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This post is the second in a series of children’s books to use when teaching elementary students about social justice concepts. The first was on books to teach kids about identity.
Social justice is a really broad concept. Teaching Tolerance broke it down by creating standards in four smaller topics that each build-up to an understanding of social justice: Identity, Diversity, Justice, and Action. I followed this model in creating guidance lessons about social justice. My book recommendations are broken into those categories as well continuing with: Diversity!
This book is honestly my favorite of the list here. It’s written as letters back and forth between Elliot in the US and Kailash in India. They learn about all of their similarities despite their differences. It’s short and appropriate for a wide age range. I love that it exposes kids to some cultural (and geographic) differences through respect and curiosity while tying it to commonalities.
This book is similar in tone to the above, focusing on identifying the ways kids are the same and different from one another. It’s very concrete in listing different parts of identity (physical, familial, and cultural) AND it talks explicitly about respecting differences through inclusion, listening, and working together. This one is definitely geared towards the primary grades.
While this book is specific to the diversity in families, it’s not just about family structure. There’s also elements of culture with mentions of celebrations and food. It’s Todd Parr so of course it’s a little silly, but I think it works great here and doesn’t undermine the importance of the message. And one of the cool things about Todd Parr books is that their simplicity makes them work well with lots of age groups.
This book is as a set of poems written almost like letters or messages back and forth between two students, one white and one Black. They write about their similarities, their differences, and their exploration and understandings of race. This is one that would I recommend for upper elementary. It’s lengthy, so you should read through it in advance and pick the ones you think would be most helpful for your students.
This is the only book on this list that really reads like a story. I find that most stories about “diversity” are really limited in their scope and not great for a broader lesson on valuing diversity. This one feels more comprehensive. It tells about friends Lily and Salma whose argument about lunch foods turns into a much larger conflict. I like this book because it lets you talk more specifically about things like our automatic thoughts when we are faced with something different (ew, yuck, weird) and gives an opportunity about how you can talk about differences (respectfully, asking questions).
Last but certainly not least, is this gem by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Each page features a different character with a disability, briefly explaining their difference(s) and any tools they use, all with a definite positivity. Each page ends with a question to the readers that engages them in identifying a similarity they may have with the character (and that leads into the next page). I would use this K-4 (which is rare for me to say). It’s a great book to lead into further discussions about diversity, disability, differences, and respectfully talking to people about differences. Note #1: The book does NOT talk about how it’s not always okay to ask questions, or HOW to respectfully ask questions. That’s something you’ll have to add in yourself. Note #2: The book never uses the word ‘disability’. I have some guesses about why not, but it’s something else you might want to include in a lesson using this book.
If you’re wanting to really deep dive with your students about diversity, or if you’re needing more comprehensive, I created this lesson and activities about diversity that focuses on having commonalities despite our differences, how diversity is valuable and important, and appropriately asking questions about differences.
Other blog posts in this series: books to teach kids about identity, books to teach kids about stereotypes and discrimination, and books to teach kids about action and social justice (coming soon!).
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