Picture books provide a visual way to explore different cultures and create a sense of community in the classroom. These picture books about community are an ideal way to show what it means to be part of a larger society and how our actions impact our communities.
Why Read Picture Books About Community Building?
Reading picture books about community provides a visual way to explore the world around us and demonstrates how we are all connected in a larger, global society. Picture books provide an accessible and enjoyable way to share ideas about interconnectedness, generosity, equality, and community.
Reading these books allows students to develop a strong connection to the world around them, creating a common understanding that leads to healthy relationships and collaboration.
Picture books about community also show what it means to be part of a larger society and how our actions impact our communities.
Additionally, reading picture books featuring characters from diverse backgrounds helps normalise diversity for your students. Children identify with characters who look like them and enjoy reading about those from different backgrounds. This connection helps them better understand experiences beyond their own lives and encourages empathy for others.
Reading picture books about community and belonging gives your students examples of how community building leads to positive outcomes, including:
- Improving the quality of life of those living in the community.
- Understanding their role within a community.
- Community members support each other and work together.
- Compassionate attitudes towards those in need.
- Embracing those from outside the community.
- Making social connections with others.
Providing a sense of identity and belonging.
Building a Positive Classroom Community
There are many benefits to building a positive classroom community, particularly when using picture books. These benefits include:
- Feeling a sense of belonging.
- Feeling safe and a valued member of the classroom community
- Strengthening relationship skills and decreasing loneliness.
- Improving negotiating skills.
- Self-management of emotions.
- Teamwork and cooperation.
- Trust and understanding of classmates and the teacher.
- Increasing responsibility.
- Developing new interests.
- Having support for personal and academic growth.
Questions for Picture Books About Community
- What is a community? Why is belonging to a community important?
- What communities do you belong to?
- How is our classroom a community?
- What do we need to do to build a positive/respectful community? (listening, etc.)
- What can we do if there is a disagreement within our classroom community?
- What do you expect from a community/classroom community?
- How did working together help [character] feel like they were part of a community?
- Why was being part of a community important to [character]?
- Why do you think [character] was reluctant to ask [community] for help? What difference would this help have made?
- How did [character] feel before and after being part of a community? Why did they change?
- Why did [character] do [action] when there was a disagreement? What did you think of this strategy?
- Why do you think [community] helped/supported [character]?
- What would have happened to [character] if they didn’t have [community] support?
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Picture Books About Community
We all need to feel a sense of belonging within our family or the wider community. This book list supports children's understanding of their place in the world and highlights how we can work together to help others and make a difference in local and global communities.
111 Trees: How One Village Celebrates the Birth of Every Girl by Rina Singh
Sundar Paliwal valued gender equality, but his village only celebrated the birth of boys. He resigned from his job and became the leader of Piplantri. Sundar persuaded the villagers to celebrate the birth of girls by planting 111 trees. Over time, these trees provided food, water and the opportunity for women to earn their own living.
Blackout by John Rocco
One hot summer night in the city, all the power goes out. One family go up to the roof to escape the heat and without the city lights, they can see the stars. Out on the street, neighbours are talking and playing, enjoying not being busy with technology. When the electricity come back on, everything goes back to normal… well almost.
Change Sings: A Children's Anthem by Amanda Gorman
A young girl bands together with a group of children to influence change in their community. They realise they have the power to change the world for the better, big and small, with their words and actions and inspire others to do the same.
Claire Malone Changes the World by Nadia L. King
Claire Malone takes on the burden of addressing problems in the world. She does all she can to make changes, but it doesn’t work out the way she wants. Before burning out from the worry, she decides to work on issues closer to home and even learns to have fun.
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
A young black boy expresses the importance of a visit to his local barbershop. He poetically describes how a fresh cut makes him feel like a king and the excitement of being surrounded by other men from his community.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Yuyi Morales recalls her own experiences of migrating from Mexico to America with her young son. They face many cultural challenges, including learning a new language and customs. Her local library offers an opportunity to learn about this strange, new country and find a new career.
The Extraordinary Gardener by Sam Boughton
Using his favourite book as inspiration, Joe plants a garden in his grey world. With a bit of patience, a garden with exotic plants and animals grows on his balcony and inspires the rest of the community.
