

I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark by Debbie Levy

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has spent her life standing against injustice, inequality and unfair treatment. This biography promotes standing up for what is right, women’s rights, and equality.

Don't Forget by Patricia Lakin

A trip to the shops to buy ingredients for a surprise birthday cake for her mother reminds a young girl how the Jews were treated in the past.

Read to promote discussion on the Holocaust, WWII, prejudice and tolerance.

Don't Touch My Hair! by Sharee Miller

Aria gets assertive when people touch her hair wherever she goes. Help children understand the need to ask permission and not cross personal boundaries.

Use to discuss respect, confidence, self-esteem, and assertiveness.

Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson

The first of two books about inclusion and tolerance by Jacqueline Woodson. Chloe and her friends have been excluding the new girl Maya. When her teacher does a lesson on kindness Chloe reflects on her behaviour and regrets “each kindness I had never shown.”

Promotes relationship skills, inclusion, kindness and reflection.

Freedom Summer by Deborah Wiles

Joe and John are best friends. Before 1964, John, who is black, may not use the pool. The Civil Rights Act allows John to legally use all public places, but the local pool closes rather than allow black people to use it. Joe is dismayed and cannot understand why Joe doesn’t have the same rights as himself.

Use to promote discussions on civil rights, prejudice, equality, segregation and fairness.

Henry and the Kite Dragon by Bruce Edward Hall

Children from Chinatown and Little Italy don’t mix on the playground. Henry loves flying homemade kites in the park but the kids from Little Italy destroy it by throwing stones. When the two groups finally come face to face they find out they have more in common than they realise.

Read to promote open-mindedness and tolerance.

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly

Hidden Figures tells the inspirational story of four black women who worked at NASA in the 1940s. Their intelligence and determination changed the world by putting a man on the moon.

A powerful picture book to promote gender roles, tolerance, inquirers and perseverance.

The Journey by Francesca Sanna

A mother makes the unimaginable decision to escape a war with her two children. They travel by car, truck, foot and boat for their gruelling journey to safety.

Reinforces themes of conflict, immigration, compassion, independence and courage.

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You by Sonia Sotomayor

Diverse children embrace their differences. They deal with allergies, dyslexia, asthma, Down Syndrome and ADHA. The book’s message says it is okay to ask questions to find out why someone is different.

Promotes themes of identity, adversity, inclusion and acceptance.

Kindness Grows by Britta Teckentrup

Kindness Grows illustrates the consequences of our actions, positive and negative. Using a visual representation of a tree, one side of the page shows it flourishing through kindness. The other side shows how negative behaviour creates unhappiness and separations. The book ends with the children on both sides coming together through an act of kindness.

Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña

A grumpy CJ and his nana ride a city bus full of wonderful characters. He wonders aloud why he doesn’t have the things his friends do and why they have to volunteer at the soup kitchen every week. His nana’s straightforward and positive responses help CJ see and appreciate what he has and what he can give.

Read to promote discussions on community, poverty, volunteering, kindness, and optimism.

Love Is Powerful by Dean Brewer

Mari prepares for the Women’s March in New York City in 2017 with her mother. As she makes her sign she ask her whether the world will hear their message. Her mama responds “They’ll hear because love is powerful.”

Promotes equality, curiosity, tolerance and fighting for change.

Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

Malala wishes to make people happy and improve their lives. Her experience in Pakistan inspires her to help change the world through her actions, words and writings.

Promotes gender roles, perspectives, courage and resilience.

Mary Wears What She Wants by Keith Negley

Mary courageously challenges the gender norms in the 1830s. One day she wears trousers and the townsfolk react with disapproval and they throw things at her and shout that she should not dress in boys’ clothes.

Read to promote gender roles, confidence, tolerance and open-mindedness.

Mommy's Khimar by Jamilah Thompkins-Bigelow

A young girl loves her mother’s khimar. She watches as her mother wraps beautiful scarves around her head before she leaves the house. When she dresses up in her mother’s headscarves she feels the love of her mother.

My Hair by Hannah Lee

A young, black girl is excited about an upcoming celebration. She thinks of her family and friends as inspiration as she decides how to style her hair. Should she choose dreadlocks, Bantu knots, high top fade, braids, twist out, cornrows or short and cropped? She goes her own way and wears her natural hair as an afro.

