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Empowering young minds teaching open mindedness with picture books.
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Empowering Young Minds: Teaching Open-Mindedness with Picture Books

As educators, we know the power of books and how they can shape young minds. Picture books, in particular, help foster empathy, open-mindedness, and problem-solving skills. Introducing our students to diverse characters and stories and exploring complex topics can open up many valuable conversations. In this post about open-minded books, we’ll look at some thought-provoking stories that will challenge your students and encourage them to think critically about the world around them.

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A group of children doing yoga in the grass.

What is Open-Mindedness and Why it's Important in the Classroom

Open-mindedness involves respecting the perspectives, cultures, traditions and values of others. An open mind linked to acceptance and tolerance is vital in our interconnected world.

Open-mindedness is the willingness to consider different ideas, perspectives and experiences. It encourages curiosity, empathy, and respect and forms the basis of a tolerant, inclusive classroom, fostering mutual respect among students.

Reading open-minded books and subsequent discussions will help your students make connections and develop open-mindedness. 

There are many aspects to open-mindedness, including:

  • embracing different points of view
  • listening to and considering the perspectives of others
  • understanding new ideas and experiences, broadening their minds, and challenging their thinking
  • being eager to learn new things and build on existing knowledge, even if it challenges existing views
  • understanding you don’t know everything and can admit it
  • knowing the first answer may not be correct and search for alternatives
  • being an effective team player and collaborator
  • building trust with others by being fair and objective
  • handling constructive feedback and learning from mistakes.
 
A group of clay models standing around a globe.

Why Read Open-Minded Books in the Classroom?

The world is a diverse place full of unique individuals and experiences. To navigate this diversity, we must cultivate a spirit of open-mindedness in our classroom. 

For teachers, open-minded picture books offer a way to teach this crucial life skill in an engaging and accessible way.

Picture books are a compelling resource for teaching open-mindedness. They present complex ideas in simple, relatable terms, allowing students to grasp abstract concepts. 

Open-minded books also provide visual context, helping your students understand and appreciate different perspectives.

The suggested picture books about open-mindedness feature examples of characters dealing with dilemmas by:

  • respecting and considering the perspectives and approaches of others
  • being eager to learn new things
  • reflecting on their own learning and the ideas of others
  • reacting positively to constructive feedback
  • acting with positivity, honesty and empathy
  • listening attentively
  • putting themselves in other people’s shoes
  • willing to venture outside their comfort zone 
  • asking questions to broaden their mind and understanding
  • working towards positive relationships and collaborative experiences.

 

Some characters show a more narrow-minded attitude, including:

  • making statements rather than asking questions
  • stopping others from talking if they don’t want to hear their thoughts
  • proving their ideas are right rather than taking on board new ideas
  • blocking out ideas and opinions that don’t match their way of thinking
 

Common Challenges in Teaching Open-Mindedness

Despite its importance, teaching open-mindedness can present challenges. These include overcoming pre-existing biases, addressing contentious topics, and encouraging respectful dialogue. The narrative structure of picture books provides a safe framework for discussing these sensitive issues.

Questions to Pair With Open-Minded Books

Here are some questions to spark thoughtful discussion with picture books about open-mindedness.

  • What does an open-minded mindset look like?
  • Why does being open-minded matter?
  • What lessons can you learn from [character’s] actions?
  • Can you identify a moment when [character] showed open-mindedness?
  • What would you do differently if you were a character in the story?
  • How do you think [character’s] experiences shaped their actions?
  • Did [character] listen to the different points of view of others? Would it have made a difference?
  • Why was [character] willing to change their mind as events progressed?
  • In what ways was the [character] judgemental towards other characters?
  • Who was the most open-minded character? In what way?
  • Why was it important that [character] was open-minded?
  • Did [character] think about how her/his actions affected other characters?
  • Did [character] take on board the opinions of others? Would it have made a difference?
  • What could [character] do differently next time to be more open-minded?
 

Open-Minded Books for the Classroom

An Unexpected Thing by Ashling Lindsay

Fred is scared of everything, from loud noises to new people. His becomes paralyzed by his fears when a large, mysterious spot appears out of nowhere. On the other hand, Coco views this spot as exciting and encourages Fred to confront his fears. 

An Unexpected Thing is a journey of overcoming apprehensions, expanding perspectives, and realizing that the world, when faced with courage, is not as daunting as it seems.

Another by Christian Robinson

A young girl steps into a world that mirrors her own but with its distinct twists. She encounters children of various ethnicities, attires, and games, offering a diverse yet familiar experience.

Another explores open-mindedness, interpretation, adaptability, and perspectives and urges students to remain adaptable and open-minded as they navigate different and unfamiliar scenarios.

The Black Book of Colours by Menena Cottin

Thomas, blind, describes colours through his senses of taste, touch, smell, and sound. Experience the world as Thomas does, with pages featuring Braille text and textured art to stimulate tactile exploration.

The Black Book of Colours provides a unique perspective on how a blind person experiences colours and opens up conversations about equality and inclusion.

Bob The Artist by Marion Deuchars

Bob tries to change his skinny legs to fit in, but to no avail. After a Matisse-style eureka moment, he paints his beak in art-inspired designs, gaining public admiration for his unique style and teaching him that it’s okay to be different.

Bob The Artist inspires discussions on a growth mindset, self-acceptance, individuality, creativity, inspiration and the power of art.

The Day Saida Arrived by Susana Gómez Redondo

When Saida, a new girl from Morocco, arrives in class, her silence is misunderstood for a loss of words. As her classmates learn about Saida’s native language, Arabic, they embark on a cultural journey.

The Day Saida Arrived explores adjusting to new environments, communication and language exchange, open-mindedness in embracing different cultures, empathy and respect in fostering inclusivity.

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

The Day You Begin sheds light on the importance of sharing our personal stories, expressing that we sometimes feel like outsiders. Yet, it’s this courage to be ourselves that truly connects us.

This book facilitates discussions on empathy, identity, a sense of belonging, a growth mindset, open-mindedness, self-awareness, and self-esteem.

Don't Ask the Dragon by Lemn Sissay

Alem goes on a quest to find a place to call home. Creatures he meets warn him not to ask the dragon because it will eat him. Alem is surprised when the dragon shows him a place called “I don’t know,” where Alem can feel at home. 

Don’t Ask the Dragon shows the power of curiosity and finding one’s place in the world and encourages us to be curious and open-minded and not judge others based on rumours.

Door by JiHyeon Lee

A curious boy discovers a magical key. With it, he opens doors that take him to mysterious places full of strange creatures. As the boy meets more doors and more creatures, he learns the importance of being open-minded to exploring new things.

The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds

This is the first of two open-minded books by Peter H. Reynolds. Vashti discovers her artistic voice with her art teacher’s encouragement and a single dot. Watch as she makes her first mark to creating a collection of dot paintings.

The Dot teaches us that we can become great risk-takers and creators with determination, a growth mindset, and a little encouragement.

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

A boy and his grandfather cannot communicate through words due to language differences. They discover a shared love for art, transforming their interactions from frustrating silence to vibrant storytelling.

Drawn Together explores communication, open-mindedness, and identity and emphasises the power of making connections through non-verbal communication.

Elmer by David McKee

Elmer, a patchwork of colours, is different from the other elephants. He changes his skin to grey to fit in but discovers he enjoys being different. The other elephants accept Elmer for who he is, and he realises it is okay to be different.

Elmer promotes discussions on individuality, acceptance, self-awareness, open-mindedness, and the importance of being oneself.