Fadya and the Song of the River by Laura Nsafou
Between the Malian deserts, Mauritania's rivers, and the crisp African air, a song can be heard every day, as long as the wind isn't blowing too hard. It is the song of the Luminaries, a group of women with powerful magic wearing long golden dresses. It is Fadya's, the youngest of the Luminaries, mission to restore the balance disrupted by two fishermen inadvertently awakening the wrath of the Goddess of the River.
Flooded by Mariajo Ilustrajo
A small animal appeals to the larger animals of the city not to ignore the flooding that started overnight. As the water rises, the larger animals go about their business, ignoring the issues the smaller animals face. When the flood becomes a problem for everyone, they all work together to save their city.
From My Window by Otavio Júnior
The narrator describes what they see from their window in a favela in Rio de Janeiro. As the sun rises, he sees children going to school, someone fixing a roof, people playing football and flying kites and sees fireflies at night.
The Girl Who Planted Trees by Caryl Hart
A young girl is inspired by her grandfather to plant a new forest in her village. Despite the difficulties, she preserves, and the saplings peak through the earth. Just as her hard work pays off, the trees are destroyed by a storm. This tragedy brings out the villagers to help the girl recreate the forest.
Harlem Grown: How One Big Idea Transformed a Neighborhood by Tony Hillery
Tony Hillery turned an abandoned space in Harlem into an inner-city garden with the community's help. Local children learn about sustainable eating, healthy living and collaboration. One man's inspiring vision now provides thousands of pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables to Harlem families.
Hey, Wall: A Story of Art and Community by Susan Verde
A creative boy decided an abandoned wall in his neighbourhood creates a barrier. He empowers the community to come together to transform the wall into a piece of art.
Promotes messages of peace, a sense of community, creativity and empowerment.
Promotes messages of peace, a sense of community, creativity and empowerment.
The High Line: A Park to Look Up by Victoria Tentler-Krylov
A group of New York neighbours got together to see what they could do with the derelict elevated train line running through their community. With the city's help, they transformed the tracks into a must-see urban green space. The New York High Line inspired cities worldwide to transform derelict tracks into green community spaces.
The Invisible by Tom Percival
Isabel has moved with her family to a poor part of town. Living on a council estate, she fades away as one sees her as a person. She notices other people are invisible, including an immigrant, the homeless and the elderly. Isabel makes a positive difference to her community and the people often ignored by society.
Jake Makes a World by Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts
Artist Jacob Lawrence found creative inspiration in the people and streets of Harlem's vibrant colours and characters in Harlem. From his mother's apartment, coloured brightly with intricate patterns, to the streets full of faces, sounds, rhythms, and smells.
Read Jake Makes a World to promote discussions on inspiration, creativity and community.
Journey of the Midnight Sun by Shazia Afzal
Different people come together to move the Midnight Sun Mosque to Inuvik in Canada's Arctic for a small, growing Muslim community. The mosque travels over 4,000 kilometres through narrow roads, bad weather and incomplete bridges. It only just makes the deadline to catch the last barge up the Mackenzie River before it freezes.
Keeping the City Going by Brian Floca
The typically busy streets are quiet and empty, except those keeping the city running smoothly. These people help the residents stay healthy, be safe, deliver the mail, stock the shelves and carry out deliveries. Keeping the City Going shows appreciation for those who support communities in uncertain times.
The Last Garden by Rachel Ip
Zara grows fruit and vegetables in her garden, the last one in the city. Members of the community take solace in her garden until war arrives and everyone is evacuated. Once the war was over, Zara returned to find her garden and a community ready to help her rebuild.
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 weekly. His nana’s straightforward and positive responses help CJ see and appreciate what he has and can give.
The Librarian of Basra by Jeanette Winter
When war comes to Iraq, librarian Alia Muhammad Baker worries about her library and its books. With the community's help, she moves the books to her own home. Through Alia's courage and perseverance, much of the library collection is saved before the library burns down.
The Librarian's Stories by Lucy Falcone
The Library Bus by Bahram Rahman
In Kabul, the library bus travels to villages and the refugee camp. It is Pari's first day as a library helper for her Mama, who tells her girls were once forbidden to read in Afghanistan. The Library Bus, full of books, not seats, allows girls to learn to read and write in English from Pari's mother.