Promotes self-esteem, individuality, inclusion, identity, self-awareness and first-person narration.

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.

My Shadow is Pink by Scott Stuart

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis is a lesson of acceptance and tolerance about a 4-year-old boy, teased because he loves wearing dresses and told boys should not wear them.

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.

Promotes themes of acceptance, identity, integrity, open-mindedness, principled and tolerance.

The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson

The second of two books about inclusion and tolerance by Jacqueline Woodson. This book addresses race relations with two young girls, one black and one white. A fence segregates their homes, but they slowly get to know each other by sitting on this barrier. 

Promotes tolerance, communication, friendship and open-mindedness.

Pink is for Boys by Robb Pearlman

Pink is for Boys teaches children you can love any colour and it doesn’t matter if you are a girl or a boy.

Promotes gender identity, gender roles, tolerance and inclusion.

The Proudest Blue: A Story of Hijab and Family by Ibtihaj Muhammad

On the first day of school sisters, Asiya and Faizah walk in hand in hand. Asiya is wearing a hijab for the first time, which represents being strong. Faizah admires her sister’s beautiful blue scarf but hears other children making fun of her. The sisters follow their mother’s advice about being strong and true to themselves in the face of bullying.

Promotes themes of tolerance, self-esteem, making connections, and different points of view.

A Scarf for Keiko by Ann Malaspina

Keiko’s classmates want nothing to do with her because she is Japanese-American and the Japanese military have just bombed Pearl Harbor. The government forces her family to move to an internment camp, but one classmate reaches out the hand of friendship to Keiko.

Use to discuss the effects of conflict, tolerance, prejudice, and empathy.

The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade by Justin Roberts

Observant Sally notices everything, particularly bullying in the playground. Despite being small she makes a big difference by standing up to the bullies.

Read during back to school to discuss bullying, compassion, being principled, respect, tolerance and character traits.

Smoky Night by Eve Bunting

Daniel and his mother watch the LA riots happening in their neighbourhood. After going to bed, they wake to learn their building was on fire. Daniel hesitates as they evacuate because he cannot find his cat, but it is later found by a firefighter.

Use to discuss racism, communities, conflict, synthesising, inferring and perspectives.

Strictly No Elephants by Lisa Mantchev

A local Pet Club won’t allow a young boy to join with his pet elephant. Together, they help the members of the club understand that pets come in all shapes and sizes, just like friends.

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 accept who she is and dismisses the negative opinions of others.

Up Above and Down Below by Paloma Valdivia

In the world, there are different kinds of people. Some live up above and some live down below. Up Above and Down Below explores the similarities and differences of what it is like to live in the northern and southern Hemispheres.

Read to discuss tolerance, acceptance, differences, and equality.

The Wall in the Middle of The Book by Jon Agee

A knight protects himself from the dangers on the other side of a wall. But he is too busy worrying about the unknown that he doesn’t see the dangers on his own side of the wall.

This Amnesty recommended book promotes discussions on fears, tolerance and conflict.

We’re All Wonders by R J Palacio

Auggie shares how he likes to do ordinary things, but he just doesn’t look ordinary. He wants to believe someone will accept him for who he is.

Promotes self-esteem, identity, friendship and open-mindedness.

Welcome by Barroux

Three lost polar bears drift away from their home when the ice breaks away. They search for a new home but other animals consider them strange, say there is no room or ignore their pleas for help. They find an inhabited island and soon welcome three monkeys looking for a new home.

This Amnesty endorsed book promotes discussions on empathy, immigration, belonging, climate change, inclusion, and tolerance.

Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Méndez

When someone asks a girl where she’s from she doesn’t have a simple answer. Her Abuelo gives her an answer, but not one she expects.

Promotes acceptance, identity and a sense of belonging.

White Water by Michael S. Bandy

As Michael quenches his thirst with gritty water from a fountain, he is curious whether the water from the white-only fountain is better. Set in the segregated South just before the civil rights movement, he plucks up the courage to taste the white water, only to realise it is exactly the same.

Promotes discussions on civil rights, racism, segregation, courage and prejudice.

What Next?

What are your favourite books about inclusion and tolerance? Let me know in the comments.

As well as books about inclusion, I have added some videos you may find useful to use in your classroom. 

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Picture Books about Inclusion and Tolerance

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