The Lost Homework by Richard O'Neill
Sonny lives in a Traveller community and often helps his neighbours. One weekend he is so busy and loses his homework. He explains to his teacher what happened, and she surprises him by telling him all the subjects he covered while helping those in his community.
Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans by Phil Bildner
Cornelius takes great pride in keeping the streets of New Orleans clean. After the Mississippi river breaks its banks during Hurricane Katrina, Cornelius inspires the community to come together to clean up the city.
Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy
Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California. A mural artist inspires Mira to transform her grey city into colour. She, in turn, inspired the community to add their voice to the mural.
Nour’s Secret Library by Wafa' Tarnowska
Two Syrian children use books to build a sense of community despite the war. They salvage books from bomb-out homes and create a library in the basement of a half-collapsed building. The library became a safe haven for many and a beacon of hope in the darkness of war.
Use to discuss the effects of conflict and how small actions can help people through adversity.
Our Tower by Joseph Coelho
In Our Tower, poet Joseph Coelho uses his childhood experience growing up in a tower block. Three children explore a magical forest next to their home where green takes over from the grey of their tower block. When they return home, they see the tower block differently and appreciate their home and community.
Say Something by Peter H. Reynolds
Discover how your voice matters. There are situations every day when our words and actions have power. It is important to speak up when we see injustice to help those around us understand and react with empathy and compassion.
Smoky Night by Eve Bunting
Daniel and his mother watch the LA riots happening in their neighbourhood. After going to bed, they learn their building is on fire. Daniel hesitates as they evacuate because he cannot find his cat, but a firefighter later finds it.
Sofia Valdez, Future Prez by Andrea Beaty
After Sofia’s Abuelo hurts his ankle at the Mount Trashmore, she brainstorms ways to make it safe. She develops a plan to turn it into a park, but when City Hall turns the idea down, she gets the community involved to make her dream come true.
Something Beautiful by Sharon Dennis Wyeth
A teacher helps a young girl see beyond her scary feeling for her neighbourhood. She looks for beauty in her community with the help of her neighbours. Her beautiful journey helps her feel happy and hopeful.
The Story Blanket by Ferida Wolff & Harriet May Savitz
Children love to sit on Babba Zarrah's story blanket and listen to her stories. She notices villagers who need to keep warm in the snow-covered mountains. She secretly unravels her blanket and leaves gifts for her neighbours, like socks or a scarf. When the villages find out what Babba is doing, they return the favour.
The Tree of Hope: The Miraculous Rescue of Puerto Rico’s Beloved Banyan by Anna Orenstein-Cardona
An ancient banyan tree grows on the island of Puerto Rico; the locals loved it. The island was devastated during the devastating Hurricane Maria, and the banyan tree was uprooted. The local community came together to save the tree, jagüey blanco, for it to live another day.
We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
An Indigenous girl tells the reader about her village's attempts to protect the water. One day a black serpent (oil pipes) will come to poison the water, and her community's responsibility is to safeguard the water from harm and corruption.
What Is Given from the Heart by Patricia C. McKissac
Find out what it means to be a good citizen. Different children show how their actions generate an active and supportive community. Practical ways to change the world positively include picking up litter, planting a seed, helping a neighbour, joining a cause and writing a letter.
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox
A boy named Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge lives next to an old people’s home. His favourite resident is Miss Nancy Alison Delacourt Cooper. When Wilfrid finds out she has lost her memory, Wilfrid goes on a journey to discover what memories are so he can help Miss Nancy find hers.
Zonia's Rain Forest by Juana Martinez-Neal
Every morning, the Peruvian rainforest calls to Zonia. She walks through the green forest accompanied by a blue morpho butterfly. She greets different creatures – sloths, birds, jaguars, dolphins, a boa constrictor, and turtles. One day, she is shocked to discover part of the rainforest has been destroyed. Zonia and her Asháninka community become activists to protect the rainforest, its inhabitants and their home.
Picture books offer a unique opportunity to teach children about the importance of community. By introducing stories that demonstrate mutual respect, kindness, and understanding, we can create a better world by helping to foster conversations and inspiring empathy within our classrooms.
I have also found some videos on communities that may be useful to you in the classroom.
How do you build a positive classroom community?
What are your favourite books to use to promote a sense of community?
Share this book list with a colleague who would find these books useful in their classroom!